If you've gotten a little scissor happy and given yourself a lousy haircut during COVID-19, you are far from alone! Cutting your own hair can be harmless enough, but if you're thinking of pruning your Tradescantia as your next victim... Let's just say maybe you should read this first!
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When should I start pruning my Tradescantia?
In general, it is best to give your plant babies a "haircut" at the beginning of the growing season. For your Mini Tradescantia, wait to give your plantie any substantial prunings until the early Spring.
Keep in mind, if you need to do some light maintenance on your plant in its dormancy period, it will be fine! Actually, doing so helps your plant's overall health. Just think, if you stub your toe, you focus on it. Similarly, your plant concentrates energy on areas that are hurting.
When is it the right time to get rid of dying leaves? If you notice them slowly turning yellow, this is a good thing! They are basically giving their chlorophyll (what pigments plant leaves) and other nutrients back to your Tradescantia. Let the leaves turn completely pale, and then cut them off. Pests can sniff out the decaying matter and quickly infest your Tradescantia, so don't let the leaf start rotting. Eliminating dead or dying leaves will better equip your plant to survive through winter!
The key is not to shock your plant during its dormancy period--it's using those leaves to soak in the energy it needs to use to grow in the spring-summer months!
How should I prune my plant?
Before you start pruning, become familiar with your Tradescantia! Take time to inspect its arms and try to pick out the "nodes." You can think of these as the elbows or joints of your plants!
If you are unfamiliar with nodes, simply take your fingers and gently feel your plant's stem. You should feel straight segments that are connected by little knobs. If you look closely, you can see distinct lines on each node! Before you're tempted... no, this is not a "cut here" line, so put the scissors down!
Once you take a step back and determine the strand you want to cut and decide how much you want to shorten it, locate the nodes closest to the length you want. Cut the stem near the node; remember, this is where new growth will come from, so don't chop off the node!
You want to trim it after the node. (If you’re looking at the stem from plant-base to-end perspective.) There's no strict rule on how much stem should be left after node, but it shouldn't be much.
When you are pruning your Tradescantia, make sure to cut the stems at a 45-degree angle. It doesn't have to be exact (no need to get your old high school protractor out!). The important thing is that you don't cut at a sharp, 90-degree angle. Why does it matter? When you cut a stem horizontally, plant liquids pool to the "injury." These liquids can make your Tradescantia susceptible to harmful bacteria and fungi. When you're cutting, just imagine the tips of the cut flowers you get from the florist, and you'll be just fine!
Tradescantia plants are prolific growers, so it can be tempting to chop off more than you should! You should never ever cut more than 1/4 of the leaves/stems from your plant at a time. It doesn't matter how much of a bushy Tradescantia you have! Extreme prunings can cause shock, killing the entire plant.
What do I do with all of these Tradescantia prunings?
Pruning your Tradescantia will encourage your plant to grow bushier. With time, though, your plant is going to require another haircut! So, what can you do with years’ worth of Tradescantia clippings?
One word: Propagate.
The good news is, Tradescantia propagates very quickly in soil or water. So, one solution is simply to put the propagated arms directly back into the pot of your main Tradescantia if you are trying to grow a mighty bush! For soil propagation to work, however, wait to prune your plant until it needs watering. If you put plant clippings in dry soil, they are guaranteed to shrivel up and die. So, (1) water your plant, (2) prune your plant, (3) place cuttings in moist soil.
Water propagation is also a great option, especially if you want to start a new plant or have some rooted clippings to share with a friend! Of course, you'll need to pick an appropriate sized container for your propagation, depending on how long it is. Make sure to submerge at least one node in the water! More nodes equal more roots; try to dunk a few, if possible. If necessary, pluck off leaves so that they are not underwater to prevent them from rotting.
In a few short weeks, your Tradescadia water propagation will have enough roots to plant it! Remember, water the soil before and after you plant a water propagation. You don't want to shock the roots with dry dirt!
Take the time to do a yearly health checkup
Starting out a season with pruning can also be an excellent excuse to evaluate your Tradescantia’s overall health! With these plants, it is essential not to take its health at face value. These plants are very resilient, which means that they can hide underlying conditions pretty well.
So, investigate the stems closely from top to bottom. Push through all of your Tradescantia's arms to look at the soil and stem-base. If you notice any mushy stems, immediately remove them, and reconsider your watering routine. You could be watering your Tradescantia too often!
Also, check out the fronts and backs of some of the leaves. Make sure that your plant survived the winter pest-free!
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