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Guideline for Properly Grooming your House Plants

Prolong the life of your indoor plants with this guide to pruning and maintaining.

The Proper Pinching of House Plants

Pinching indoor plants is when you remove the tip of a stem with your forefinger and thumb pinching it.
The purpose of pinching is to remove growing tips to keep the vine or plant compact, or to maintain the bushy shape of a plant. When you pinch off a new stem tip, the plant will then grow new branches for a fuller bushier look.
Above the node is where you should pinch, the point where a leaf is growing and attached. A cut made here will usually cause branching just below the cut.
Certain soft-stemmed plants respond well to pinching like coleus, English ivy, heartleaf philodendron, and pothos. These plants tend to grow long legs so pinching prevents that.
If you can’t pinch off a vine easily using your fingernail, a sharp pruner can be used but be careful not to tear the stem.

How To Properly Prune House Plants

Helpful Hint:
When removing leaves or stems, never pull on them. Scissors or sharp pruning implements make clean cuts. You must avoid any tearing because tears can attract a plant fungus.
If a plant has a woody or thick stem, pruning shears are best for trimming.
Prune any dead branches or stems to avoid attracting a fungus. Prune away yellow or brown leaves as they can decay and may attract insects or possibly a disease.
The best time to prune a plant is while it is experiencing active growth. The spring and summer are usually the best months for this. However, some light trimming and pruning can be safely done throughout the year.
You should always cut or prune above the leaf node, which is the spot where the leaf joins to the stem. Cut at a 45° angle for best results. When you make your cuts here the plant will then create more branches, making for a fuller, bushier and more compact appearance.

The Proper Deadheading of Flowers

With sharp, clean scissors or pruners, you should cut off dead flower heads when you first notice them. When flowers are dying on a plant they make the plant look terrible. They are very likely to start rotting, which makes them susceptible to an attack of gray mold.
By deadheading, you are eliminating the seeds that are developing. Unless you are in the business of collecting seeds to be used for creating more plants, a plant producing seeds is wasting energy. By cutting off the dying and dead flowers, you will lengthen the blooming time for your plant. Without the dead flowers and seeds, your plant can use its energy for growing more buds.
This makes no sense for fruit trees. If you cut the flowers off these trees they can’t bear fruit. You need to know the fundamentals of the flowering plants you have in your home as some indoor plants, like orchids and hoyas, that do produce more flowers on the same stem, so before you start cutting find out if this is the correct thing to do and if so, when would be best. This method can also prolong the life of fresh-cut flowers; especially when there is more than one flower per stem. Removing the dead flowers on the stem can increase the time the other flowers on the stem last in the vase.

Proper Cleaning of House Plants

It’s important to dust the leaves of your plants so they can get the full exposure they need from light as they need this to grow. By cleaning your leaves you remove the dust and any insects that are present.
If the leaves are smooth all you need is a damp sponge or cloth to wipe them clean. Make sure you clean your sponge or cloth between plants so that you don’t pass insects from one plant to another.
Some plants have fuzzy leaves, like African violets, and they should be brushed gently using a soft brush. We at FloristNZ actually use a little paintbrush to remove dirt, dust and insects. Water should not be used on fuzzy leafed plants as they can develop water spots that will remain on their leaves permanently.
Plants with fine foliage, like ferns, can be effectively cleaned by spraying gently with water. During warm weather it might be easier to take the plant outside so you can spray the plant on all sides without getting furniture, rugs and artwork wet. A spray water bottle works well for this purpose. Place a shield or cover over the soil before spraying because you don’t want it to get soggy. Any excess water can easily be shaken off before allowing the plant to sit outside and dry. Place it somewhere protected and away from direct sunlight before you bring it back inside.

Next article in the series: Guidelines for re-potting your house plants

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