After a long winter indoors, my houseplants are a dusty mess! Houseplants are easy (for me) to forget about except on watering days. But you’d be surprised how much a fresh, healthy, clean plant can brighten up your home. So once warmer weather arrives, I can’t wait to get my plants outside for a nice spring cleaning. Here’s what you need to know to get your plants in tip-top shape for the growing season.
How to Clean Houseplants
Step 1: Gather Plants and Supplies
Begin by taking all of your plants outdoors, but be sure to pick a nice warm day. Most houseplants are tropicals that will suffer in temperatures below around 50 degrees, and I wouldn’t recommend getting them even that cold. If you live in an area where cold weather lingers, you can always do this task in the bathtub or shower.
You’ll also need a squirt bottle of soapy water, some rags or a sponge, and a hose or watering can. A very mild soapy water solution will both clean your plants and also get rid of soft-bodied insects that may have taken up residence during the winter. I like to use pure unscented castile soap, but plain dish soap will do.
Step 2: Give Plants a Trim
Remove any dead leaves, and trim back straggly stems. Even just pinching off the tips of longer stems will encourage the plant to branch out. Be sure to save the cuttings and root them to make new plants!
Step 3: Wash Dusty Plants
For basic cleaning of dusty plants:
- Spray: Thoroughly spray both sides of the leaves, and all the stems, with your soapy solution. This is a perfect job for little helpers – my four-year-old daughter loves any chore that involves a squirt bottle!
- Wipe: Use a soft rag or sponge to wipe larger leaves clean.
- Rinse: The easiest way to rinse plants is with a garden sprayer on the “mist” or “shower” setting, to provide a little bit of pressure without blasting away the soil. Rinse the plants well, to wash away all the soap, dust, and insects. While you’re at it, give them a thorough watering.
- Dry: Allow plants to air dry in a shady spot before bringing back indoors.
Step 4: Soak to Get Rid of Insects
If you suspect that insects have infested your plant’s soil, you may want to do a quick soak:
- Place in Bucket: Sit the plant down in a bucket or plastic tote, add a small squirt of soap to the bucket, and fill with water. Allow the water to cover the pot and soil completely. With smaller plants, you can submerge the entire plant and let the leaves soak clean while you’re at it.
- Soak: Let the plant sit for about 30 minutes. If there are creepy-crawlies in the soil, they should float to the surface of the water.
- Drain and Dry: Remove the plant from the water, wipe any residual dirt off the leaves, and allow to dry and drain thoroughly.
Step 5: Refresh Your Plants as Needed
Once your plants are clean and dry, and all the bugs are washed away, you can continue with your spring houseplant spruce-up. Repot any plants that are rootbound, topdress plants that could use a boost, feed with a slow-release organic fertilizer, and don’t forget to finish them off with a pretty layer of mulch!