Although leaf removal may seem like an unusual subject to cover for plant growing, it is a necessary part of plant maintenance. Removal of leaves comes about in a few different ways and reasons:
Naturally is natures way of doing things.
For instance the wonderful “Weeping Fig” or ficus tree that drops so many leaves as it goes through the acclimating process.
One reason for the “drop” is that the plant is just not receiving enough light to support the quantity of “current” leaves. Think of it as a quick fitness program to get itself into shape.
Notice that the leaves fall off the plant naturally and do not hang on. This is in fact a good sign. The plant is naturally trying to “repair” itself.
Manually – because of damage or disease
This is where our focus will be in this article.
Occasionally, plant leaves get damaged, blemished, or change colors. This can be from an environmental change such as traveling or moving plant(s) from one place to other, kids or animal attacks, (kids, dogs and cats enjoying nature) or plants going from low light to higher light causing the leaves to sunburn.
As a broad statement lets just say that, plants that are in poor or questionable health (for whatever reason) have leaves of abnormal color(s) or with brown and/or diseased areas. Take these brown tips, yellowed leaves, and spotting as a plant warning of potential health problems.
Whether the leaves are damaged or diseased, they make your foliage plants unattractive. Sooner or later these leaves must be removed or trimmed.
How much should your remove?
If a leaf is completely dead or yellow, REMOVE IT.
If more than half of the leaf is damaged or discolored, remove the entire leaf. Some leaves can easily be removed by hand. First, grab the leaf base where it is attached to the stem and break it off. Try to remove the entire leaf without leaving any leaf areas that pests will enjoy hanging out at.
Other plants may require you to use scissors or a shape knife to remove the leaves. One trick you can use on the large leaf Dracaenas, such as ‘Janet Craig’, Massangaena (corn plant), and warneckii is to split the leaf in half down the mid-vein. Tear the leaf all the way back to the trunk. Now both halves can be easily removed from the trunk with a good tug.
Palm leaves almost always require the use of a good sharp knife or scissors. Remember that because of the large size of most palm leaves it isn’t uncommon to see a little browning on some of the tips (depending on the variety like Rhapis). If only a small area of a leaf is off color, you can trim off that area to the natural shape of the leaf. For best results use a good pair of sharp scissors.
When you trim, make sure to leave a small edge of brown or yellow tissue. This will provide somewhat of a barrier to help prevent further damage of healthy tissue. Cutting into healthy green tissue, may encourage further injury of the leaf tissue.
Remember that once a leaf is trimmed there usually is no turning back, SO trim wisely.
Leaf Removal for Maintenance
Our focus has mainly been on damaged or diseased leaves. But, removing leaves, branches and stem is also an essential part of healthy plant maintenance. Pruning may be needed on hanging plants or other plants to keep them balanced and shaped. Hanging baskets must be kept short enough so they do not interfere with the living or work area. Trimming the basket can help maintain balance, shape and also help promote growth in other areas. Scissors are usually the perfect tool for this job.
Yes, leaf removal is something that must be done. Remember that good looking leaves indoors is something that adds beauty to your indoor environment don’t just hack away – trim wisely and use good clippers – like Felco.