Cutting Off Parts Of Your Succulent Can Help Save It And Give You More Plants

Over time, succulents start to grow taller and sometimes produce babies on their own. This can often lead to succulents looking too big for the pot they're in, or taking up too much space in their yard. A simple solution to help the succulent grow new babies and stay compact is to prune it.

The Time Of Year Is Important

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Pruning and maintaining succulents is a simple task, but there are a few things that will make it a much smoother process. Be sure to stick around to the end where I share my “secret weapon” to make an arrangement look new again.

Spring and fall are great times to re-evaluate your succulent arrangements and give them a little freshening up. In the spring, I highly recommend pruning and cleaning up.

However, in the fall, I've found it's best to leave your arrangements as intact as possible. You still want to clean up and remove dead leaves and debris. However, replanting, beheading, and propagating are best done in spring.

If you're not sure what some of that means, don't worry! I'm going to show you everything in this post.

Regular maintenance

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Over time, the lower leaves of your succulent will dry up and die. This is not cause for alarm, it's just part of their natural life cycle.

However, your succulent will grow best if you remove these leaves from time to time. If they stay on the stem for too long it can make it more difficult for the soil below the plant to dry out and the plant may begin to rot.

Use your fingers to gently pull away these dead leaves. You may even notice some new growth on the stem. If so, that's fantastic! Removing the leaves may also help encourage new growth along the stem.

You will also want to remove any debris from between the plants. Especially if your plants are growing outside, you may notice leaves or sticks blow into the arrangement. Removing the debris can help prevent bugs from infecting the plants.

Removing dried-up leaves and debris is something you can do frequently, but at a minimum, it should be done in both spring and fall.

When to prune

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Succulents generally do best if they are pruned at the beginning of their growing season, however, you can prune anytime. If you prune toward the end of the growing season you may not see new growth as quickly but it will happen slowly and pick up once they start actively growing again.

While many of the commonly found succulents are summer growers, there are quite a few winter growers. Take a look at this dormancy table to get a feel for when your succulents are actively growing.

I generally prune my succulents in the spring after they've been growing indoors for the winter. They generally get quite stretched out and don't look quite as nice as they did originally.

Pruning them allows me to refresh the arrangement without having to buy more plants. It's a great way to get more plants!

Tools for Pruning

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The only thing you absolutely need for pruning is some sort of cutting instrument. I prefer to use bonsai scissors as they are extremely sharp and lightweight, making them very easy and effective to use. Make sure your scissors or shears are clean before pruning to prevent your succulents from getting a disease.

While scissors are the only thing you need, I generally have a few other things on hand, including:

  • Long-handle tweezers for removing dead leaves in hard-to-reach places
  • Towel (for wiping dirt off my hands and workspace)
  • Chopstick
  • My cactus catch-all tray (for collecting leaves and cuttings to propagate)
  • Other succulent cuttings, just in case I need to fill some gaps

Beheading succulents

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The first thing you'll want to do is decide which succulents you want to leave intact and which need their heads chopped off. In this case (a lovely arrangement gifted to me by Desiree at Redeeming Eden), the Aloe still looked great, as did some of the succulents in the front.

Where to Cut

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In the front, the Echeveria was looking quite tall and leggy. Toward the back, the Crassula perforata and Cotelydon tomentosa were a little out of hand. Using scissors, I cut off the tops of the Echeveria and the Crassula perforata.

I recommend cutting between a set of leaves. Ideally, you'll also leave a few leaves attached to the stem to help it continue to absorb sunlight.

Let It Dry

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You'll need to let the cuttings dry for at least a day before you replant them to prevent rot. I recommend making all the cuts you need so that you can plant everything at the same time the next day.

The base plants will eventually put off new growth so you can leave them in the arrangement if you'd like. In this case, the Echeveria was really tall and the bare stem was very noticeable, so I decided to pull it out completely.

I put it in my “Garden of Death” (a phrase coined by Laura Eubanks) “Where succulents go to live or die; it's up to them.” When it gets new rosettes I'll plant it somewhere more permanent or keep taking cuttings from it.

Also, make sure to collect any healthy leaves that may fall off. Many of these can be propagated to grow new plants! I don't know about you, but free plants are something I'm always interested in.

Removing dead plants

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The Cotelydon tomentosa was really leggy, so initially I cut off the tops. The base plant wasn't doing very well though so I pulled it out. I also pulled out a Crassula perforata that was struggling (off to the side in this photo).

You'll want to remove any dying plants to make room for the new cuttings you've taken. Dying plants or dead plants can actually cause problems in the arrangement. They decay and may spread diseases or even rot to the other plants. So take them out!

Replant the cuttings

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I always try to work with straight stems when I'm using cuttings. If your cutting has a curved end you may want to consider cutting it off so you have a straight end to place in the soil.

After your cuttings have had a chance to dry for about a day, you can replant them in the arrangement. Fill in any holes or gaps where plants were removed. I like to plant my arrangements tight as this helps slow down their growth, keeping the arrangement looking “tidy” longer.

Fill In The Gaps

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Even after planting the cuttings from the arrangement you may still have some gaps. Feel free to fill in with cuttings from other arrangements or even rooted succulents. There's no rule that you can only use cuttings from the original arrangement 🙂

My secret weapon

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The next step is to finish off the arrangement by adding a top dressing. This is a decorative rock used to cover the soil in your arrangement. If you have an arrangement that still doesn't look great after pruning, a top dressing can be the magic touch to make it seem professional and clean.

Before You Do Anything Else

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Your arrangement is now looking great again! Don't water your arrangement for at least a day to allow the roots and plants time to heal and adjust.

Yes, Your Succulent Is Probably Dying, But Here's What To Do About It

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There are a number of reasons your succulent might not be looking great. Find out how to tell what's wrong with your succulent and how you can fix it or prevent it from happening again.

Are you overlooking this critical part of succulent care?

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Many people who struggle to grow succulents think they have a watering problem. As it turns out, most of them have a soil problem. Using the proper succulent soil will make caring for these unique plants so much easier. Find out what type of soil is best for succulents and where to find it.

Save Your Succulents With This Critical Watering Technique And Look Like A Pro

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When it is time to water, make sure to use the soak-and-dry method to ensure your arrangement stays as healthy as possible. Continue to give it bright indirect sunlight and it will flourish for another few months or years before it needs to be pruned again.

A big part of keeping succulents healthy is providing them with the right environment. You'll want to pay attention to the soil they're in, how much sunlight they're getting, and most importantly, how often you're watering them. The method and frequency of watering succulents are critical to preventing rot while encouraging lots of new growth.

Expert Tips for Creating Stunning Succulent Arrangements

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Figuring out which succulents to combine together to make a beautiful arrangement can be daunting. But with these tips from succulent design experts, you'll be able to put together crowd-pleasing arrangements easily, whether it's in pots or in the ground.

Has Your Succulent Lost Its Color?

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The succulents in this list can all tolerate low light. But most colorful succulents won't fare so well. There are a number of factors that help keep your succulents colorful, including how much light they get. Even some of these "low light" succulents will look a little better with more light. Find out how to give your succulents healthy stress and bring out their brightest colors.

This article originally appeared on Succulents and Sunshine.