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When I first got into house plants, I never even considered that them getting too big would be a problem.
My concerns lay exclusively with keeping them damn things alive.
And it’s not just a size thing – sometimes a plant is going to grow the way that plant wants to grow, and no amount of tying it to a moss pole will convince it otherwise.
When is a plant too big?
Obviously, there is no set size, but if I plant starts invading your personal space, it’s maybe time to give it a wee trim.
And sometimes it’s just the angle – I have a small monstera that is hellbent on growing sideways, and I’m sorry mate, but I ain’t got the real estate for that.
Sometimes it’s not even a size issue, it just looks weird. There’s no shame in cutting a plant back because it doesn’t fit with your whole aesthetic.
So, what are my options for my overgrown house plants?
- Prune them/cut them back
- Give them lower light so that they don’t grow so quickly
- Rehome them
- Propagate them by division, so you have two small plants rather than one big one
- Move to a bigger house. The best option really, tbh.
If your plant is simply too big, cut it back. Most plants won’t object to you snipping off a few leaves that are surplus to requirement.
Just be sure to use sterile scissors or shears – you don’t want to inadvertently spread disease and pests.
I’m afraid there are no hard and fast rules for pruning. I just try to get as close to the base as possible.
If you’re intending to propagate the cutting, be sure that you have a node – they just look like little bumps on the stem.
If you’re not looking to propagate and might want a fuller plant in the future, be sure to cut the stem above a node, so that it can produce leaves in the future.
If you’re looking to propagate a cactus, you can chop off any bulbous bits and propagate them in soil. Obviously you can just a lop off any bit you like, but it’ll probably look…well, like you just chopped its head off.
Give them lower light
If you love your plant but simply can’t keep up with cutting it back or dividing it, then try moving it somewhere that isn’t quite as optimal for growth.
It sounds cruel, but if your plant is growing suuuper fast, it’s because it’s getting absolutely everything it needs.
The easiest thing to control is the amount of light it receives because holding back on watering is more difficult to gauge, and we don’t want any deaths on our hands.
Try moving it a couple of feet or so away from a window, or hang a sheer curtain. If your plant seems to be suffering (look for leggy growth and sad leaves), then you can always move it back.
If your plant has outgrown you then there’s no shame in moving it on, and unless it’s a cactus, it’ll probably be fairly easy – plants move quickly on online marketplaces.
The reason I said ‘unless it’s a cactus’ is that large plants make great centrepieces for shops and restaurants, but cacti pose quite the health and safety risk.
It might be worth having a look around your home to see if there’s somewhere else your plant will be less intrusive. Perhaps a guest bedroom or bathroom that is a lower traffic area.
If you live in a warm enough climate, you might be able to stick it outside. Even here in the UK, cacti, succulents and yucca can survive quite happily in greenhouses – as long as they’re kept dry, the cold doesn’t bother them.
For plants like calathea and ferns, you can easily divide them and create two plants half the size. Maybe it was too big for the bookcase, but two on either side of the fireplace would look pretty good.
If you have hanging plants that are getting too long, you can cut them back and stick the cuttings back into the soil for a fuller look.
For more information on what to do with leggy plants, click here.
If your plant is growing as fast as you can cut it back, there’s the potential to sell the cuttings once they have an inch or more of root on them. You probably won’t make enough to retire on, but it could cover your plant hobby expenses.
If you spend the summer propagating you could rent a table at a local craft fair or farmers market and flog them all. There’s been a bit in the news lately about the environmental impact of house plants, so you could market yours as eco-friendly.
Always an option.
Whenever I look at house on Right Move now (ahem, all the damn time), I always look at which windows face where, and whether they have a conservatory, and if there’s enough space for a watering station.
How amazing would it be to have a utility room you could repurpose as a laundry-and-plant-care room? I’d get a MASSIVE sink that I could use exclusively for bottom watering, and add a water filter thing onto it so I could use tap water.
*Runs off to make a Pinterest board on my dream plant house*
So we’re all agreed – no cutting back, no rehoming, we’re all just gonna move into big-ass houses to accommodate our enormous children, yes?
Cool cool cool.
My issue is this: so many of my plants are in their juvenile form, and are already pretty big (especially since my home is teeny tiny).
I have monstera deliciosa with no fenestrations, but how can I possibly fit a massive monstera in my mouse house? If I cut it back all the time, my plant may grow in a controlled manner, but I’ll never get those super cool holes.
I don’t want to give them away before seeing them in all their mature glory. I’ll just end up buying one again and having to wait even longer to see it as an adult.
So yeah, I need a bigger house. Maybe like an old car showroom so I get all that good light. That’d be awesome.
Anyway. Have fun with your massive plants.