What to do if you Accidentally Rip A Plant Leaf

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Commiserations if you’ve ripped a leaf (or, as the case may be, had a leaf ripped by someone else).

Unfortunately, you can’t repair a ripped leaf.

Your options are:

  • Chop it off
  • Leave it

It doesn’t really matter which, it’s 100% personal preference BUT if the leaf is still green, it’s still providing energy to the plant.

If you rip a leaf, it won’t grow back or heal itself

Plants have a weirdly cavalier attitude towards leaves. They have absolutely no respect for their old leaves, and only seem to have any interest in the last one they pushed out, and the one that’s growing.

If something happens to that leaf (gets ripped, chewed on, whatever) they’ll abandon it and grow a new one.

This might seem strange, but we need to appreciate the fundamental difference to how we view plants, and how plants view themselves.

You see, we value a plant for its aesthetic qualities. We choose plants we like, and we’re upset when something happens that changes that. That’s why a single brown speck on a leaf can upset a new plant owner, whereas someone with a tone of plants will barely notice it.

If a plant leaf gets ripped, we want to fix it, because it looks grim (and we want to help the plant!).

The plant knows it can’t fix it.

Dammit, it’s a plant, Jim, not a doctor.

So it moves on. New leaf time. Fuck the old leaf.

This is why plants that grow wild can grow BIG and BEAUTIFUL at the top. But the lower leaves can look crispy and burnt. Plants care only for growth, not aesthetics.

The edges will brown – that’s the plant healing itself

The plant doesn’t have the ability to repair the ripped leaf, but the remaining leaf does have value, because it can still photosynthesise. The ripped edge will go brown and look a bit, er, dead, but if the leaf is still green, the plant is still using it.

If the leaf starts to go yellow, the plant is discarding it, and pulling out all the nutrients.

Anyway, although the brown edge looks unsightly, it’s valuable. It’s basically sealing over to reduce the chance of bacteria entering the wound.

You can absolutely remove the leaf if you hate the way it looks. The plant will get over it/not give a crap. But the brown edging isn’t going to harm the plant – it’s protecting it.

In winter it might be best to leave it be

As I said, you can definitely remove the leaf, but remember: if it’s green, the plnt is still using that leaf for photosynthesis. In winter, plants need all the energy they can get, so the more leaves they have, the more they can photosynthesise.

If you’re unsure on how to cut off a Monstera leaf, I have an article about doing it here.

It doesn’t really matter, but cutting as close to the stem as possible looks best. Once the leaf is dead, another leaf won’t grow from the same petiole (which is the bit that joins the leaf to the stem), so there’s no point in leaving that part on.

Final thoughts

Ripped leaves suck, but there’s not much you can do about it.

Plants are pretty good at ditching leaves they don’t need without our intervention BUT plants are ultimately decor pieces with extra steps for many people, so if you really hate the way it looks, lop it off.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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