Besides being so darn aesthetically pleasing, plants can brighten our moods, bring down stress levels, and make our air a little cleaner. But as extensions of our homes, plants need and deserve a little cleaning and upkeep every now and then. So we tapped Erin Marino, marketing director of The Sill–a company that’ll ship gorgeous plants directly to your door—for all her plant pampering knowledge. Read on for the dirt.
Sometimes our plants get dusty! Is there a proper way to dust them?
TS: Plants are natural dust collectors but you can keep them healthy and happy by simply wiping their leaves with a soft, damp cloth, or even a gentle duster to remove any build up about once a month. If you skip a month or two, no sweat. If you want to include a little bit of diluted hand soap on your cloth, that’s fine too, just remember to dilute with water and stay clear of any harsh cleaners! I try to think of it as – if I wouldn’t wash my skin with it, I shouldn’t use it to wash my plants’ leaves either.
Try The Laundress Hand Soap diluted with water, Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth, and Duster For Small Spaces
Does your cleaning method ever depend on the type?
TS: For most common houseplants, how you clean shouldn’t differ all that much from one plant to the next. Although the amount of time it takes to clean might be dramatically different. For example, cleaning a miniature echeveria succulent will take much less time than a giant bird of paradise tree.
Sometimes, if I’m short on time (or don’t want to waste paper towels) and know the plant will dry out quickly due to a sunny day, I’ll rinse their leaves under the sink while I water them. A quick rinse always does the trick to wash away any dust buildup. Just make sure to give your plant a gentle shake afterwards to remove any excess water, which can cause unsightly fungal infections or leaf spots on the leaves.
Should we be cleaning our plants’ pots at all?
TS: If your plant has been in the same pot for a long period of time, you might notice some white powdery buildup around the edges of the planter. This is pretty common in terracotta pots since they’re porous. But don’t be alarmed, this buildup is not harmful, and can easily be cleaned by wiping down the edges with a damp cloth. If that doesn’t work to remove the buildup in its entirety, you can scrub the pot next time it is empty with a solution of vinegar/water or bleach/water. Just don’t take that approach if a plant is in it – wait until the next time you repot.
And if you’re wondering what causes this buildup, it's not dust, but material deposits (also called calcium or lime deposits) from the tap use to water your plant. It might look unsightly, but it’s harmless, and pretty common. You’ve done nothing wrong in caring for your plant!
Try The Laundress Scented Vinegar or All-Purpose Bleach Alternative dissolved in hot water.
How often should we be changing the soil? Sometimes ours gets moldy!
TS: About once every 1-2 years should be sufficient! A common misconception, “repotting” your plant does not necessarily mean changing its planter, but rather, changing its soil or potting mix. Fresh soil means new nutrients to help your plant be its best self. (These nutrients aren’t food, however → that’s sunlight!) This is great news if you love your current planter, but if you’re looking to purchase a new one, or trade up for a bit more space, then when you’re repotting and changing out the soil would be the time to do it.
If you’re seeing buildup like mold or mineral deposits on top of the soil more often, then feel free to gently brush off that top layer of current potting mix to remove it as best you can. If you’re removing a lot of soil, add some fresh soil back on top to even it out and make sure all the roots are covered.
Anything else that’s important to know?
TS: These are all best practices – dusting leaves, removing mineral deposits, changing out potting mix. But they’re not mandatory chores. Meaning you can still have wonderful houseplants if you occasionally skip these steps (or, arguably, skip them always). But you might find, like I do, giving your plants a little extra TLC here and there can be meditative to do and rewarding to see the benefits of.
In your opinion, how can plants add some joy to our lives or homes right now?
TS: Not only do indoor plants enhance the overall appearance of a space, but studies have shown that plants can boost your mood, reduce your stress levels, increase creativity and productivity, and even eliminate air pollutants (but you’ll need a lot of plants in a very small space to make a big impact). In studies comparing situations with plants to situations without them, “with” had the most positive outcome (The Relative Benefits of Green Versus Lean Office Space, 2014).
While sheltering in place currently, my houseplants definitely brighten my mood. I enjoy taking a break from my computer screen and checking in on them, seeing if there’s any new growth as we head into the growing season (spring through summer). They provide a much-needed break from technology, and a reconnection with nature.
How can having plants contribute to living a more sustainable lifestyle?
TS: There’s a couple different ways to think about that, but I have two I thought I’d share:
First – plants are something you grow with. They can last a very long time, across generations even. And that same plant changes, often. It has new growth, sometimes it has blooms, it gets bigger. So plants aren’t something that you have to continually replace – although we’ve all been there during that “learning to care for them phase,” when you might find yourself needing to replace them for another one often, ha! But for the most part, you can enjoy the same plant for many, many years to come. And generally, you aren’t creating much waste with this hobby. If you can, splurge for pots that will last. They might be more expensive than plastic ones, but you’ll find that you won’t toss them, and instead will continue to reuse them through the years. Or upcycle a ceramic container; I have so many small succulents growing in what were fancy candle containers right now.
Second – if you buy cut flowers on a weekly basis, a blooming plant could be a great alternative to that habit. I love fresh flowers, and supporting our gardeners is important, but I’ve cut down on buying them on a weekly basis by adding blooming plants like calla lilies, orchids, and anthuriums to my houseplant collection instead. Although I usually have to wait a full year for my orchids to rebloom, the anthurium produces “flowers” regularly throughout the year! How? They aren’t actual flowers but modified waxy leaves. You can even snip them at the base, and pop them into a vase with water if you want some “fresh flowers” in another room of your home. We’re actually into flowering plants so much so right now, as a way to spread some color and cheer during this tough time, that we’ve based our entire ( Mother’s Day Collection around them.