Succulent Plant Pruning – How And When To Prune Succulents

pruning succulent
pruning succulent
(Image credit: lzf)

There are many reasons for pruning succulent plants. Cactus care and pruning is sometimes similar and usually discussed when advising how to prune a succulent. Keep reading to learn more about succulent plant pruning and the reasons for doing so.

Reasons for Cutting a Succulent Plant

Adult succulents growing in too little light often stretch out, a common reason for pruning succulent plants. This involves a process called beheading, or removing the top part of the plant. When cutting a succulent, use sharp, clean pruners to avoid disease or start rot in the stem. Not as bad as it sounds, beheading your plant provides at least one new plant and possibly more, depending on the length of the stem. The remaining base will likely have some leaves, grow new leaves, or both. You can remove leaves and propagate them for new plants. The top that was removed will callous over to be replanted. It is a common practice to let all plant parts scab over before planting them. This prevents the succulent piece from taking in too much water, which is usually fatal. Some plants grow new babies from the bottom of the stem. Learning when to prune succulents will depend on the size of the babies and the room remaining in the container. You may like the look of a full container with smaller plants dangling and pushing over the edges. If so, don’t feel forced to prune until the overall health of the plant cannot be maintained. Succulent plant pruning only becomes necessary when the mother plant appears in decline.

When to Prune Succulents

Cutting a succulent is needed when:

  • The succulent dies after flowering (some do)
  • It is overgrown, leaning, or too crowded
  • Stretched out (too tall, with bare space between the leaves)
  • Bottom leaves die (these can usually be removed without cutting)
  • Disease control

If you have succulents, you may also have a cactus or two in your collection. So what about pruning cactus plants? Ideally, you’ve planted your cactus in an area with plenty of room for growth. If it has overgrown and can cause danger, however, pruning may be needed. Cut padded cactus at the joints, never removing part of a pad. Pruning succulent plants makes your arrangements last longer in the same container, while allowing you to multiply your plants. Pruning cactus helps keep them within a safe location. Always wear protective clothing, such as thick gloves, when working with a potentially dangerous plant.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.