unruly houseplants

This isn’t a pretty post. I’m warning you now! This morning it is all about getting down to business.

I need your help. I’m at my wit’s end with what to do with my unruly house plants. What started out as attractive, lush green moments in my home have become these sprawling, top heavy plants that are taking over the room.

(Can you spot the sleeping baby?)

The two plants that are driving me crazy are my original fiddle leaf fig tree and my palm (I don’t actually know the exact species). I’ve had both of these plants for about 8 years. They both came with me from my former home. I have cut the branches of the fig tree back numerous times but it just doesn’t have the same lusciousness and vitality it once did. The palm tree I have never pruned because I don’t know where to start.

What do I do? I’m hoping there are some plant experts out there that can help me get my flora under control. I’ve actually started to move these plants out of the main, busy rooms because they are taking up too much space. What do you do when your plants become unruly? Is it possible to prune them right back to something smaller and more manageable or do I need to find new homes for these plants?

In the meantime, I’m thinking of picking up a bonsai tree. The more I see these miniature plants the more I absolutely love them. I can totally imagine one on my counter in the kitchen against the black wall. There’s something about these diminutive plants that is really captivating. Any thoughts on bonsai trees? Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself wanting one of these if I can’t get my other plants under control!

Home of Benjamin Luddy and Makoto Mizutani – Design Sponge

So plant lovers please help me! What can I do about my unruly house plants?


Filed under beautiful objects


  1. Cheryl
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:32 AM | Permalink

    I had a similar problem and always in years past, I would try to work with the plant, move it to a spot where it seemed more happy, repot it, stake it, offer it to another friend, etc. Finally, I parted with it and composted it, giving back beauty to the earth. At least, that’s what I told myself and I learned to live with it. Now, I take on fewer plants and like your bonzai idea, try to find a place where its beauty will be most appreciated and hopefully where it will thrive with the right kind of light. Succulents are also good houseplants with architectural beauty and also seem happy in the house. Love the look of large plants in rooms with high ceilings, but I’ve learned that the leaves turn brown on the edges, leaves start to fall, and pretty soon I have a leggy plant or one that simply is reaching for the air and light it needs.

  2. Marybeth
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Permalink

    You have big plants, repotting is tough. Maybe you might want to give your plants some organic food? A brighter window?
    Good luck.

  3. Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

    It could be worse – I seem to have a black thumb. Every plant I touch turns to a pile of dead/dry leaves. What’s YOUR secret!

  4. Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:11 AM | Permalink

    I know your pain I have on lest that is going crazy! I keep hacking at it to try to keep in control,but I am not sure this is going to work forever. HELP!

  5. Marcela
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 12:12 PM | Permalink

    They need repotting, better soil and more room for their roots. Eight years in the same pot, they have been quite generous with you!!!!
    It would be better to wait til spring, now the plants enter their dormant period. If you repot them now, they won´t survive.
    In early March, start searching for new pots and soil mix for each of them. It´s a very relaxing job!!

  6. Posted November 19, 2012 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

    @Marcela – I have repotted them in the eight years but maybe only once! I will do that come spring time. I’m sure that will help them flourish a bit (I’ll also give them some organic food – thanks Marybeth!) But what to do about their size? Can I give them a good prune at this point as well? How do I prune that palm?

  7. Mary
    Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:49 PM | Permalink

    I have had this issue too! You can prune the palm in the spring when you re-pot and feed it. If you give it new soil and good light, you can prune fairly aggressively– taking off the tallest parts if you want a smaller plant . New small shoots will emerge from the base.

  8. Posted November 19, 2012 at 4:34 PM | Permalink

    Ugh, I wish I had a good answer! I have a few “Monster Deliciosa” plants that have become absolutely huge and kind of ugly looking. Exact same problem – they became hugely top-heavy and just flopped right over! I staked them but they look pretty shabby. I think I’m going to give them a major prune and see if I can get them under control, and maybe repot them too. I already know they’re super hardy as I almost killed them in a move, and they came back from the dead!

  9. Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:53 PM | Permalink

    @Mary – Thank you! This is great advice. Spring can’t come fast enough!

  10. Émilie
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:18 AM | Permalink


    You could pinch them while waiting for spring. The pinching technique is fairly simple: remove (by pinching them) any new leaves. This force your plants to select a new location for the next leaf and the result is a more fuller plant overtime.

    I hope this help


  11. Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:29 AM | Permalink

    @ Emilie – Great advice! I’ve read about pinching before but never really given it a try. Will definitely do so.

  12. Cussot
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:01 PM | Permalink

    Make sure to look for a bonsai that will be happy living inside.

  13. Virginie
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:21 PM | Permalink

    From what I understand, fig trees like lots of indirect light. They may not be happy right in the window like that- the sunlight may be burning their leaves….

  14. Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:41 PM | Permalink

    @Virginie – You might be right! I have another fiddle leaf in a North facing window that gets lots of indirect light and it is quite happy and growing at a good rate.

  15. Sarah
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 9:42 AM | Permalink

    I know this is a bit late but if you have a chance, try to keep as many of your plants outside in the summer as you can. It does wonders (along with repotting and pruning as mentioned above – can’t stress the importance of those enough!). I do this with all my houseplants in the summer and they thrive – enough to keep them happy inside during the long New England winters. Plants not only need sun & water but they also need good air flow/breezes. Not sure if this is possible for you, but if so, some time in late May, move those puppies outside and you’ll see a big difference.

  16. Posted November 25, 2012 at 11:11 PM | Permalink

    I don’t think that you’re suppose to move Fiddle Leaf Figs around too much. From what I’ve read they like to stay in the same spot in the house, but rotate it around to get a more even growth. I also agree with previous posts about putting it outside during the warmer months.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By the marion house book » all in a week on November 23, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    [...] little corner of my kitchen. As you can see, I have no problem with my smaller plants! Thanks for all the advice you generously gave me this week on my unruly [...]

  2. By the marion house book » my new bonsai on June 12, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    [...] this post about my unruly houseplants? Well I have a little update for you. My fiddle leaf fig tree did not make it through the winter [...]

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