"How do I safely clean my houseplant?" by Jim Hole

Neglect seems to be inevitable when it comes to caring for houseplants. Let’s face it, there are days—occasionally weeks—when just getting one’s self ready and out the door on time is a feat of heroic proportions. Because plants don’t whine, bark or leave messages on our answering machines, they occasionally fall victim to neglect. To ensure that your plants are around to enjoy years of life in your home or office, set up a maintenance schedule and do your best to stick to it.

Cleaning

Always clean or mist plants with tepid water. Cold water can cause leaves to spot, and hot water is damaging.

Plants clean the air for us, so it’s only fair that we take a turn cleaning them. When a plant’s leaves are dirty, they can’t absorb as much sunlight, which makes photosynthesis more difficult.

Cleaning a plant not only removes sun-blocking dust and helps it to look its best, but it also gives you an opportunity to inspect leaves for general health. Although the job may sound like a lot of work, it’s a great way for plant enthusiasts to get closer to their plants and for gardeners to keep their green thumbs in shape for the next growing season.

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"How often should I clean my plants?"

Aim to clean your plants every month. You probably won’t get around to doing it that often, but the more often you attempt it, the more likely you are to get it done. Depending on what kind of heating system you have, you may find that your house gets dustier at certain times of the year than it does at others.

Tips for cleaning

  1. Dry dust delicate, fuzzy-leaved or crinkly leaved plants with a soft paintbrush.
  2. Use tweezers to remove debris from cacti. Tweezers are ideal for reaching between hairs and spines, and your hands are sure to thank you.
  3. Plants with small, smooth leaves that can’t be practically wiped down can be cleaned by placing a plastic bag over the pot and gently cinching it around the plant’s base with your hand to protect the soil. Hold the plant under a gently running spray of tepid water.
  4. In warm weather, take plants outside and give them a good shower—just be sure to use tepid water and to let it drain before you bring plants back into the house.

-Jim