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How to Prune a Succulent For Better Growth

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Pruning is an essential part of any landscape or indoor maintenance program, and while simple, it requires some basic plant knowledge.

As with all succulent plants, pruning requirements are often dictated by the placement and function of the plant.

While good site planning may significantly reduce cacti and succulent pruning requirements, pruning remains a fundamental plant management tool and requires some gardening skills.

Basic Pruning Guidelines

A few things will make the process of pruning and caring for succulents considerably easier. Keep reading until the end as I share all you need to know to keep your succulents vibrant.

Your succulent arrangements can benefit from a little sprucing up in the spring and fall, and I strongly advise cleaning up and pruning succulents in the spring.

I’ve discovered that keeping your plans as intact as possible in the fall is essential.

While you should still tidy up and eliminate debris and dead leaves, early spring is often the best time to transplant, behead, and propagate.

When to and When NOT to Prune Succulents

While some succulent plants come out of dormancy in the spring and continue to develop until the following winter, others come out of dormancy in the winter and continue to grow until the summer’s heat forces them to go back to rest.

Two terms are important:

Growing Season:

The months when your plant is actively growing. It’s usually in the growing season that plants flower and produce fruit. It’s important to note that not all succulent plants’ growth seasons are in summer.

Dormant Season:

The season when the plant is not actively growing. Reducing watering and stopping fertilization during the dormant season is the best practice. Not all plants go dormant over winter.

When to Prune Succulents

Succulents benefit most from pruning at the start of the season, although you can prune them anytime.

If you prune around the end of the growing season, new growth might not appear as rapidly.

Still, it will develop gradually and accelerate once they begin to thrive again.

Several succulents grow best in the summer, but quite a few grow best in the winter. Below is a list of succulent season dormancy and growth preferences.

Winter Dormant SucculentsSummer Dormant Succulents
AdeniumAdromischus
AgaveAeonium
AloinopsisAloe
AgaveAnacampseros
CeropegiaAstroloba
EcheveriaBulbine
EchinocactusConophytum
EuphorbiaCotyledon
FerocactusCrassula
FicusDudleya
HuerniaGasteria
LithopsGraptopetalum
MammillariaGraptoveria
MangaveHaworthia
NotocactusHaworthiopsis
OpuntiaKalanchoe
PachypodiumOthonna
PedilanthusPachyphytum
PseudolithosPachyveria
RhipsalisPeperomia
SchlumbergeraPortulacaria
Sedum (Cold hardy varieties)Sansevieria (Dracaena)
SempervivumSedeveria
StapelianthusSedum (non-cold hardy varieties)
TillandsiaSenecio
Titanopsis

When NOT to Prune Succulents

Never prune a plant while it is either growing leaves or losing them.

It takes a lot of energy for the plant to leaf out.

If succulent plants are expected to focus their energy on repairing pruning wounds when they require photosynthesizing leaves, their development can be inhibited.

The transfer of plant energy (sugar) down the limbs and into the roots corresponds with the leaf-dropping season (fall).

Sugars that haven’t yet made their way to the root system are removed when branches are cut off at this time.

Except to remove dead wood, avoid extensive structural pruning of a plant (i.e., significant diameter cuts) outside of its dormant season.

Such incisions might harm the plant, put it in shock, or make it bleed xylem, which is neither attractive nor healthy.

How to Prune Succulents

the best way in most cases is to remove lower leaves for a plant to grow stronger

Pruning succulents can boost the variety of forms that succulents can take while reducing overcrowding, which raises the risk of disease, mildew, and sick plants.

Pads that act as the leaves on opuntias are simple to remove and can be utilized to establish the plant.

To force branching or stronger stems, prune columnar cacti that have become too tall or spindly. Other cacti, however, develop bloom stems, which are unattractive when dead.

The beauty of the plant can be restored by its removal.

Your succulent’s lowest leaves will eventually wither and die. They go through this process naturally, so there is no need to be alarmed.

Removing these leaves periodically is the easiest way to ensure that your succulent grows.

They can make it more difficult for the soil underneath the plant to dry out, and the plant may start to decay if they remain on the stem for an extended time.

These dead leaves can be carefully removed using your fingers. Even some new growth on the stem may be apparent.

If so, it is beautiful! Eliminating the leaves may aid in promoting new stem growth.

It would help if you also cleaned out the spaces between the plants of any debris.

You could notice sticks or leaves drift into the arrangement, especially if your plants grow outside.

Debris removal can aid in limiting the spread of pests to the plants.

You can regularly clear your property of debris and dried leaves, but at the very least, you should do so in the spring and fall.

How to Prune Cacti Succulents

prune to the desired size to grow healthier long stem plants

Cutting back a cactus should be done cautiously. Most cacti feature spines or prickles, which can be painful to come into contact with, so wear long sleeves, pants, and thick gloves for larger projects.

Maybe you’ve planted your cacti for their armament benefits to deter animals and people from entering areas where they are grown.

Still, this armament may also be a hazard if planted too close to sidewalks, driveways, parking areas, or entrances to buildings.

Depending on the size of the plant, a variety of tools may be used, but pruners are the most common, but for larger plants, you may need a saw.

As with any pruning, ensure the tool is sharp and sterilized to prevent damage and lower the risk of spreading disease.

How to Prune A Succulent

At the branch point, prune off the limbs, being cautious not to cut into the main stem. You can use pruners, or you may find that the pads snap off.

For bigger jobs such as pruning succulents of a columnar specimen, use a saw to cut through the main trunk at the desired branching point or plant height, making an effort to snip the stem at a growth point.

What to Do With Pruned Off Parts

Let’s have some fun with the felled features. Except for damaged or dead stems and leaves, almost all of the material you remove can be used to propagate new plants.

If pads are placed on soil, they will take root and grow into a new plant of the same species.

Remember to allow severed parts to dry and callus before planting to avoid rotting. Check out my article on Propagating Succulents.

You should immediately pot up any offsets or pups you remove from the specimen’s base.

Once you’ve brought your first cactus back to life using an offcut, you’ll be hooked on creating more magnificent plants to build up your collection or share as gifts to loved ones.

What tools are best for trimming succulents?

step by step guide for a clean cut when taking new cuttings

When trimming succulents, you can use various tools; scissors, secateurs, pruning shears, and bonsai scissors are all light weight and ideal for pruning.

What to do with prunings

Succulents are easy plants to propagate, and all you have to do is take a cut stem and trim off all unwanted leaves, only keep three sets of healthy leaves.

Allow the cuttings to dry naturally. DO NOT attempt to dry it artificially.

Pruning succulents in this way is good for new growth and will help the plant form roots much quicker.

When the new cuttings are ready to plant in dry soil, Push them into the soil at the edge of the pot. It is much better to use clear pots so you can check root growth as it matures.

You will want to watch for root rot during this time when growing succulents and prune any rot off.

New shoots will start to form over the next 7 to 10 days. Remember to keep pruning for an appealing shape as the plant grows.

In Closing

As we’ve discovered, there are several considerations to pruning succulents and cacti. Timing is based on your species’ growing, dormant season, and the plant’s health.

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