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Air Plant Pruning: When To Trim Your Air Plant

Every now and again, your air plant will need a little trim. Whether it’s to remove dead leaves or shape the plant, pruning is an important part of air plant care.

But how do you know when to prune your air plant?

This article will cover:

  • When to prune your air plant
  • How to prune your air plant
  • What tools you’ll need

Let’s get started!

When to Prune Your Air Plant

Air plants will need to be pruned when they exhibit any of the following conditions:

Dead Leaves

As the tillandsia grows older, like any other house plant, it will naturally produce leaves that die off and turn brown. Removing these leaves must be taken with great care as there may be pups (offsets) growing from the base of the leaf.

How to Remove Dead Leaves

Hold the leaf at its base and gently tug. If the leaf comes away easily, it is dead and can be removed. However, if there is resistance, and it’s not worth saving, get a pair of sharp scissors and cut the leaf close to the base.

Browning Leaves

Browning Leaves on air plant

Whether it’s due to lack of hydration or simply that the leaf has reached the end of its life, brown and curly leaves are perfectly normal. However, it might be a sign that you may need to increase the watering frequency.

How to Remove Brown Leaves

Use sharp scissors and cut the leaves off just before the area where they are beginning to brown. There is no need to remove the entire leaf, which will put unnecessary stress on the plant.

A Note for Curly Leaves: Some air plants, such as the Tillandsia Xerographica, have naturally curly leaves. Therefore, it may be completely healthy and not need pruning if the leaves are curling.

Diseased or Damaged Leaves

air plant pruning - dead leaves

Mealybugs and other pests can cause damage to air plants. If you notice any of these problems on your plant, it’s best to remove the affected leaves immediately.

How to Remove Damaged or Diseased Leaves

Use sharp scissors and cut the leaves off close to the base, being sure to remove any affected areas. For good measure, we’d recommend applying neem oil to the plant to prevent the spread of any leftover pests.

Shaping (Optional)

air plant shaping

Some folks like to give their air plants a little shaping from time to time. Shaping is completely optional whether it’s to make the air plant appear more symmetrical or simply fit comfortably in a terrarium or other small space.

How to Shape an Air Plant

Use sharp scissors and handle the plant gently. Cut off any leaves that are sticking out or look out of place. We recommend doing this over several days rather than all at once if you are going for a particular look or shape.

Roots (Optional)

Given that tillandsias are epiphytes, and derive their nutrients from the air and water. The roots are there for the air plant to latch on a tree branch or rock and are not necessary for the plant’s health.

While these roots are normal, some people prefer to remove them for aesthetic reasons – especially if they are to be placed in a terrarium.

How to Remove Air Plant Roots

Use sharp scissors and cut the roots off close to the base of the plant.

What Tools You’ll Need

small garden shears

For pruning your air plant, you’ll need a sharp pair of scissors or garden shears – that’s all. This will allow you to get a clean cut without smashing or damaging the remaining leaves.

Common Questions

Should I water my air plant after pruning it?

It’s unnecessary to water your air plant after pruning it, but you can if you’d like. We recommend waiting a day or two before watering to give the plant time to adjust.

Can I use a regular pair of scissors?

We don’t recommend using regular scissors as they can crush and damage the leaves. Air plants are very delicate, so it’s important to use sharp scissors or gardening shears that will make a clean cut.

Should you remove dead flowers from an air plant?

Unfortunately, once an air plant flowers, the bloom is done, and the plant will begin to die. You can remove the dead flower if you’d like, but it’s not necessary.