When I see office plants that people look after themselves (and often ones looked after by rival companies!) one thing that comes home to me again and again is that people don't prune enough.
So this is my potted guide to pruning indoor plants.
Now I have a bit of a reputation as a secateur-wielding brute, so what I say may not agree with what's in the books, but I'll say it anyway.
Indoor plants fall in to three categories, as below. How do you work out which is which? Simply, look at the way the plant grows. If in doubt cut a bit off and see how it responds.
1. Plants that can be shaped
Ficus family, or any plant that has been pruned to a standard (lollipop) shape. Also the Crassula (Money Tree) can be treated this way. Basically, any plant that re-grows outwards when you cut something off the bdy of the plant.
Pruning has two stages and two purposes. The first is to keep the shape. To do this, simply cut off anything that sticks out where it shouldn't! The only problem is, pruning encourages growth where you make the cut, so this alone can make the problem worse. So the second stage is to occasionally make a 'strategic cut' and remove an entire branch back to well inside the bush. Otherwise all new growth will be on the outside and the middle will gradually become bare.
2. Plants that grow vertical 'canes'
The chief examples being Dracaenas (dragon trees) and Yuccas.
Let's face it, we've all seen one of these which is all wiggly stem with a handful of leaves on the end! As with the plants in the first group, these grow new shoots from where you cut them, so quite simply cut a stem back to where you want it to sprout from. If you look at the picture above/right, you can see the Y-shaped junctions where the plant has been pruned before. This is what you will achieve if you prune a head off. The problem is these types of plant tend to have just a handful of big heads, so you can only really cut one off at a time, so you need to prune progressively, i.e. cut one, wait until it sprouts a few leaves, then cut another when the plant can bear it. The bits you remove, by the way, are viable plants in their own right. Either repot in another container or simply plunge into the soil of the parent plant and gain another stem. Without any special measures you have a better-than-even chance of survival!
3. Plants that grow shots from the soil
This is the tricky one. Examples would mostly be the palms (like the Howea shown here), but also a lot of small houseplants.
The only way you can prune these is to thin them out: cut out leaves to reduce the overall size, selecting leaves which are damaged, or simply going in the wrong direction. In the case of the palms you'll find that the new leaves appear in the middle, so the oldest leaves are usually on the outside of the plant.
Unlike the first two groups this does not promote new growth, and does not really benefit the plant, it's purely to control the size if it's taking over the room.
When to prune?
The other question I often get asked is "When is the right time to prune my plant?"
The simple answer is "When it needs it!" Especially in offices, indoor plants grow all year round, albeit more slowly in the winter, so I recommend pruning little and often. If you need to do something drastic, spring/summer is probably best, to give the plant the best chance of re-sprouting. Follow up with a good feed for even better results.
So in summary: don't be scared. Not pruning at all is much worse than the most amateur pruning, and you'll be amazed how satisfying it is when your plant sprouts healthy new growth as a result of your efforts. Happy chopping!
Stewarts Office Plants
We supply many businesses across the South, from Sussex and Surrey, through Hampshire and Dorset to Wiltshire and Somerset. For more information about the services we offer visit our home page, or contact us here. In this blog you'll find news, interesting snippets, stories and pictures of our staff's adventures out on the road.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
If you're still undecided as to whether some lovely plants would look good in your offices and be appreciated by staff and visitors, to help you decide, we have ready-planted containers which we'd be keen to offer you for a few weeks, provided we can find a suitable spot at your premises for them. Whilst they are with you, we come along and maintain them - that way you get an idea of the service we provide if you decide to go ahead and have your own plants. This loan and the service provided by Stewarts during the loan is free of charge and, includes fortnightly visits by our fully trained staff who water, prune, clean and feed the plants.
All you have to do is enjoy them.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Just thought I'd post a picture of our greenhouse, as it's a lovely peaceful place to work. That's the door to my luxurious office on the left!
As we are expecting our fortnightly plant injection from Holland any time now, this is about as empty as it ever gets. When it's full you often have to push overhanging leaves out of the way to get down the aisles.
Research shows that plants make the workplace a healthier environment, so maybe this is why all the staff in the separate admin office have a cold, and I have resisted it so far.
If you visit the Wimborne Stewarts you can catch a glimpse of this green oasis through a door in the furniture department. If you're a current or potential interior landscaping customer, you're more than welcome to arrange to come in for a look round.