How To Shorten Tall House Plants

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Summary: When houseplants like a Dracaena treeJanet Craig plantairplane 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 their dracaena because it has grown too tall.

First off, congratulations!!!

Corn plant getting too tall means your Dracaena is doing very well because of your excellent care and has outgrown its space despite the absence of bright light and natural soil. 

Let’s look briefly at “Dracaena pruning” and why we must do it. 

A couple of reasons to prune a Dracaena too tall are because the plant may be infested with insects or diseases or contain the size and shape.

In this article, we’ll common questions about dracaena marginata too tall, including can you cut the top off a dracaena plant.

Insects Or Diseases

Houseplants that have new branches and growing tips that have an infestation of common pests like mealybugs, spider mites, and thrips 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.

You may also dust the plant leaves regularly with a damp cloth to prevent these pests from colonizing.

While 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

Moreover, if you notice yellowing or diseased leaves, it’s time to prune them to reduce the infection.

Low humidity may also result in brown leaf tips and soil being too dry due to too much direct sunlight.

Dracaena – Containing Size


For indoor plants to look good in any interior setting, they must “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 2′ to 3′ feet tall houseplant trees away inside your house garden, ask yourself first if there is any other place that you could move this tropical plant to. 

If your luck is anything like mine, the answer will be – NO.

So, how do you cut a plant that is too tall?

Now, we know our only option is to perform houseplant surgery like dracaena marginata pruning.

Is Your Corn Plant Too Tall? How Much Cane And Foliage Do We Remove?

How to prune dracaena?

Remember that during dracaena fragrans pruning at the top, your new growing tip(s) will come out of the cane’s top.

Make sure you remove enough stems and excess from your indoor plants to allow for future healthy growth or, say, re-growth of new leaves.

The best time to cut back your corn plant to your desired height is in the spring or early summer.

If your plant is hitting the top of a standard ceiling, think about removing 24″ to 30″ inches or more than 2′ feet minimum.

The new growth with multiple stalks on a Dracaena fragrans or Massangeana can be 8″ to 12″ inches. It won’t be long before you prune your cornstalk plant again with your good growing techniques.

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

Some dracaenas 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 is the #2 clippers made by Felco. They are tough, durable, and will last for years.

Time to Cut – Let’s Do It

Now you might be asking, can I cut the top off my dracaena plant?

The answer is YES!

But don’t make it complicated.

  • Select what you want to remove.
  • Take off a few of those deep green leaves from the tall houseplants to expose the cane (check out the tip below).
  • Make a clean cut using garden shears with no ripping, tearing, or shredding.
  • 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 plants and leaves a good cleaning. 

Related: Check out Tips On How To Clean Leaves On Houseplants.

But do dracaena leaves grow back?

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? Propagation! 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, place the stem cutting or tip in well-drained potting soil

Don’t use a large pot. A six-inch pot with drainage holes is fine. Place the potting mix with the indoor plant in a well-lit area, not in direct sunlight.

This is because too much sunlight can scorch the plant leaves.

Wait… Keep the well-drained soil moist but not wet. Overwatering may cause root rot, which is one of the most common corn plant problems. 

NOTE: Use distilled water when watering your new plant. Tap water contains fluoride, which can lead to yellow edges and brown leaf tips. 

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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