Hilltop Farm From the Air

Hilltop's Gardening Wisdom & Tips

Return to IndexPrinter Friendly Version

Cosmetology for Plants
-- or --
Why They Call me Morticia

While I don't get my hair cut very often, I love to give my plants haircuts! People call me Morticia (as in Morticia Adams that would cut blooms off the thorny rose stems for a bouquet) because I seem to do it so much. There are times and reasons for "haircuts":

  • Cut back house plants in the fall when you are bringing them inside. This will create a more manageable plant for your limited space, reduces the potential insect pests, and will let the plants grow new leaves accustomed to the lower light available in the house.

  • When you put the plants back outside in the spring, cut the plants back again. The new growth will then be used to the higher light outside. The pruning also makes the plant bushier.

  • Cut back annuals in summer when they are looking rangy and tired. Feed your plants (a second dose of Osmocote is good at this time). In a week or two your plants will be performing like new. Now, if you have some special event later in the summer that requires your garden to look fantastic, keep this trick in mind, plan appropriately, and enjoy a beautiful, fresh garden!

  • Cut back potted plants that have grown to the point that you can't keep up with the watering. The smaller size will be much easier to maintain and the plants will look fresh in a short while.

  • If you are going a two week vacation in the summer and are worried about the neighbor kid keeping your plants watered, give your plants a haircut before you go! The plants will require less water (and be more forgiving if someone forgets to water) and your plants will look fabulous when you get home!

  • We have a perennial bed that is hard to irrigate. In the past few droughty years I have practiced "survival pruning." In July, or when the plants are really getting drought stressed, I cut back all the perennials in that bed just to keep them alive. They take much less water! Then when the rains start up again, the plants burst forth. I end up with a gorgeous late summer/fall border, one much nicer than if I had been able to irrigate well all summer.

  • "Dead-heading" is a form of haircut that just removes the spent flowers. Most plants benefit from dead-heading.

  • Some plants, such as Bougainvillea, like their growing tips pinched back to encourage bushier habit and/or increased bloom.

If you are doing a serious cut back and not just a tip pinch or dead-heading, cut your plant back one third to one half of its height/length. Don't be afraid; the plants will benefit.

Gardening Wisdom #12, 5/4/2008 © Hilltop Farm

Return to IndexPrinter Friendly Version

General questions can be answered at info@hilltop-gardens.com.
If you have any comments, compliments, or complaints about this webpage, please contact the webmaster at

©2001-2016 by Peter Cross and Hilltop Farm