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How To Prune Monstera Plants

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A native to dense tropical rainforests, the Monstera deliciosa plant is a beautiful and swift growing plant. They like to climb as they are used to competing for rain and sunlight from dense, huge trees.

With a little bit of proper care, Monstera plants can quickly reach small tree sizes and can take over a small space. Unless you have a big greenhouse or a large, spacious sunroom, you will need to trim them on occasion to tame their huge growth.

If cutting up your precious plants has you shaking in a cold sweat don’t worry. Plants need regular pruning to keep them healthy and it’s pretty simple. Right here we’ll give you step by step instructions on why, how, and when you need to properly prune your Monstera deliciosa.

Why You Should Prune Your Monstera

Pruning Monstera Aerial Roots in basket
Pruning Monstera Aerial Roots in basket

Trees need a yearly pruning to keep them growing strong, looking good, and in the case of fruit plants, increasing production. Most other plants benefit from annual pruning as well, especially most houseplants.

Your Monstera is no exception. These plants can get large and unruly when left alone. They may even have some unhealthy looking yellow or brown leaves, or a tangled mass of aerial roots that need to be tamed.

The occasional pruning encourages new, healthy growth, helps to stave off infection and pests, and controls some of the extraneous growth. Especially if you are trying to keep it in a smaller container.

Pruning also helps to keep your plant looking good. You’ll remove dying leaves, clean up extra aerial roots, and prune them to make them more aesthetically pleasing.

When Should Monstera Pruning Happen?

While there is a best time to prune your plants, there are also exceptions. Generally, you should wait until spring to prune it. As the days get longer and temperatures warm up, plants start to become more active and start growing.

Just before they begin this growth spurt is the best time for pruning them. This helps them heal the cuts and stay healthy and strong.

If you notice a pest infestation, or disease starting to creep in before the spring rolls around, you should go ahead and prune it instead of waiting. Often, pruning off diseased leaves will help prevent the spread and save the plant. The same goes for certain pests.

Only trim off the damaged and unhealthy parts of the plant during this time and save other pruning for early spring before the plant comes out of the dormant phase.

Supplies Needed For Monstera Pruning

Most things you probably already have laying around your house. Having them close at hand before you start pruning saves extra steps and shortens the time for this chore. Here are the items you may need:

  • Pruning shears or sharp pair of scissors
  • Gloves
  • Workspace such as a table
  • New pot if you’re trimming the roots or repotting it
  • Extra Monstera friendly soil
  • Small tarp or plastic sheeting
  • Bucket or trash can
  • Vase with water

A good pair of sharp, clean pruning shears is essential for clean cuts and preventing problems later on. 3 Pack Garden Pruning Shears with Gardening Gloves is a great set if you don’t have any. There are pruners for thick, woody stems, and small shears for delicate cuts, and they come with a pair of gloves.

If you don’t have garden shears but have an excellent pair of strong, sharp scissors, these can work too. You’ll need to make sure your cutting tool is clean and disinfected. Disease can spread from different plants so it’s best to clean the tools with vinegar, or a 5% solution of bleach and water before your first cut.

Gloves are optional, but Monstera plants contain a high amount of calcium oxalates in the sap that may cause skin irritation or an allergic dermatitis. This won’t affect most people, but if you have sensitive skin or allergies, you might want to play it safe with a good pair of gloves.

A comfortable workspace that has plenty of light, will hold the weight of the plant, and allow you to turn it so you can see every side of the plant is self-explanatory.

Typically, Monstera plants need to be placed in a larger pot about once per year or two as they outgrow their current space. Now may be a good time to transplant it.

You can also trim the roots to keep them smaller and in the same size pot. In this case and the prior, you’ll need some extra soil to fill in the empty space. Monstera Imperial Houseplant Potting Soil Mix is a great premix that allows for extra drainage while also letting the roots get plenty of water.

You may want to cover your plant trimming workspace with a small tarp or some plastic sheeting to keep your house cleaner. Especially if you’re trimming the roots, or repotting your Monstera.

Depending on how you’re disposing of your trimmings you may want to have a trashcan or empty bucket nearby. If you can, compost the trimmings, but not if they are diseased or covered in pests. These should be placed in a sealable plastic bag and disposed of to prevent cross contamination.

The vase with water is for extra cuttings. Monstera plants are easy to propagate, and if you want more, or would like to share with friends or family, you’ll need a container with water. We’ll explain how to do this later, it’s quite easy.

How To Prune Monstera Plants

Let’s establish what the goal is for pruning your Monstera. You can prune them to keep them smaller, to make them look better, to keep them healthy, or to remove unsightly yellow and dying leaves. You can also prune to propagate them.

Before You Get Started

Pruning, just like transplanting, can be a shocking experience for your plants. This will generally be followed by a period of stunted, or no growth. Be patient, continue your normal care, and soon it will start growing again like normal.

Whether you trim leaves, aerial roots, or subterranean roots, the plant needs to heal these areas and will focus on them instead of foliage growth. This is why we like to wait until they either have started growing again, or just before they emerge from the dormant phase.

Trimming Monstera Foliage

Juvenile Monstera Plant being pruned
Juvenile Monstera Plant being pruned

Now that you have your workstation set up and all your tools laid out, take a look at your plant and try to plan what you want it to look like. Try to plan out a few larger cuts rather than a dozen small cuts. The fewer open wounds on the plant, the easier it will bounce back.

Start by cutting off any yellow, brown, diseased, or sickly looking leaves then look it over again. When cutting the leaves, cut the leaf stems off close to the main stalk while being careful not to damage the stalk.

Take a look at the bottom of the plant. Trimming off the older leaves of the plant is very beneficial for airflow and the health of the plant. Give these leaves top priority when trimming.

After you have removed the older and discolored leaves, look to see if it still needs more trimming. If it still looks unruly go ahead and cut a few more off. Try to look for nodes that have multiple leaves, especially on larger plants, as this way you can shape and shrink it with fewer cuts.

These multiple leaves, especially if they have aerial roots or small nodes can be propagated by placing them in the water filled vase. Replace the water every day or two to keep it from becoming stagnant. Once the plant has a small cluster of an inch or two long roots, you can place it in a small pot, and now you have a new Monstera plant.

Make two or three large cuts and then look at your plant again. If you need to, depending on how big it is, you may be able to make another cut or two but try not to take more than 25% of the plant in one pruning session.

Pruning your plant too much could cause major damage that it might not recover from, so keep your trimming limited. If it still needs more trimming, wait until the next season.

In the case of small plants, a few precise cuts near the main, or parent stem, will be beneficial, and probably all you need to do until it gets bigger.

How To Prune Aerial Monstera Deliciosa Roots

The long, sometimes unsightly, long nodes that grow off the stem of Monstera plants are the aerial roots. In their native climate, these roots help to anchor the plant around other trees and are one way they self propagate themselves.

While it’s not necessary to cut them off, sometimes these aerial roots get so thick and long that it looks like your plant is growing dreadlocks. They can sprawl out of the pot and on the floor causing a trip hazard and a mess on your floors.

Like pruning the leaves, cut these aerial roots near the stem or the node. You can be a little more aggressive with the pruning of these roots, as it doesn’t seem to harm the plant as much as removing a lot of leaves.

These aerial roots can be prolific growers though. Where you cut one off, you may end up seeing two growing back later on, so be prepared.

Repot Your Plant

If you want your Monstera to grow bigger, now is a good time to repot it. While you might be tempted to place it in a big pot to keep from having to do this annually, it’s not recommended.

Too big of a pot can cause the soil to stay wet longer, increasing the potential for root rot. Try to find a pot that is only an inch or two bigger. If your monstera is in a 6 inch pot, look for no bigger than an 8 inch pot.

Tips On Pruning Underground Monstera Roots

As we have addressed before, Monstera plants are fast growing plants that often need to be repotted every year. They can grow over 10 feet tall, and some subspecies can get much bigger than that.

One way to help keep your Monstera smaller is to trim the roots. As we know, healthy roots are essential to a healthy plant, and some plants definitely do not handle having their roots damaged. This isn’t the case with the Monstera. You can actually trim the roots without harming the plant.

As long as they are given the space, Monsteras will continue to grow more roots and get bigger and bigger. They’ll continue to grow until they have no more space, and then they get root bound.

A root bound plant will dramatically slow its growth, but if it’s kept in a small pot without any trimming or repotting for a long time, the plant can become stunted, and possibly die.

If the idea of having a monster Monstera in your house isn’t very appealing, you can trim the roots to keep it smaller.

Before cutting the roots, it’s vitally important to have sharp and disinfected shears. Don’t crush the roots or use dirty cutting tools as this can introduce bacteria and fungus that can ruin your plants.

Start by removing the pot. If it’s stuck, tap the edges and gently wiggle it loose. In the case of ceramic or terra cotta, run a butter knife along the edge of the soil to help loosen it.

Now that you have the roots exposed, loosen them out, and gently untangle them if possible. You can use a gentle spray of water to remove some loose soil if you need to.

Visually inspect them for discoloration, mushiness, or a bad smell. These or symptoms of root rot or disease. If you see anything out of the ordinary, trim these off and then clean your shears.

As long as everything else is normal, start pruning the roots. Don’t cut the main, thick root, and be sure not to cut more than 25% to 30% of the root ball at one time. That’s it. After you have trimmed the roots, repot it in some fresh soil and give it some water.

Keep an eye on it and try not to overwater it at this time. Trimming the roots could cause it to wilt a little for a short period. The first thing we want to do as plant owners when we see a wilting plant is to water it. This could be shock instead of a lack of water so resist the temptation to water it unless the soil is dry.

Pruning After Care

Any kind of pruning can be shocking to your plant. Don’t worry because this is a normal response, and it should soon bounce back and start growing like normal. Keep on caring for your plant like normal.

Place it in a sunny spot that gets either northern sunlight or indirect southern sunlight. Keep the humidity high, mist it occasionally, or place the pot on a drip tray. Water it as needed, when the top inch or two of soil is dry, and fertilize as needed and as directed on the package.

Wherever it was growing before, place it back. It was growing well enough there that it needed a trimming, so don’t change this yet. Too many shocks, and changes during this time could harm it.

Final Thoughts

To keep a Monstera deliciosa growing well and healthy, it needs regular pruning. This removes weak and damaged parts of the plant and encourages healthy growth all around.

Be sure to not prune too much of the plant at one time, and do it at the right time of the year for best health. Plants that have pests and diseased leaves need to be trimmed as soon as this is noticed though.

If you want to propagate some more of these interesting plants, now is the best time to do so. Trim off a node or two and place them in a jar of water.

After trimming, be aware of shock, and provide the right amount of care. By following these steps and good clean techniques, your Monstera will give you years of plant beauty and happiness. Happy houseplanting!

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