Should you remove dying leaves from Houseplants: Pruning and Cleaning tips

Brown leaves, yellow leaves, dying leaves are all different ways to keep a pulse on your plant's health. It's important to know the difference between yellowing leaves from pests and yellowing leaves from a plants' natural life cycle. So if you're wondering, "Should I cut dead leaves off my plant?", keep reading to learn more.

Why are the leaves of my plant dying?

Dying leaves are apart of a plants natural life cycle. Older, bottom leaves will typically yellow and brown over time, especially during the changing of the seasons or if a plant is acclimating to a new environment. However, if you notice more than half your plant leaves yellowing or more than the normal amount, then it may be time to take a closer look.

Plants on a shelf
Plants on a shelf
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Is your plant droopy? Do the leaves feel flimsy?

If you've missed on one or two waterings, you may notice a sudden on set of yellow leaves on your indoor plants, typically the older, bottom leaves. These leaves will be droopy, feel paper thin and can bend easily. Make sure to keep up with watering on your houseplants to prevent underwatering.

dead leaves on bamboo plant

Brown leaves on lucky bamboo

Could it be over watering?

If you've recently watered your plant and notice yellow leaves, there's a chance it's root rot. Root rot is due to too many frequent waterings and not allowing the roots to dry out. To treat this; unpot the plant, cut off any rotting roots you see using sharp scissor and repot the plant in a chunkier mix in a pot with drainage holes.

Plants being watered

Plants being watered
Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Lastly, make sure to give your plant time to dry out in between watering sessions. You want the soil to be at least 80% dry before you water again.

Not enough light?

If a plant isn't receiving adequate lighting, it will drop its lower leaves to conserve energy for new growth. Proper lighting is necessary for a plant to hold onto all its leaves. The amount and duration of light a plant needs varies from species to species.

When to worry about dead leaves

If you notice an onset of yellowing or dead leaves, especially new growth, it could be a sign of insect infestation. You'll need to look closer at the leaves and check for signs of pests. This could look like webbing on the backs of leaves, small insects munching on plants or mysterious punctures in a leaf.

Any plants that have been effect by plant pests, will need to be isolated immediately. Next, cut off any severely damaged leaves or brown leaves using clean pruning shears.

yellow leaf from spider mites

Spider mite damage on plant leaf

Read HERE to see how to treat and identify common plant pests.

Brown leaf tips

Brown leaf tips is caused from a few reason and often isn't something to worry about.

Over fertilizer burn

Over fertilizer can happen just by adding too much fertilizer to a plant, often times with a liquid or synthetic fertilizer. Make sure to follow the directions on the package of your fertilizer and fertilize your plant once a month during the growing season.

Click HERE to learn more about fertilizer.

Dry conditions

Dry conditions, like low humidity or under watering, can lead to brown tips. Raising the humidity with a humidifier or placing the plants in a greenhouse will help with humidity.

Tainted tap water

Plants like Calathea, Anthurium and certain Philodendron can have brown tips from the chemicals in tap water. Using bottled water, specifically distilled water, will help prevent brown tips.

How to Remove Brown Tips From the Leaves of Houseplants

Using clean pruning shears, cut above the part that's turning brown. This, however, is only a temporary fix. Getting down to the source of the issue will ultimately help new growth.

When to remove dead leaves

Any dead or dying leaves can be pruned immediately. Leaves with slight damage can be trimmed back, especially if it's the leaf tip. If prefer to remove the whole leaf, that's fine too. Trimming back dying foliage will encourage new growth.

cutting shears on top of plants
Pruning shears on top of cuttings
Photo by Rowen Smith on Unsplash

However, you also have the option to leave dead leaves on the plant as long as there's not an insect infestation. The dead parts will naturally fall off. They mainly just effect the overall aesthetic of the plant.

How to prune your plant

You can prune your plant for different reasons; removing dead leaves, dead flowers, or to propagate. To successfully prune your plant you'll need sharp scissors or pruning shears. Make sure to always clean them with alcohol before and after use to help prevent the spread of any unknown disease.

propagations in a jar

Cuttings in water
Photo by Jacob Spaccavento on Unsplash

When pruning old growth or affected leaves, cut at the closest spot to the stem. Avoid snapping the petiole with your hand because this may cause unnecessary damage.

If you're pruning to propagate, you'll have to locate the node and cut slightly below. However, some species (like begonias and snake plants) don't require a note and can propagate by leaf cut. Click HERE to read different ways to propagate.