How to Groom a Houseplant

How to Groom a Houseplant

I love gardening.  I love digging in the dirt…without gloves.  It’s so therapeutic to get dirt under my fingernails.  When winter comes, I crave time in the garden.  My solution has always been to play with houseplants.  Many houseplants grow more vigorously than others.  Ivies in particular, have a tendency to grow long and leggy.  I’ve even seen them sprawled all around rooms before.  Why some folks find these sparsely leaved branches impressive….I just find them ugly.  It’s like hair…if it’s long and straggly…it’s just not pretty.  When trimmed, a houseplant can look full and lush, like you see at the nurseries.  I want to show you how to achieve this.

Grooming a houseplant

By grooming and time, anyone can turn a sparse and leggy ivy…or most any other plant, into a lush plant, that looks like it just came out of a nursery greenhouse.

Let start with fluffing up those bad boys.  Almost every plant stem consists of nodes.  That’s probably not the official term…just what I call them.  The nodes are where new leaves, and roots come from.  By keeping this in mind, the basis of a fuller plant starts.

Grooming a houseplant

When trimming a plant, make sure you cut the stem…just where this part STAYS on the branch.  This is where the new leaves will begin.  

Grooming a houseplant

Above is an older cut on one of my plants, see the new leaf trying to come out…and there will be more.  This is how plants fill in.  When a stem is cut, the plant will compensate by forming several leaves, where the node is.

Grooming a houseplant

 Above is an even older cut.  As you can see…this stem became fuller.  Making two or three branches where the single stem once had been.  As the plant grows somewhat longer…I continue the process a little further down each stem, creating more and more filling.  When a plant first gets groomed…it should be very close to the dirt…this way, the fullness begins at the base.

By reversing this concept…and trimming the cut off portion, where the node is just above the cut, and placed in water, roots will develop, instead of leaves.  I always save my trimmings, and fill in the plant where there are open spots in the dirt.  It takes some time for the roots to develop, but patience is rewarded, with basically a whole new plant…that can either be placed in the old to fill in, or a new pot…for a whole new plant.

Grooming a houseplant

Sometimes, if the cuttings are long enough, several new starts can be made.  By leaving a node at the top and the bottom of each stem.  All cuttings should have at least one leave above the water, for photosynthesis…the process each plant needs to feed and produce it’s nutrients.

Remember, NOTHING but stem should be in the water.  Any foliage that falls below the water, will rot and possibly sicken all of the stems…not to mention stick to high heaven in a very short time.  I try to completely change out the water in my vase at least once a week…this keeps it fresh smelling, and the stems healthy.  Although I don’t let foliage fall below the waterline…there are always small things on each stem..casings etc that will manage to get past.

Grooming a houseplant 

Here are some cuttings from a succulent that got pretty leggy while I was gone to Montana.  They had gotten a bit dry, and when I got home and watered them…they got a slight fungus.  This will clear up as I get them back to a normal watering pattern.  As you can tell…some of them had already began to make roots, so this was a natural place to clip them.  With succulents, most of them can be placed straight into soil, or do like I’m doing…just place them on a damp paper towel.  Then I place another over the top…and keep it moist.  I gave half of these cuttings to my daughter…and the other half to my sister…it’s amazing how many plants can be made, by just a little grooming.

Plants get a bit dusty in the house over time, and their leaves are their noses.  This is how they survive.  Imagine how difficult it would be to breath, with the amount of dirt that accumulates on the surface of a leaf….in your nose.  For healthy plants, they need a shower occasionally.  Once showered, I proceed to the next phase in care…a different type of haircut.

Impurities, in the water, and soil create browning on the edges of the leaves, as well as letting a plant dry a little too much between watering.  To make them look nicer, I cut off the dead, or near dead leaves, and trim the ends.

Grooming a houseplant

I try to trim them in a natural direction of the other leaves.  If they are angled…I cut at an angle.

Grooming a houseplant

Although…it’s not beautiful, the brown is gone that catches the eye.  Over all, when the whole plant is taken in at once, the eye doesn’t go directly to the dead.  And…they don’t crumble, making even more mess.

Grooming a houseplant

Okay…you’ll have a mess while you’re doing it! lol

One way to help combat this browning, is being aware of how often each plant needs a drink.  Over watering can be detrimental to a plant…under-watering can cause this leaf browning.  If you feel like the leaves browning, is a reaction to hard water, one way I deal with this is to place water in open milk jugs, to sit a few days.  Chlorine and many other minerals will evaporate out of the water.  Generally, town water has additives, to make it potable, that houseplants prefer not to drink.  Generally this browning is caused by letting plants get too dry though.

 If you follow these few, small steps, in just a short time, your plants will look like they just stepped out of a professional nursery.

Grooming a houseplant

As a side note:  Generally I find the best time to do this, is in the spring.  Most plants take a natural growth spurt in the spring….grooming them and freshening them up in the spring, gives them that extra burst they need.  I generally give them another bath in the fall too.
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About Tammy Killough

I'm a stay at home wife and mother of four. I began my career in the medical field, but art kept calling me back. I love art of all forms, and wish to inspire this love in everyone I encounter. My hope is that I will teach something or inspired something in everyone I meet.

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  1. Thanks Tammy, this is a great article, as several of my houseplants could use a little grooming right about now!
    Jenny recently posted…Gratitude – Day 35My Profile

  2. Thanks Jenny. Don’t you just love houseplants? They’re what keep me going all winter! 😀 Have a wonderful week! ~Tammy
    Tammy Killough recently posted…Scrapbook Paper LuminariesMy Profile

  3. Wow that was good. I learned something! I donot have a green thumb and we have had quite a winter as you know if you live in the US. So most all my plants that I brought inside for winter are dying. WE NEED WARMTH!!! I cant wait to put them outside again so they can get sun and fresh warm air! Ty for teaching on this. Nowonder they dont grow, I cut them below the NODES! Now I know better!


  1. […] In the end only two branches made it through, but they are looking great. I was inspired by this blog post to trim up my Pothos baskets. The cuttings established well (of course… Pothos…) and […]

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