Pruning and Maintaining a Succulent Arrangement

As your succulent arrangement grows it will begin to lose it’s original shape. See how and when to prune your succulents as well as what maintenance your arrangement needs on a regular basis.

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Once you’ve had succulents for awhile, something interesting happens…

They grow!

I know that may seem obvious, but people are often surprised when their tightly planted succulent arrangement no longer looks neat and tidy. While succulents are pretty slow growers, they will eventually outgrow the pot they are in and even need some maintenance on a regular basis.

Today I’m here to teach you all about pruning and maintaining succulents!

Learn how and when to prune your succulents, plus some basic maintenance tips

Regular maintenance

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.

Remove dead leaves from succulents to promote healthier growth

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.

When to prune

Succulents generally do best if they are pruned at the beginning of their growing season, but 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 once they start actively growing again.

You can prune your succulents any time you feel they are getting too stretched out, overgrown or out of hand. You may also take cuttings just to have new plants to work with or encourage new growth.

Over time succulents begin to get over grown - learn how to prune them with this post!

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.

Tools for Pruning

The only thing you absolutely need for pruning is some sort of cutting instrument. I prefer to use these bonsai scissors as they are extremely sharp and light weight, 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:

  • Towel (for wiping dirt off my hands and workspace)
  • Chopstick (for loosening soil and creating holes for new plants, Bonsai Jack includes one with each soil purchase)
  • My cactus catch all tray (for collecting leaves and cuttings to propagate)
  • Other succulent cuttings, just in case I need to fill some gaps

This cactus catch all tray works well to collect cuttings and leaves as your are pruning your succulents

Beheadding succulents

The first thing you’ll want to do is decide which succulents you want to leave in tact 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.

Over time succulents begin to get over grown - learn how to prune them with this post!

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 my fabulous scissors from Bonsai Jack, I cut off the tops of the Echeveria and the Crassula perforatas.

Cut off the tops of stretched out succulents to refresh your arrangement

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.

Remove the base of stretched out succulents and replant elsehwere to help keep your arrangment looking tidy

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 is something I’m always interested in.

Removing dead plants

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).

Beheading succulents helps promote new growth

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

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.

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. Be sure to let it dry for at least a day after making the cut.

Succulent cuttings are easiest to plant with straight stems

Add more plants and top dressing

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

Prune your succulents from time to time to help them stay looking great

Finish off the arrangement by adding a top dressing anywhere you can see soil. Learn more about top dressings here.

You’re done!

Before and after pruning succulents

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. When it is time to water, make sure to use the soak then 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 year before it needs to be pruned again.

18 Responses to Pruning and Maintaining a Succulent Arrangement

  1. I’ve only been working with succulents a few months as I prepare to do all the arrangements for my son’s August wedding. I’m in love and have had some wonderfully fun successes. My biggest challenge has been finding the right amount of light to maintain the best colors and shapes. I’m in western Oklaioma where the wind blows and the sun is hot and we have had above average rainfall. I’m using my west facing porch and a sun filter to try and achieve a greenhouse type area. I no longer scorch anything but am loosing beautiful color to green. Please help.
    Laura

    • That is really tricky! If you’re able to place them on the east side of your house so they get morning sun when it’s cooler, that may help. The spot you have them is likely ok as well, but it’s possible the sun filter is too much. I know the shade cloth I found is supposed to reduce sun by 70% which is too much to keep succulents colorful. Maybe there’s a way to hang it so it’s only shading the plants in the heat of the day?

      Also, check out this post for a few more tips on keeping succulents colorful: http://www.succulentsandsunshine.com/why-did-my-succulent-change-colors/

  2. Thanks for today’s lesson, Cassidy. Whenever I see dying leaves I pour on more water, thinking that is what they need. I shall refrain myself in the future.

    By the way I use tweesers to remove the dead leaves. The kind that look like little scissors. It is easier to get into the succulents and they give you a nice grip.

    • Perfect! Tweezers are a great way to remove the dead leaves as well. It’s a little more precise than fingers generally :)

    • We’ll pretend it was on purpose :) I had it growing indoors over the winter and it didn’t get enough light (which most Echeveria’s won’t indoors). That’s part of the reason this particular arrangement got pruned this week!

  3. I have been a follower of your web site since April 2016. It has made me a believer in the proper way to grow succulents and enjoy the pleasing way these plants reward you in becoming ever more beautiful!
    Thank you for your advice and magnificent photographs, always,
    Sincerely,
    Faith Atlass
    Deerfield Beach, Florida

  4. My echeveria is the kind that flowers…it’s got some pretty, new flowers. But the old flowers are starting to dry up and turn dark. Should I prune those, or let them die/fall off naturally?

    Thanks!

    • I usually cut them off once they start to dry up. They don’t usually fall off completely on their own, so once the stalk dies it doesn’t look great. You can remove them any time.

  5. I have a succulent that has started to spout new babies where leaves were previously removed…what should I do with them? they seem too small and fragile to pull off and plant on their own right now. Help!

    Kristen

    • You can let them keep growing on the mother plant, or you can cut them off to replant them and they should do fine.

Let us know what you think!

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Wondering who I am?

Let me introduce myself... My name is Cassidy Tuttle and I’m a professional photographer turned succulent addict. These are my two sweet children and wonderful husband in the photo with me!

My adventure with succulents started with three small plants on the window sill of my basement apartment. Within a year I had propagated them and purchased more, totaling over 100 plants!

It’s been a fun adventure since then as I’ve drowned, burned, frozen, and starved my collection of succulents. This site is where I teach you how to avoid all those mistakes I made or help you recover from them.

While I’ve killed plenty of succulents in the last few years, I’ve also kept hundreds alive and thriving, and I know you can do the same!

Did I mention I wrote the book on succulents?

It’s true! I’m the author of Idiot’s Guides: Succulents which is designed to help those of us who love succulents (but are limited to growing on our window sills and porches) keep our succulents looking great.

You can purchase my book through my Amazon affiliate link here or pick it up at your local Barnes and Noble.

If printed books aren’t your thing, I’ve also written several ebooks about succulents on various topics including indoor growing, watering and propagating. You can check those out on this page.

My goal is to help you not just keep your succulents alive, but help them thrive no matter where you live.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff!

I’m impressed you’ve made it this far down. You should probably be rewarded for that…

How about some bite sized succulent tips delivered daily to your inbox?

I’m sure you’ll love my 30 Days of Quick Succulent Tips email series. Each day I’ll send you a 2-3 sentence tip about growing succulents along with a photo and link to learn more.

Sound good?

 

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