How do I trim the old brown leaves off of plants? Looks like soap tree. They are about 3-4 feet tall and have years of dry dead leaves that are hanging straight down but I don’t know if I can clean the trunk or how to do so.
First thing is to find out how many of the branches are still alive. Start with the ones closest to the soil and see if you can break them off the trunk - if they're dead, they'll break off easily. For those that don't break, start cutting them from the ends with a pruner, or hand saw if they're heavy. If the branches are brown and crispy, they're dead. Keep cutting toward the trunk until you find green tissue inside - that's where you can stop cutting. This should remove most of the brown leaves. Those that remain can be cut with scissors or pruner, cutting where the leaf stem connects to the branch.