How To Keep Houseplants Looking Great

Houseplants are an invaluable addition to our homes, both in aesthetic terms as well as for their air-cleaning capabilities. However, everyday life can be hard on plants, and they can end up looking a little worse for wear. There are a few simple tasks that will keep houseplants looking beautiful.

1. General Grooming

Most of what makes houseplants look unsightly can be taken care of by simple grooming procedures. Things like yellowing leaves, brown leaf tips, and faded blooms can all turn a beautiful plant into an eyesore.

Yellowing/Browning Leaves: Simply snip these off at the base of the plant with scissors or garden shears. They are dying anyway, and will never look green and healthy again.

Brown Leaf Tips: These can happen as a result of too dry/too wet soil, nutrient deficiencies, or too much sodium build-up on the potting soil (which is a common side-effect of chemical fertilizers). To make the plant look better right away, use a sharp pair of scissors to trim away the brown tips. The important thing here is to cut off only the brown, leaving as much green leaf as possible. It will go a long way toward keeping the plant attractive if the cuts follow the natural leaf shape of the plant as much as possible. To treat the problem of sodium build-up in the soil, simply give the plant a good, deep watering. Water the plant until water runs out the drainage hole in the bottom, let it completely drain, and then do it all over again. This will flush out many of the salts in the soil.

Faded Blooms: Plants like African violets, primroses, and other flowering houseplants are gorgeous in bloom. However, once those blooms start to fade, the plant can quickly start looking unattractive. This is when deadheading becomes necessary. Deadheading is simply removing (by pinching off with your fingers or cutting with shears) the faded flowers. In the case of African violets, pinch off the spent flowers as they fade; usually more will be forming on the same stem. Once all of the blooms on a stem are finished blooming, cut the entire stem off down at the base.

2. Cleaning Houseplants

Like everything else in our homes, houseplants eventually get dusty. The dust not only looks unattractive, but it also stunts the plant's ability to convert sunlight to food through photosynthesis, resulting in a weaker plant. Happily, cleaning houseplants is very easy.

For plants with shiny or smooth leaves: These are the easiest to clean. Simply get a dry, soft cloth (such as an old cotton t-shirt or cotton sock) and, supporting the underside of each leaf with one hand, use the other to wipe the top of the leaf with the cloth. If the plant is exceptionally dusty, give it a shower with lukewarm water, and then use a clean, soft cloth to dry the leaves.

For plants with fuzzy leaves: Plants like African violets, with their velvety leaves, won't need cleaning as often as shiny-leaved plants. However, when they do need cleaning, the best tool to use is a very soft brush, such as a makeup brush or very soft paint brush. Simply brush each leaf to remove dust, cobwebs, or even cat hair.

These simple chores will keep your houseplants looking fabulous.

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Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

good advice

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