How and when to prune curry leaf plant

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The curry leaf plant or also known as Murraya koenigii, Kaloupilé, among other names, is a shrub of Asian origin widely used in the cuisine of countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Burma. This plant is not only used for cooking, but it also has many medicinal uses. Among some of the medicinal properties we can mention; powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, relieves gastrointestinal problems, healing, etc. But in this post we will not stop to analyze its medicinal and culinary uses, but we will study how to prune the curry leaf plant, when to do it and with what tools.

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In optimal conditions, this shrub does not exceed six meters in height, with a stem 40 cm in diameter. Its pointed leaves vary in size from 2 to 4 cm long and 1 to 2 cm wide. It has a bloom of small white flowers with a strong aroma. These flowers, like the leaves, have medicinal uses.

Pruning curry leaf plant
Fun fact: we have already mentioned some of the uses that this plant has, in the kitchen and as a medicine. We clarify that flowers are also useful. But what you should know is that the seeds of this plant are poisonous. So it is better that you do not give them any use, especially in your kitchen.

1. How to care curry leaf plant

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As usual on this blog, we generally like to start our articles with a care list for the plant in question. And knowing how to prune is not enough to maintain a curry leaf plant. There are several points that you should know.

  • Sun: these shrubs are very fond of the sun. Therefore, when you go to plant it, look for a place with several hours of exposure. If you have it in a pot, try placing it in a window facing south (northern hemisphere).
  • Temperature: the origin of these plants are the tropical areas of India. You can imagine that it does not stand the cold very well. The best thing is that it is not exposed to temperatures below 4ºC.
  • Soil: as for the soil where to plant it, the truth is not very demanding. It can grow very well in sandy soils. The most important thing will be that it has good drainage capacity.
  • Fertilization: This will vary greatly if you have the plant in the ground or in a pot. In this second case, the need for fertilization increases. Although if it is in the ground, the need for fertilization is minimal, a little compost in early spring will suffice. For more information at this point, check out this post about fertilizing curry leaves plant.
  • Irrigation: it is not a plant that requires large amounts of water. Although in any case it is not the most resistant to drought. Apply irrigation when you see that its base is already dry. It is better to do regular but not very abundant waterings.
  • Diseases and pests: they are very healthy plants, they are rarely attacked by diseases or pests. In any case, if we must mention a pest, the most common may be the mealybug. And in case of excess water, root rot may appear.
  • Pruning: obviously pruning is one of the needs of this plant. Your curry leaf plant won’t die if you don’t prune it, but growing it is always easier if you prune it regularly. We will study this point in depth in the next sections.

2. Tools for pruning your curry leaf plant

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As we said, the curry leaf plant does not reach a large size, this means that, in general, we do not need large tools to perform pruning.

In case of growing it in a pot, where we do an intense control of the size, we can carry out all the tasks with a few simple manual pruning shears. However, if we let it grow in the ground, the thickness of its branches will mean that at some point we will need other tools. For example, looping shears or even a hand saw on fairly old plants.

Whatever tool you are going to use, it is important that you never forget the following, you must disinfect and take care of them correctly. Disinfection before and / or after each pruning reduces the probability of contagion of pests and diseases from one plant to another. And care will allow your tools to have a longer useful life, something that will save you money. 😉

Here are some tips for sanitizing and caring for your tools.

2.1 How to care tools

Pruning tools are generally not tools that we use every day, so with proper care they can last for years. At home I have a manual pruning shears that I am sure is over 20 years old and still works perfectly. Follow the following tips and you can have scissors as much or older than mine. 😉

  • First, try to use the right tool for each job. Do not overload the tool, for example, if you want to cut a two inch diameter branch do not go for a small hand pruner, but go for at least a looping shear.
  • With some regularity you should clean and grease your tools.
  • Sharpen the cutting blades, this will allow you to make cleaner cuts, requiring less effort in the task.
  • If the handles are made of wood, it is good to varnish them regularly, in this way you will prevent them from cracking or splintering.

Since you are interested in knowing how to prune a laurel, I have no doubt that it will be useful to know about the pruning of any of these shrubs:

2.2 How to desinfect tools

There are many ways to sanitize a tool. In my case, and depending on what I have on hand, I usually disinfect them using one of the following three methods:

1- With alcohol: dip a cloth in alcohol, then rub the blades of your tools with this cloth. After this, let it sit for a couple of minutes and it is ready to start pruning.

2- Using chlorine: in this second case we will use a 1/9 mixture of chlorine and water. With this mixture prepared, soak the tools in the mixture. After about 30 minutes, take it out and start pruning.

3- By fire: as a last option I leave the use of fire for disinfection. You just have to expose the cutting blades for a few seconds to the flame of the fire and they will be free of viruses or bacteria. This is the fastest method, but it can leave the blade burned by fire.

3. When to prune curry leaves plant

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The question of when to prune a curry leaf plant comes from several factors. Among the most prominent is; the climate, the type of pruning and the age of the plant.

Starting by talking about the weather, in areas with well-marked winters it is advisable to wait until the last frost before pruning. This is because pruning will favor sprouting and these new shoots can be damaged by the last frosts. But if the winters where you live are light, with almost no sub-zero temperatures, you can advance pruning.

As for the type of pruning, as we will see in the next section, this shrub supports strong pruning. This type of pruning is good to do with the dormant curry leaf plant, to give a boost to the new shoots (during winter). While the lighter pruning in which we cut only a few branches can be done throughout the year. As with cleaning pruning, it is always a good time if we are going to cut diseased or dead branches.

The age of the plant goes very hand in hand with the type of pruning. When we have an old or neglected plant, which is very woody, it is essential that we carry out a strong pruning. While in newly transplanted small plants a light pruning may be sufficient.

4. How to prune curry leaf plant

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We’ve already quickly gone over the best times to prune this shrub. And we mentioned that there are several types of pruning, so here we will see how to perform each of them.

We will divide this section into three, first we will talk about the strong pruning of a curry leaf plant, then a light pruning (pinch of shoots) to finish with the cleaning pruning.

4.1 Strong pruning

With this type of pruning in a curry leaf plant what we seek is to control its size, at the same time that we push the bush to create new and stronger shoots. In general, it is good to do it once a year, before spring, when the plant is dormant.

If grown in the ground, it can go over a year without heavy pruning. But if you have it in a pot, it is essential that you do this pruning once a year. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to control the size of the plant.

Depending on the size of our curry leaf plant, the number of branches to be cut will change. Anyway, and as a general rule what we will do is cut the entire bush to 1/3 of its size. For example, if you see the following image, it is a small specimen of a curry leaf plant in a pot. In this pruning we will cut the main stem at 1/3 of the total height.

Pruning curry leaf plant in container

If you take care of it properly, you will see very fast results. This plant reacts very well to a strong pruning, so in 20 days or a month you will be able to have new shoots like the ones in the following image.

20 days after pruning

Do not forget to make the cuts diagonally, and have the scissors very sharp, so you will make a clean cut. In case your curry leaf plant has thick branches (about 5 cm in diameter), you can put healing paste or white lime paint over the cuts.

4.2 Pinch sprouts

In general, the curry leaf plant is widely cultivated for culinary uses, that is, we are interested in harvesting its leaves. Therefore, the more leafy the foliage of our plant, the better.

A technique used in many shrubs to densify their foliage is to pinch the tips of the new shoots. What it does is force the plant to sprout again, releasing more than one sprout in each cut. Therefore, the density of the foliage can be increased.

This pruning should be done during the growing season. That is to say spring – summer. Do this a couple of times during these months and it will allow you to have more leaves to harvest.

4.3 Cleaning pruning

To finish with the types of pruning in a curry leaf plant we will see the classic cleaning pruning. As in all plants, what we seek with this pruning is to improve the health of the plant, while positively impacting its aesthetics.

Here what we will do is cut all those branches that are dry, diseased, attacked by a plague, that are yellowish, or have any symptoms of poor health. Once these branches are cut, and especially if they are diseased branches or with pests, we must properly dispose of the waste. Do not leave a diseased branch that you have cut from your curry leaf plant near another plant, as it will spread the pest.

5. Other tips on pruning a curry leaf plant

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I do not want you to leave this post before we review some tips that I think will be useful for the pruning and post-pruning process. Some keys that will help you improve the harvest in your curry leaf plant.

I have already said it several times in this post, what we want from this plant are its leaves. But let’s not forget that it also produces fruits, that if we leave them, they end up taking energy from the plant. Energy that will not be available for foliage development. That is, if you are interested in harvesting leaves, you must prune the upper part to remove all the fruits.

When we do a strong pruning, what we want is for the curry leaf plant to react with new and strong shoots. This process would come in handy if we help him with a little fertilization and good watering. In this way we will ensure a faster recovery of the bush.

6. Curry leaf plant – Pruning & harvesting

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We will end this post with a video (selected from the California Gardening channel). In it you will see some tips for pruning and harvesting your curry leaf plant. Hope you can take advantage of it. 😉

More information about curry leaf plant:

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