To prune or not to prune solanum

(Question)

Last fall, I brought in 2 solarum standards and placed them in a south facing patio door. About 9 weeks ago, they were not watered when I went away. Most of the leaves died. While all the main branches have leaves, some of their tertiary branches remain leafless; however, the stem is green when scraped.

Should I continue to water,fertilize, and wait, or prune the branches having no leaves. If I do fertilizer, what type of fertilizer will promote branch development? Thanks!

(Answer)

There are many different solanum (note the spelling with an N not an R) varieties but most should be treated in a similar way. You need to continue to water your plants when the top inch feels dry when you feel it with your finger. This may take longer than your normal routine watering since there are fewer leaves on the plant.

You should not fertilize the plant until you see some new growth shoots naturally occurring. Fertilizing plants that are under stress (from the prior moisture loss) can cause further damage as the plant can’t take up these nutrients from the soil. You can fertilize with any houseplant/container fertilizer, seaweed or fish emulsion as there is not a specific number or brand that promotes branch growth specifically. I like to fertilize container plants more often but with ½ the recommended concentration that is on the label.

As for the pruning, you can prune the plant back with the aim of cutting out any crossed or rubbing branches but don’t remove more than 1/3 of the overall plant size. Ideally the best time for pruning is at the end of the summer when flowering has finished.