How to Prune Succulents

How to Prune Succulents

Succulents store water in their thick, fleshy leaves. Some succulents produce branching stems covered with attractive foliage, and others are more prized for their colorful flowers. Most succulents thrive in drier conditions, although nearly all make suitable houseplants if your outdoor climate is too wet. While most types do not require pruning, some branching succulents can benefit from a light trim to maintain their size and shape to thrive in a small garden bed or container.


Examine the leaves on the stem you plan to prune to determine where you should cut the stem. Find a leaf or leaf node pointed in the direction you want the stem to grow, then cut the stem just above this spot. The new growth at the pruning spot will branch in the direction of the leaf or leaf node.

Cut through the stem within 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) of the desired leaf or node. Cut at a 45-degree angle using a clean, sharp knife.

Remove up to a third of each stem's length as you prune. For trailing succulents, vary the size of each pruned stem to give the plant more visual interest.


Prune succulents in early spring, just before new growth begins. Prune flowering varieties after blooming or during the dormant winter season.

The cuttings from succulent pruning can root and grow into new plants. Plant the cuttings in a pot of moist potting soil and keep the soil moist until the cuttings root and show signs of new growth.


Some succulents, such as Euphorbia, produce an irritating sap. Wear gloves when pruning succulents to protect your skin.



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Do I Need to Prune Succulents?

Trimming the leaves or stem of succulents is not something you have to do often, yet it is highly recommended for many aspects considering the healthy growth of the body. Pruning will change a lot with your succulent plant both in beauty and health.

Preserve Compact Shape

Succulents look the best when they are preserved in a compact shape. However, they may change shape while growing bigger and some parts might enlarge irregularly. So, first of all, you can maintain the size and the shape of your succulent with a light trim.

Encourage New Growth

Pruned succulents start to grow healthier and faster, as a matter of fact. When they lose a part of the body, they also maintain themselves better and spend less effort to feed and carry all those unnecessary leaves and stem.

When you cut off any of the leaves, or even when you pick up the dry bottom leaves, you can see the newly growing greens.The new growth will be healthier than before and it is said that it prevents the plant from rotting.

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. But, if it has overgrown and can cause danger, 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.

Why do succulents stretch and get leggy in the first place?

Succulents need a certain amount of light to grow properly. If they are not receiving adequate sunlight throughout the day, you will notice them stretch and become leggy. This can happen within a few short weeks of the plant not receiving enough light to grow. It looks as if the plant is reaching out and looking for more light, which is literally what it’s doing.

Stretched Sedum Rubrotinctum ‘Jelly Bean Plant’ from lack of sunlight

Sedum nussbaumerianum ‘Coppertone stonecrop’ stretching from lack of sunlight

Sedum Rubrotinctum ‘Jelly Bean Plant’ stretching and becoming pale from lack of sunlight

Pruning and Trimming Succulents

Succulent Growth

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In addition to being among the most exotic-looking and easy-to-grow garden plants, succulents are fleshy plants that store water in leaves, stems, or both, and come in a huge assortment of interesting shapes, sizes, and colors, often with stunning flowers and unique frills or spines.

However, some get quite large or sprawl outwards and can outgrow their garden space or container, getting quite unruly and in need neatening up. Succulent plants often need pruning just like any other kind of garden favorites, for size control, to shape them better, or to propagate them for more plants. And though most succulents can seal off damaged parts, it is always good to quickly remove broken, diseased, or dead leaves, stems and flower stalks.

Though landscape maintenance crews have been known to use string trimmers to quickly remove spent flowers from low-growing Sedum and other succulent groundcovers, this can be tricky and requires a steady hand. For cleaner cuts less likely to decay, it is much better to use clean clippers, a sharp knife, or a pruning saw with fine teeth. If plants are diseased, avoid spreading the problem by swabbing or dipping blades in alcohol before starting or when cutting lots of plants.

When pruning succulents with spines or milky sap, wear gloves, especially around members of the Euphorbia genus such as pencil cactus or crown of thorns, whose milky sap is very irritating to some gardeners.

Echeveria, Graptopetalum, Crassula, Aeonium, Yucca, and other long-stem or multi-branched succulents can be kept compact with occasional pruning. Because new growth typically sprouts near the end of cut ends, simply prune stems to where you want new growth to emerge. You can train some to grow in different directions by cutting just above a small branch or bud that is pointing the right direction this is often done by growers of succulent bonsai.

In many cases, the cut-off portions can be allowed to dry a few days and then rooted in well-drained potting soil, or stuck into a planter or wall hanging for rooting right in place.

Trimming succulents grown in-ground outdoors is best done in early spring just before new growth begins year-round tropical species can be pruned nearly any time the weather or indoor temperatures are warm. Prune flowering varieties while dormant in the winter, or soon after blooming. In the case of Agaves, which after flowering usually die down completely leaving only small sucker or offset plants at their base, remove the entire dead flowering stem and dried flattened leaves, to make room for more to grow from basal offsets.

Remember, most succulents are very forgiving after being shaped or neatened up, and often the cuttings can be rooted to start new plants elsewhere.

Rooting Leggy Succulent Plants:

First of all, it is needed to be cut off by the end of a couple of days. Moreover, if the cutting is rangy higher than 5 inches (1.27 cm.), now you could cut it down again into a more manageable size. Afterwards cut the end dry out before you commence planting. With these adorable succulents, you rarely need a rooting hormone however, it might assist roots in establishing more briskly. A few of succulents will develop sources if they are just left out to dry. Right after some time, place the cutting on the height of succulent soil mix or for a lengthy stem, insert it quite subtly into the medium and the usage of a small stake to hold it upright is needed. From time to time, keep the container dry for a week and then mist the top of the soil. However, once the plant has rooted, give it the casual amount of water for that type of plant. You now possess a whole new plant by merely enhancing the appearance of the old. Succulents are just incredibly amazing that way, aren’t they?

Watch the video: How to Propagate Succulents Fast n Easy