Like any piece of decor, your indoor plant can get dusty and dirty too. Use these tips to help all your plants look their best.
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To help your houseplants stay healthy and thrive, you know they need a few basics. Giving them regular waterings and the right amount of light are essential, of course. But did you know that houseplants also benefit from a thorough cleaning once in a while? Dust on leaves can actually block sunlight, and dead leaves can make your whole plant look messy. Whenever you start spring cleaning the rest of your house, you might as well give your houseplants a little extra attention, too. Not only will cleaning your houseplants keep them looking their best, but you'll be more aware of any pests or other problems they might be having.

dusting leaf on African violet houseplant
A small paintbrush works well for cleaning the fuzzy leaves of African violets.
| Credit: Dean Schoeppner

The Best Ways to Clean Houseplants

In nature, rain often does the job of cleaning off plants. One of the best ways to clean many tropical houseplants is with a gentle spray of water. Move smaller or compact houseplants like pothos or pilea into a sink. Place larger plants in the shower. Rinse them off with lukewarm water to get rid of pests and dust. Keep the water pressure low and don't use hot or cold water because extreme temperatures can damage leaves. During the warmer months, you can move your houseplants outdoors to a shaded spot and gently spray them off with a hose.

To clean more delicate, small houseplants such as ferns, another option is to submerge the leaves in a bucket of tepid water. First, support the plant and its soil with your fingers. Then, turn the pot mostly upside down until you can dunk the leaves underwater and swish them around a little.

For bigger houseplants with large, smooth leaves (think: peace lilies and fiddle leaf figs), a quick dusting with a soft, damp cloth can be easier than lugging them off to the shower. Support each leaf from underneath with one hand to avoid accidentally damaging it as you run the dust cloth over it with the other hand.

Got fuzzy-leafed plants like African violets or panda plants? It's best to avoid getting their leaves wet, but a dust cloth won't help much. Instead, try using a soft-bristle paintbrush, soft toothbrush, or pipe cleaner. Gently brush from the base of each leaf to the tip to dislodge dust, fuzz, and other debris.

Test Garden Tip: Don't use oils or polishes to make houseplant leaves shine; these products can block pores, which can interfere with a plant's ability to breathe.

houseplant with wilting leaves
Yellowing or dried out leaves like these on a cyclamen should be removed regularly.
| Credit: Dean Schoeppner

Remove Dead Leaves

Clean off any dead or yellowing leaves regularly from your houseplants. For some plants, these will come away with a gentle tug or slight twist of your wrist. If a leaf resists, don't force it to come off because you could end up breaking stems or even uprooting the whole plant. Instead, use floral snips or scissors to nip the leaf off as close to the stem as possible. Ferns are a special case; reach under their green fronds and cut off any brown leaf stalks at the soil line. Shorten or remove any leafless, string-like stems on your ferns, too.

For blooming houseplants, keep your indoor garden looking tidy by deadheading any withered blossoms and flower stalks. Plus, removing old flowers often encourages new blooms to form. Clean up any petals and leaves that have fallen on the soil surface to discourage mold, disease, or pests such as fungus gnats. You could even go one step further and repot your houseplants into a larger container with fresh potting mix if it's been a while.

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