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Happy, Clean Plants

Rain is here and all the lovely reds, yellows and greens of fall are becoming washed and watered by the cloudy sky. Crisp, clean and glossy leaves will beam happily once the sun dances down its rays and no doubt prompts the coastal desert into a hearty bloom.

But what about the indoor plants that miss out in the joyous rain on their leaves? Since we are caretakers of these green friends when we escort them inside for life, it is necessary to do the things outdoor plants would normally receive. Cleaning plants is essential to their health and welfare, not just for ours. It doesn’t take long for dust, grease, oil and other airborne particles to accumulate on leaves.

Photosynthesis is the plant’s feeding system. Dirty leaves lessen the ability to capture light and therefore cause stress to the plants. And the openings through which they exhale oxygen and inhale carbon dioxide become blocked and they basically choke and suffocate. A clean plant that photosynthesizes and breathes at optimal levels is a healthier plant; and healthier plants stand a much better chance at combating diseases and pest infestations.

Tips for cleaner, healthier plants:

  • Wash them in lukewarm water. Cold water can spot leaves. Place small plants in a sink and wash larger ones in a shower. Let the plants drip-dry before setting them back in sunlight.
  • For large plants that can’t be moved, clean firmly with a soft sponge or cloth; support the leaf on an upturned hand and gently wipe with the other. Use soft, pliable, gentle sponges, not coarse, rough sponges like loofahs For extra-dirty plants, and one or two drops of liquid, non-detergent soap to one quart of water.
  • Do not use water to clean fuzzy-leafed plants such as African violets. Instead, use a soft-bristle paintbrush, a soft toothbrush, pipe cleaner or even one of its own discarded fuzzy leaf. Stroke from the base of the leaf to get rid of dust and other debris.
  • Remove withered blossoms to encourage more blooms. Pick up flowers that fall onto the soil to prevent mold and disease.

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