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News / Life / Lifestyles

Keep indoor garden groomed

Well-maintained plants look better, adhere to space

By Melinda Myers, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Published: January 6, 2024, 6:03am

Whether your indoor garden has outgrown its location or you are looking to expand your garden, a bit of pinching, pruning or propagating may be the answer. Grooming houseplants keeps your indoor garden looking its best and plants contained to the available space. You can use some of the trimmings to start new plants.

Give plants with long, leggy stems a pinch. Removing a small or large portion of the growing tip encourages the plant to form more branches and compact growth. Pinching removes a growth hormone produced in the stem tip called auxin. This hormone encourages upward growth of the stem. Removing the stem tip reduces the auxin and allows more branches to develop along the stem.

A soft pinch removes just the uppermost portion of the stem with developing leaves and the stem tip. A hard pinch, more like pruning, removes the tip and several inches of the leafy stem. These stem pieces can be used to start new plants.

Some gardeners pinch with their fingers, but I prefer using sharp snips like Corona Tools ComfortGel micro snips with stainless steel blades that resist the buildup of plant residue or Corona bypass pruners that make a clean cut that closes quickly and looks better.

When pinching and pruning your houseplants make the cuts just above a set of leaves. The plant remains relatively attractive while you wait for new leaves and stems to grow. Avoid leaving stubs by making cuts elsewhere as these detract from the plant’s appearance and can create entryways for insects and disease.

Respect patent laws

Houseplants can be propagated in several different ways. Avoid propagating patented plants protected by patent laws. These laws are designed to protect the investment of the plant breeder. Respecting patent laws allows companies to continue breeding improvements into plants for all of us to enjoy in the future.

Use leaf stem cuttings to start a variety of houseplants like inch plants, philodendron, pothos, dieffenbachias, dracaenas, jade plants and many more. Use a sharp knife, snips or bypass pruner to cut 3- to 6-inch-long pieces from firm, mature, nonwoody stems.

Remove the lowest leaf or two that will be buried in the potting mix. This is where new roots will form. If you have had trouble rooting cuttings in the past, try using rooting hormone labeled for use on houseplants. It contains fungicides to fight disease and hormones to encourage root development.

Root cuttings in a small container filled with vermiculite or a well-drained potting mix. Make a hole in the mix, insert the cut end and gently push the potting mix around the stem. Loosely cover the potted cutting with a plastic bag left open at the top. This increases the humidity around the cutting to compensate for the lack of roots.

Set the container in a bright location out of direct sun for several weeks as roots develop. Give the stem a gentle tug to see if roots have formed. Move the rooted cutting into a container filled with well-drained potting mix, place it in a location with the proper amount of sunlight and water as needed.

You’ll be amazed at how a bit of grooming and propagating can perk up a tired indoor garden. Share or trade extra rooted cuttings with family and friends so each of you can grow your indoor garden and memories.