Anthuriums don’t grow as aggressively as some plants, but there may still come a time when you’ll consider trimming yours back. Maybe it’s begun to look a little shaggy, or maybe you’re hoping that cutting away some of the established growth will encourage flowering. Do Anthuriums benefit from pruning, though? When and why should you trim these plants?
Anthuriums don’t need regular pruning. However, trimming away dead or dying leaves and blooms can improve the plant’s health, encouraging more vigorous flowering. And you can always make some cosmetic cuts to tweak the shape of the plant. When trimming, cut the petioles all the way back to the spot where they join the stem.
It’s also possible to multiply your Anthurium by cutting off one of the main stalks and repotting it. This can rejuvenate an older plant that has lost its urge to bloom, and it’s also a good way to slim down a Flamingo Flower that’s growing out of control. If you try this tactic, make sure to keep the cutting nice and humid while it’s taking root.
Why Do Anthuriums Need Pruning?
There are many ornamental plants that require an annual haircut to prime them for the growing season, but that’s not the case with Anthuriums. The Flamingo Flower’s natural habitat is the steamy rainforests near the equator, so these plants don’t have distinct seasons of growth and dormancy. They’ll continue to bloom and grow as long as they have enough light, water, and warmth.
That means that you can trim your Anthurium any time of the year if you feel it needs to be spruced up. Here are a few reasons why you might want to give your plant a trim.
Reason 1: Your Anthurium Has Fading Leaves or Blooms
Anthurium blooms last for quite a while compared to other flowers, but they’ll eventually pass their peak and start to shrivel up until they drop off the plant. The same goes for the leaves. This life cycle is natural, but you can speed it up slightly by removing the old growth when you notice that it’s not long for this world.
This will actually benefit your Anthurium. Flowers and foliage that are clearly on their way out still draw some energy from the plant’s root system for maintenance. By getting rid of them, you’re allowing your Anthurium to redirect that energy toward producing fresh leaves and blooms. This enables more robust growth and flowering.
Reason 2: The Plant is Looking Shaggy
A young Anthurium often looks quite elegant, sporting a few slender stalks rising from the soil to end in gently curving leaves. It makes quite a contrast with the wild profusion of twisting stalks and creeping roots that these plants develop after a few years in the same pot. In nature, Flamingo Flowers climb like vines, and a healthy indoor Anthurium will try to do the same thing once it fills up its container.
If your plant’s appearance has become a bit chaotic, you can trim it back to a more orderly shape. This can often be accomplished by strategic snipping of the leaves, but in more extreme cases, you might want to slice off some of the stems and repot them as separate plants.
Reason 3: Restoring Vigor to a Tired Anthurium
Though these perennial plants can flower repeatedly from the same stems, they sometimes begin to slow down as they hit their fifth or sixth year of life. You might notice your mature Anthurium is blooming less frequently and producing fewer flowers at a time.
In this case, you give your Anthurium a hard reset by cutting off most of the stalk. New growth will poke up from the crown eventually, and when it does, it will flower like a young plant once again. You can also replant the portion of the stem that you’ve cut away, giving yourself a second Anthurium.
Just be aware that this process will take time – don’t expect that old stumpy stem to turn into a big blooming plant in a hurry.
Reason 4: There Are Signs of Bacterial Infection
Lots of small yellow-and-brown spots appearing on your Anthurium’s foliage could indicate a case of leaf blight. This infection is deadly and spreads fast, so it’s crucial to cut away and burn any leaves showing symptoms before the bacteria colonizes the rest of your plant.
How to Prune Anthuriums
If you’re looking to trim away some faded or unruly growth from your Anthurium, you’ll want a pair of sharp pruning shears, as well as some garden gloves to protect your hands. The fluid inside Anthuriums contains calcium oxalate, which can cause a rash if it contacts your skin.
You should also have something to disinfect the shears; otherwise, you could introduce bacteria into the cuts. We recommend either rubbing alcohol or a household bleach diluted to 10% strength. Dip a rag into your chosen cleaner and use it to wipe down the blades of your shears.
Prune from the top down, starting with any leaves that are discolored, shriveled, or diseased. For each leaf, take a look at the petiole – the slender stem from which it grows – and follow it back to the point where it joins the plant’s larger stalk. Cut off just past this point, removing as much of the petiole as you can along with the leaf.
Try to take each one off in a single smooth cut to minimize ragged edges where bacteria can grow. Between snips, give your shears a quick wipe with your disinfecting rag. That last part is especially important if you’re dealing with leaf blight – if you don’t do this, you can spread bacteria around the plant while you’re trimming.
Now take off any blooms that are past their prime and growing withered. Anthurium blooms grow from the plant the same way the foliage does; the colorful, waxy “petal” is actually a specialized leaf called a spathe. You can trim the dying flowers the same way that you did the leaves: clip the petiole just past the point where it meets the rest of the plant.
Cleaning Up Your Anthurium’s Appearance
After you’ve gotten rid of the spent growth, you can make any cosmetic adjustments you like. Look for leaves growing out at an odd angle or that disrupt the overall shape of the plant, and remove them if you prefer a more regular appearance. Just make sure that you leave at least four or five leaves on the plant, or you’ll bring its growth to a halt until it can produce new ones.
Anthuriums also produce new clusters of stems from separate root sections called rhizomes. If you’d prefer your plant to keep a slim profile, you can remove these new shoots as they emerge.
Some Anthuriums also prefer to remove the brown, papery husks hanging off the stalks. These are called stipules, and though they’re not bad for your plant, taking them off won’t hurt it. Stipules only grow as temporary shields for emerging growth; once a leaf is fully formed, the stipule at its base is unnecessary. Feel free to gently peel them off if you don’t like how they look.
Taking Stem Cuttings From Your Anthurium
If you want to make more drastic changes to your Anthurium, you can cut away most of the stalk without killing it. This is a popular way for growers to propagate, or multiply, their Flamingo Flowers. The part of the stalk you remove can be rooted in a new pot to survive and grow independently.
Unless your Anthurium has grown incredibly thick, you can probably cut the stem with the same pair of shears used on the leaves (as long as you remembered to disinfect them).
You can also slice pretty much as low on the stem as you’d like. The plant will recover more quickly the more leaves remain, but even a bare stump can send out new growth as long as it has a couple of nodes above the soil. The nodes are the slightly paler segments of the stem which produce new roots and leaves.
After a few weeks, you should see new growth emerging from the old stalk. With proper growing conditions, the plant should be healthy enough to bloom again in around six months.
Your stem cutting can be rooted in a new pot with a loose, well-draining soil mix. Keep both the cutting and the base quite humid until they start producing new leaves. Store them somewhere warm and bright but out of direct sunlight. We offer a more detailed guide to propagating Anthuriums from cuttings in this article.
Mist Your Anthuriums After Pruning
Anthuriums are humidity-loving plants, and they’ll need a little extra pampering after the stress of pruning. Mist the plant with lukewarm water from a spray bottle once you’re done trimming. Use a fine mist setting so that the droplets will dry evenly instead of creating pools where fungi can grow.
A humidity tray can also help keep the air a bit more saturated around your Anthurium. Take a shallow dish with a flat base and fill it with smooth gravel or pebbles. Then pour in a good amount of water, but not so much that it covers the rocks. Set your Anthurium’s pot on top. The water will evaporate and create a moister micro-climate, while the rocks will keep the pot elevated above the water to avoid root rot.
Pruning Anthurium Roots
So far we’ve only discussed the above-ground portion of the plant. But what about the roots? Can they ever benefit from pruning?
The short answer is yes – it can sometimes be a good idea to cut back your Anthurium’s root system to give them a bit more breathing space in their pot. When left in the same container for more than two years or so, a Flamingo Flower will often become root bound. That means that the roots have doubled back on themselves because there’s no more space to expand. They wrap around each other in a dense tangle that limits their ability to absorb water and fertilizer.
If you notice roots peeking up through the surface of the potting mix, or creeping out through the drainage holes of the pot, your Anthurium has probably become root bound. Sluggish growth or persistent dehydration can also indicate a crowded root system.
Take hold of the plant at the base of the main stalk and tip it upside down. It may be hard to get it loose, but a few good smacks to the bottom of the container will generally do the trick. Once your Anthurium is out of the soil, take a look at the roots. If they’re coiled into a tight mass that mimics the shape of the pot, you have a root bound plant.
Clear away the soil, using some tepid water to loosen it up if necessary. Work your fingers in among the roots and tug them gently apart to spread them out. Then use your disinfected shears to snip back the roots. Start with those lowest on the root mass and work your way up.
You can take off up to a third of the existing root mass without hurting your Anthurium. If you get to that point and the root ball still seems too big to fit back in the pot, you’re probably better off repotting the plant in a larger container.
Either way, you should use fresh potting mix, because the old stuff is likely depleted of nutrients and may be saturated with mineral salts. See our article on repotting Anthuriums for more information.
Your Anthurium doesn’t need a big pruning every spring, but it will love an occasional cleanup to get rid of dying leaves and blooms. Remember to be diligent about disinfecting your pruning tools, and cut to the very base of each petiole you remove. You can always refer back to this guide if you run into questions!