Five cleaning and maintenance tips to improve the look of your plants and optimize their air-cleansing properties.
It’s no secret that some potted houseplants help cleanse indoor air and reduce pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, but in order to keep plants in their prime, we must remember to maintain them.¹ A routine cleaning of your greens not only improves the look of the leafy decor in your home, but removing dust also allows them to soak up more light, keeping them alive longer. Read on for five tips to revive your plants’ green sheen — and, in turn, help protect indoor air quality.
While you’re dusting other surfaces in your home, run your finger along the leaves of your plants. If you can feel a filmy buildup of dust, it’s time to clean them. The easiest way is to bring them to your sink, shower or backyard to gently hose them down with tepid water (for those plants too delicate for a hose, mist with a spray bottle). For larger plants that are hard to move or have just a few leaves, wiping down each leaf with a damp cloth — microfiber is best for trapping dust — should do the trick. If your plant has prickly or sticky leaves, use a paintbrush or mushroom brush to remove trapped particles.
For particularly grimy plants, it may take a bit more than water to thoroughly clean them. Some plant cleaners on the market can actually damage leaves, so it’s best to stick with a simple solution of one-fourth tablespoon of dish soap to one quart of water. Then hose or spray your plants with clean
Houseplant pests are easier to prevent than eradicate, but if these insects have already invaded one of your plants, the first step is to isolate it from your other greens until the infestation is under control. If you catch the infestation in the early stages, you can usually handpick the insects off the leaves. Wipe away aphids and mealybugs with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, and scrape scale insects with a fingernail. Frequent rinsing of the plant with water — you can try adding two teaspoons of insecticidal soap per gallon of water — helps remove and keep many pests at bay, especially spider mites. Or if only a portion of the plant is affected, cut away and discard the infested part.
While cleaning, inspect your plants for any dead or yellowing leaves. Gently removing these with scissors or pruning shears will improve the look of your greens, as well as keep your plant healthier by allowing the remaining foliage to absorb more nutrients from water and fertilizer, and give it the energy to grow new leaves and roots.
Even those who consider themselves green-thumb gardeners may have a hard time juggling the maintenance required for multiple plants. To stay on top of a routine care and cleaning schedule, download an app such as Planta, Blossom or Flourish, which boast features like watering and fertilizing reminders, plant identification and light meters.