To prune or not to prune?
by Jo Crooms
(Jacksonville, FL., USA)
Hello there. I inherited a small Haworthia attenuata (I only know that thanks to your wonderful site (: ) a few years ago.
It spent a year or so forgotten about in a pot in my mothers backyard. I rediscovered it and brought it home to care for it around October or so.
After some trial and error I think I understand the light it likes and a good watering regime.
The mother plant (the pup grew during the time it was in my mothers backyard) stands probably six inches tall, my problem is that many of the lower leaves are dying/diseased and give the plant a general unkempt look.
Their tips are totally dead and gone with the rest of the leaf being brown or even totally black.
Can I prune my little guy or will this harm it? And if so can I prune as much of it as I need to, about one third of the total leaves?
Should I prune as far back as possible or only as much as is brown/black? Since I brought it home no new leaves have died but the ones that already were continue to turn black and die.
Also I have never tried to disturb this plants root system but it is planted pretty low in its pot, about two inches or so. I understand that it is clump forming so I was thinking maybe I should repot it with a little more soil. Should I or should I just let it be? And what would be the best soil mixture?
Thanks so much in advance for any help and advice you can give me! You really do have a fabulous site here that I find myself on again and again. :)
Drought Smart Plants reply: Thanks for your nice comments Jo - I'm glad you're enjoying the site!
So, one way I recommend that you prune these types of plants (Aloe, Haworthia) is to simply 'unscrew' the topmost part of the stem.
This ensures that you get some of the adventitious roots (you'll see these as little pale yellow or white bumps under the papery covering at the base of the stem - see this page for a closeup picture of what it looks like on Aloe).
You can shorten up the long growth using this method, which promotes it to bushier new growth from below where you take these off, and, as an added bonus, you can plant them as cuttings for more plants. Think Christmas gifts!
I don't recommend actually cutting these - you'll end up with a cut that turns brown and doesn't improve the look of the plant.
See also this page: Pruning succulent plants and find out more about succulent plant propagation here.
Hope this helps - be brave, your plant will thank you!