Outside, rain doesn’t just provide water to plants; it also washes off dust, fallen petals, pollen, dead insects and other detritus that can collect on the leaves of a plant. In doing so, it keeps the sunlight-absorption rates of the leaves as high as possible. When it comes to cleaning plant leaves indoors, that is an entirely different matter.
Inside, of course, there is no rain to provide that service for house plants, and also potentially a lot more dust that can accumulate on their leaves. A little cleaning now and then keeps the plants bright and healthy, and also removes any pests that might have taken up residence. The foliage of houseplants can develop a dull appearance over time due to the build-up of minerals from your water, or from regular dust and dirt accumulation.
How to Clean
Cleaning methods depend on the plant type and size. A delicate maidenhair fern cannot be cleaned in the same way as a thick and waxy-leaved fig. There is no right way to go about it; deploy common sense and any available materials. For most, a quick shower is sufficient; though for the most delicate-leaved, use a misting spray bottle rather than a power shower. Fill a spray bottle with warm water. Add ¼ tsp liquid dishwashing soap without degreaser. Put the spray nozzle on the bottle and shake it to incorporate the detergent into the water. Direct the shower up from underneath to clean the undersides of the leaves. Wipe the leaves off with one side of a clean cloth. This will remove the mineral deposits or dirt, causing the plant to look dull.
If a plant hasn’t been cleaned in a while, has got a little greasy as well as dusty, (typical for kitchen plants), and/or has large waxy leaves on which water spots would be apparent, combine the shower with a gentle rub using a soft cloth or piece of kitchen paper along the top and the bottom of the leaf. Hold and support the foliage on the other side as you do this to avoid breaking or damaging it. Water-based baby wipes, without added fragrances or chemicals, are also great for wiping leaves. For the most delicate and intricate plants, such as succulents, use a soft paintbrush to dust the leaves, or a damp cotton bud to clean them.
Cleaning Plant Leaves
Leave plants to drip-dry away from direct sunlight, as they may scorch, before returning them to their usual spot. If limescale spots could be a problem, dry each leaf carefully with a soft (microfibre) cloth.
It is possible to purchase a polishing spray, “leaf shine”, that can be used to clean and polish leaves in one go, giving them a shiny and spot-free appearance. Still, these are best avoided because they can block the pores, leaving the leaves unable to absorb carbon dioxide.
Six Indoor Plants Which Love the Dark
It was a long search that took me more than ten years. But finally, I found it; an indoor house plant that will brighten up the end of a corridor five metres from my front door. The Aspidistra, commonly known as the Cast Iron plant, has graced the drawing rooms of many an otherwise drab Victorian English manor, and now graces my suburban brick home.
Many gardening experts describe the Aspidistra as one of the most robust and most adaptable house plants. Its long blades of slender dark green, or variegated dark green and white leaves, shoot straight out from the soil, but in clumps and up to 75 cm in height and 15 cm wide.
It is a low maintenance plant but still maintains its sweet nature. It requires very low light, average temperature and humidity and just occasional watering.
Other Plants That Do Not Need Much Light
Low-light plants are usually defined as those that can survive in a spot that is four to five metres from a bright window. Just enough light to read by comfortably, but where artificial lighting switched on by day would give a brightening effect.
Why not treat yourself to this Calathea Plant and bring life and colour to your home?
You can easily find the Aspidistra in your local garden centre nursery. Also, five other plants that will suit deficient light situations are the following:
Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen) are among the few plants that prefer only moderate light and adapt well to low light. It has large dark green oval, then tapering, leathery leaves, later developing a strong base.
Dracaena deremensis varieties (also known as Happy or Fortune Plants) are slender leafed and usually white variegated. The Dracaena family are tough plants crested with decorative rosettes of foliage.
Holly fern, which adapts to low light, and the Boston fern will remain in low light for many months but need a spell in brighter light to rejuvenate.
Neanthe Bella or Parlor Palm is more suited to low light situations than most palms.
Sansevieria (also known as Mother-In-Laws Tongue) stands low to very bright light and has waxy, erect leaves, usually with cream-coloured margins and an unusual banding of the grey-green centre.
If you are finding it difficult to find a plant that will brighten up that dark corner, why not try one of these hardy and lovely favourites of mine?
Start Plants Indoors
With house plants, as with all gardening, the key to success is to start small. It is very easy to get carried away in garden centres, nurseries and on the internet. Try just a couple, to begin with, rather than filling the entire house with plants, and see how you get on with those before slowly expanding and accumulating a collection.
Remember that all of these plants will take time to look after, and take up space. However, getting started with house plants is very easy. If you have the necessary space and funds, gradually establishing a collection is simple.
This website will help you on your way with further articles. It details some of the ways to get hold of suitable plants, what is needed to care for them, (minimal that isn’t already in a kitchen drawer), and a few basic techniques; for example, sowing seeds, potting and repotting plants, and supporting climbers.
Tips for Healthy House Plants
Houseplants bring a little bit of nature indoors; a beautiful touch of green that’s not only soothing, but that softens hard lines and glaring lights in a home or office. They can even improve indoor air quality.
“Houseplants can be a natural way to decorate your home,” says Bayer Advanced™ garden expert Lance Walheim, who is a regular contributor to Sunset magazine and who has authored or contributed to more than 30 books. “They can last for years if you provide the proper care”.
• Match plants with light conditions. Houseplants vary in their light requirements. Some prefer intense light found right next to a south-facing window. Others thrive in the soft morning light of an east-facing window.
• Use quality potting soil. Good potting soil, (never use regular garden soil in containers), promotes healthy roots by providing a balance of proper aeration, nutrition and moisture-holding capability.
• Water properly. Houseplants need frequent watering. Stick your finger into the top five centimetres of soil. If it is dry, it’s probably time to water. Water thoroughly, so the entire rootball is wet and the excess water runs out the bottom of the pot. Don’t leave standing water in the catch tray for more than a day or two because that can promote root disease.
• Fertilise regularly. The frequent watering required by most houseplants leaches nutrients out of the soil. Be sure to fertilise regularly.
• Increase humidity and avoid drafts. Keep plants away from heater vents, doorways or drafty windows. Increase humidity by setting plants on trays layered with small pebbles and filled with water. Or place them in naturally humid areas like kitchens or bathrooms, (but only if there is adequate light).
• Keep the foliage clean. Dust that accumulates on the leaves of houseplants will block light and harbour insect pests. Clean leaves by wiping them with a moist towel or, in mild winter areas, take plants outdoors and hose them off. See the start of this article for further instructions.
• Control insect pests. Many insect pests, including aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs and scales, can quickly get out of control on houseplants. You can keep them at bay with Bayer Bug Free. It is useful for control of whitefly, greenfly, blackfly, scale insects, spider mite and mealybug. It can be used on ornamental garden plants including houseplants, trees and shrubs. Certified for organic use by the Organic Farmers and Growers. Use pesticides safely and always read the label.
Thank you for reading my article, and I hope you found some useful advice on cleaning plant leaves, discovered indoor plants which love the dark, and enjoyed my top tips for keeping your house plants healthy. Please leave any comments or questions below, and I will get back to you soon.