Q. How do I prune crown of thorns?
Pruning your mature crown of thorns plant can help to retain a nice shape and fresh leafy growth. Some varieties naturally begin to arch and bend as they grow, and pruning can keep the plant more compact and suitable for the indoors. Some cultivars and some individual plants branch less than others and pruning may be used as a way to stimulate branching. The results you will get from pruning are as varied as the plants themselves. You may get multiple, sturdy branches from each cut or none. Make sure that you start with a healthy plant that has the vigor necessary to heal and grow. Pruning has best results in spring when the plant is in a period of strong growth.
The thorns and sap of the plant should be taken into consideration before pruning. Protect your hands, eyes, clothes and gardening tools. A sterile knife is easier to clean of sap after cutting and is recommended as an alternative to ruining your garden shears. Spray the wounds created on the plant with water to stop the flow of sap.
Begin by removing any damaged limbs to their base. Look along the remaining stems that you would like to shorten for evidence of healthy buds and cut back to just above that point, or cut a stem back to a branch joint, leaving the axillary buds and branch collar intact. A strong and healthy looking bud is the best indication that your plant will send out a new branch as well as the direction it will grow.
Do not remove all the leafing stems on the plant. It is safest to have ½ the leaves remain on the plant. Once healthy new leafy growth is present, you can cut back remaining stems in the same way as long as it is still early in the growing season.
Your cuttings can become new plants! For information on propagating the cuttings and other care see our Crown of Thorns Houseplants Guide.
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service
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