Gardening Houseplants Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Pruning

Give Trimmed Leaves a More Natural Look

Brown leaf tip on a dracaena.

Many houseplant’s leaves die back bit by bit, starting at the tip, especially those that have long and narrow leaves, such as spider plants, cordylines and dracaenas, and also plants that have particularly long-lived leaves, like aspidistras and streptocarpus.

Instead of entirely removing an otherwise healthy leaf just because its tip has died back, one easy solution is to use scissors to cut away the dead part of the leaf entirely.

Don’t trim the leaf at a right angle or the result will be rather appalling.

Don’t just cut any which way, though: just snipping the dead tip right off at a right angle may get rid of the brown part, but it won’t help the plant’s appearance in any way.

Trim the leaf to a natural-looking shape.

A better way to solve this problem is to trim the leaf to a au natural-looking point. Yes, you’ll have to cut into live tissue to do so, but the resulting trimmed leaf can actually look quite natural.

Whenever you cut into live leaf tissue, though, be sure to use the sharpest scissors you have. Dull blades tend to bruise the leaf tissue and that will cause the edge of the leaf to turn brown again.

When You’ve Trimmed It Back to a Stub

Trimming is not a cure-all, however. A older leaf will continue to die back over time. When you can no longer trim it without rendering it disproportional to the rest of the plant, or if the leave has begun to fade and turn yellow, it’s time to remove it entirely, tugging it off or cutting it off at its base.

Why do leaf tips die back? You’ll learn more about the causes in How to Prevent Brown Leaf Tips.20170313a

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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