Can You Cut The Top Off A Dracaena Plant? Or How To Shorten Tall House Plants?

Summary: When houseplants like a Dracaena tree, Janet Craig plant, airplane plant (aka spider plant), English ivy,  ficus tree, ficus benjamina or dieffenbachia amoena get too tall or big for their space, they must be shortened or pruned. There are also other reasons large indoor plants may need to be pruned, find out how to shorten your houseplant below…

It is possible to cut back tall Dracaena species (corn plants) and other indoor houseplants that grow too tallPin
It is possible to cut back Dracaena plants or other indoor houseplants that grow too tall

Question: My Dracaena marginata (Madagascar dragon tree) is 10 years old and getting too tall. Can I cut it back without hurting it? It is in a huge pot and tipping over. Lois

Answer: Over the last few weeks several people have asked how to cut the top off of their dracaena because it has grown too tall.

First off, congratulations!!!

Your Dracaena is doing very well because of your excellent care, and has out grown it’s space despite absence of bright light and natural soil. Let’s look briefly at “Dracaena pruning” and why we need to do it. A couple of reasons to prune a Dracaena is because the plant may be infested with insects or diseases or to contain the size and shape.

Insects Or Diseases

Houseplants that have new branches and growing tips that have an infestation of insects like mealy bug may need to be removed and thrown away. Don’t waste any time trying to root out indoor plants full of mealy bugs and or a stem infested with scale insects – throw it away including the infested or contaminated pot soil.

While you are at it give the whole indoor house plant leaves a good cleaning. By the way I like organic, natural neem oil for insect pest control.


Dracaena – Containing Size

In order for indoor plants to look good in any interior setting they need to “fit the space”. Over time a good healthy dracaena will outgrow that standard 8′ feet tall ceiling.

Before you jump in and start chopping excess of more than two to three feet tall houseplant trees away inside your house garden, ask yourself first if there is any other place that you could move this plant to. If your luck is anything like mine the answer will be – NO.

Now, we know our only option is to perform houseplant surgery.

How Much Cane And Foliage Do We Remove?

Remember, that when pruning Dracaena at the top your new growing tip(s) are going to be coming out of the top of the cane.

Make sure that you remove enough of stems and excess from your indoor plants to allow for future growth or should we say re-growth.

If your plant is hitting the top of an standard ceiling, think about removing 24 to 30 inches or more than two feet minimum.

The new growth on a Dracaena fragrans or massengaena can be 8 to 12 inches. It won’t be long before you’ll be corn plant pruning your indoor plants down again, with your good growing techniques.

Even with indirect light, these indoor plants can grow taller than you can ever imagine.

Some dracaneas canes can be pretty thick so don’t think you’re going to get out the kitchen scissors to make a cane cutting. My favorite are the #2 clippers made by Felco. They are tough, durable, and will last for years.

Time to Cut – Let’s Do It

Don’t make it complicated.

  • Select what you want to remove
  • Take off a few of those dark green leaves from the houseplants to expose the cane (check out the tip below)
  • Make a clean cut, no ripping, tearing or shreading
  • You may want to remove some of the leaves right at the top of the cane

Now is a good time to give the indoor plant and leaves a good cleaning. Check out Tips On How To Clean Leaves On Houseplants.

Over a period of a few months new growing tips will begin to emerge and mature.

Dracaena leaf removal trick

This technique works really well on the Janet Craig and Fragrans types.

  • Cut the leaf in the middle at the tip
  • With both hands grab a side of the cut leaf
  • Pull apart to rip the leaf toward the stem
  • Give a little tug and the leaf is off the cane

Now that you have removed the top of the plant… What do you do with the growing tip? Try your hand at rooting it…

The plant tip will most likely be large with a lot of foliage. Remove some of the lower leaves. Then take the stem cutting or tip and place it in well-drained potting soil. Don’t use a large pot, six inches is probably fine. Place the potting mix with the indoor plant in a well-lit area but not direct sunlight.

Wait… Keep the well-drained soil moist but not wet. Excess water may cause root rot. Over a period of time roots should slowly begin to appear. Now you have a new plant to grow to the ceiling.

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