The Heronswood Houseplant Helper

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With so many of us stuck at home, now’s the perfect time to give your indoor plants some TLC. Houseplants bring many of the joys of gardening outside, but without the weather. However, in the absence of wind and rainfall, dust and dirt readily accumulates on their leaves. Not only is this unsightly, but it reduces the leaves’ ability to absorb light and photosynthesize. Keep your indoor plants healthy and happy by giving them a spring clean. The easiest method is to stand your plant(s) in the shower and bathe the foliage in luke-warm water. To avoid drowning the roots, enclose the pot in a plastic trash bag and tie the handles around the base of the plant, ensuring the soil is completely covered. Once clean, leave the plant to drip dry, then return it to its original position. Avoid showering cacti and succulents, as they’re prone to rot when wet, and also any plant in bloom, as the flowers will be damaged.

If you don’t have a shower at home, or only have a few plants, then it may be easier to manually clean the foliage. Though there are specific houseplant cleaning products, you don’t need them. Instead, get hold of a white sports sock and a bowl of warm water. Put your hand inside the sock, dip it in the water, then gently wipe each leaf. It helps to use your sockless hand to support the leaf from below. You’ll be amazed (and a little disgusted) to see the color of the sock after cleaning a few plants! African violets and any others with very hairy leaves should not be wiped in this fashion – misting them with a spray bottle is sufficient to clean their foliage.

While your plants are dripping in the shower cubicle, take the opportunity to give your windows a thorough clean inside and out. Houseplants receive all their natural light through windows and when the glass is grimy, they can suffer. Be careful when cleaning windows, especially if using ladders, and make sure you have someone on hand to assist! With their foliage fresh and clean and your windows glistening, your houseplants will be able to make the most of
spring’s increasing light levels and will reward you with bright new foliage and flowers.

Dr. Ross Bayton
Heronswood Assistant Director