Many "leggy" indoor plants can easily be made bushier by cutting back the long stems and encouraging shoots at the base of the plant. The best time is early spring just before new growth begins.

Select a plant

Select a houseplant, such as, a begonia that has become tall and leggy. Because there are already some small shoots at the base of this plant, it is an excellent candidate for cutting back.

Assemble the materials

1. Tepid water
2. Pot (the same pot it is in)
3. Potting soil
4. Container to hold soil and water
5. Pruners
6. Knife (scalloped-edge)

Cut back tall shoots

To make plant bushier, shorten stems and prune back to a side branch or bud.

Hint: Place cutting blade closest to the part of the plant you want to keep and the thick bypass part on the side you are cutting off.

Ready to repot

After the tall shoots have been cut back the plant is ready to begin new growth.

Hint: Cuttings can be rooted to create more plants. See "Propagating Plants by Cuttings."

Remove the plant from the pot

Adding fresh soil when cutting back a plant is beneficial. To start, tip it out of its pot.

Remove loose soil from top, sides and bottom of root ball

Remove about an inch of soil all around the root ball. Also remove any loose soil on the top of the root ball as this is where fertilizer and mineral deposits can accumulate.

Root prune

Slice off about an inch of soil all around the sides and bottom of the root ball. An inexpensive, stainless steel bread knife with a scalloped edge works well.

Clean the pot

Wash and clean the pot being sure to remove any of the white or tan fertilizer and mineral deposits that have accumulated in the pot, expecially at the top rim and bottom of the pot.

Moisten the potting mix

In a separate container, add water sparingly to potting soil, mixing thoroughly until potting soil is moist but not soggy.

Add soil to the pot

Place enough soil in the bottom of the pot to raise the plant to its original height in the pot before root pruning

Fill space around the root ball with soil

Place the damp soil around the root ball and gently press it down between the root ball and sides of the pot to fill any voids.


Water the soil well until all the soil is moist and water runs out the bottom of the pot.

Return to growing area

Once the extra water has drained from the pot place the pot in its original saucer and return it to its growing location. Do not let the plant stand in water.

After just three weeks

In about three weeks healthy shoots are growing at the bottom of the plant producing an attractive, bushy plant.