Should You Cut Leaves In Half? 5 Reasons
While some gardeners don’t buy the idea of cutting leaves in half, others believe and prove that it is indeed beneficial for some plants. Here are the reasons why you should cut leaves in half.
Plant leaves are cut in half to 1) reduce water loss, 2) allow propagation, 3) improve plant aesthetic, 4) allow access to light and air, and 5) remove disease or pests. Cutting leaves will not harm the plant. However, trimming young or immature leaves can cause them to wilt and die back.
Plants can benefit from cutting their leaves in half. It does not only promote plant growth, but it makes the plant look aesthetically pleasing. Let’s look into more details.
Why Do People Cut Leaves In Half? 5 Reasons
Leaves are cut in half for various beneficial reasons for plant growth. I have asked some of my gardener friends why they trim their plant leaves in half. Check out their responses!
1. To Reduce Water Loss
By cutting leaves in half, the water lost through transpiration is minimized. Newly cloned stem cuttings will significantly benefit from this activity because the plant will not lose too much moisture and avoid dehydration.
Plant leaves have microscopic pores that open up typically during the daytime to take in carbon dioxide and release water. This phenomenon is called transpiration and is essential for plant growth. The water lost during this process is replenished only when the roots absorb moisture from the soil.
Freshly cloned stems have no roots yet to replace moisture lost due to transpiration. Hence, reducing leaf surface area is the remedy to minimize water loss while preserving some green portions needed to maintain a low photosynthesis rate.
According to studies, plants lose more water in transpiration than in photosynthesis.
2. Allow Propagation
Some plant leaves are cut in half for propagation purposes. Gardeners often reproduce viable plants by cutting a significant portion of the leaf and growing it on the soil or water.
Sansevieria, Begonia, and Kalanchoe are examples of plants that can be reproduced readily from leaf cuttings. The process includes taking a healthy half portion of the plant leaf and slightly burying the top cut end on the soil medium.
I have also tried water propagation, where the bottom part of the leaf-cutting is partially dipped in the water and allowed to form roots. After a few days or weeks, the cut end will have roots, and new shoots will emerge from the bottom.
Here is a photo of sansevieria leaf cutting propagation using the water method.
3. To Improve Plant Aesthetic
Another reason for cutting leaves in half is to make the plant more presentable and healthy. Brown leaf tips on plants are unsightly, and cutting the discolored area will make the plant look fresh.
At some point, plant leaves will turn brown or discolor, particularly when the condition is not suitable for their growth. The brown leaves can be unsightly, especially when the plant is used as a decorative indoor. So what plant owners usually do is cut the leaf just enough to remove the brown tips.
4. Allow Access To Sunlight and Air
Cutting plant leaves in half allows sunlight and air to reach the bottom parts of the plant, specifically new shoots growing underneath. The large bottom leaves are partially trimmed, leaving only a portion as they can still provide food for the plant.
As the leaves grow big and dense, it blocks the entry of light and restricts airflow to some plant sections. It’s best to prune back some leaf segments to enable optimum light distribution and air circulation.
Moreover, it will encourage healthy growth on the newly budding branches on the plant base.
5. To Remove Disease and Pest Infestation
One more reason for cutting leaves is to remove disease and pests from the leaf tip. This is to control them from infesting large portions of the leaf while keeping the healthy parts that can be useful for photosynthesis.
Fungi, mealybugs, scales, and other harmful insects usually infest plant tips where soft tissues are present. When you notice the early signs of infection on the leaf tips, cut them right away. Removing the infected leaf tips is the easiest way to keep these nasty pests from spreading and causing massive destruction.
When Should You Not Cut Leaves In Half?
Plant leaves should not be cut in half when the leaf is still new and immature. This is because younger or budding leaves contain hormones that promote plant growth. Cut only big mature leaves because they have a greater surface area, contributing to more water loss via transpiration.
You shouldn’t cut primary leaves in seedling plants because their young leaves are rich in auxin hormones that encourage root growth and plant development. Seedlings will wilt or may die if you trim their premature leaves. Wait till the leaves become mature enough, and the plants have fully grown.
When cutting leaves in half for propagation, choose mature plant leaves as they have a greater chance of success. Plants with thick succulent leaves such as echeverias and aloes should not be cut in half as they are prone to infection.
Does Cutting Leaf In Half Harm the Plant?
Cutting a leaf in half doesn’t hurt the plant if done in the right way using proper tools. Plants have their natural way of healing when their parts are cut off. So when a leaf is pruned, the plant tends to grow more.
One danger in cutting plant leaves is the risk of infection. Cutting the leaf tissue exposes plant cells to harmful pathogens that may cause illness to the plant. Trimming the leaves using sterilized pruning shears and applying antifungal compounds such as cinnamon lessen the possibility of infection.
Below is an example of natural fungi inhibitor.
What Happens When Leaves Are Cut In Half?
Those plants with half of their leaves trimmed will lose moisture via transpiration at half the rate of those that have complete leaves. This prevents plant dehydration and helps in root development, particularly for newly cloned stems.
When the plant has formed roots and is healthy, it will regrow new leaves and shoots. Stem cuttings with whole leaves may put the shoot under more water stress, making it more difficult to develop roots.
How Do You Cut Plant Leaves In Half?
To cut a leaf in half, it is important to start from the leaf margin replicate the leaf shape of the plant. When cutting leaves, it is crucial to use clean and disinfected tools to lessen contamination and infection.
Imitating the marginal shape of the leaf has nothing to do with the plant health but for aesthetic reasons to make the leaf uniform among the rest. You should not snap leaves using your fingers as it can cause damage to plant tissues, and the cut will not look presentable.
Summary On Cutting Plant Leaves In Half
- Plant leaves are cut in half to reduce water loss during the transpiration process. Other reasons include propagation, improving plant aesthetic, allowing access to light and air, and removing disease and pest infestations.
- Young leaves on seedlings should not be cut in half because they contain auxin hormones, which aid plant growth.
- Pruning leaves will not harm the plant as long as it is done correctly. Leaf infection is prevented using sterile cutting tools and an antifungal substance.
- “Transpiration- What and Why,” University of Nebraska Lincoln
- “Propagating Foliage and FLowering Plants,” Texas A & M University
- “Plant Hormones, Nutrition, and Transport,” Estrella Mountain College
- “Relations Between Transpiration, Leaf Temperatures, and Some Environmental Factors,” Utah State University
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