Spring Chores: Dust Off The Plants

Dieffenbachia leaves, the larger the leaves, the more they trap dust.

Dieffenbachia leaves. The larger the leaves, the more they trap dust.

I’m into minimal household dusting—books and tabletops can wait—but house plants are another thing altogether. Too much dust on the leaves means that plants can’t perform their bodily (plantily?) functions all that well. All plants have holes in their leaves, called stomata, that allow them to breathe, and transpire. Carbon dioxide enters, and oxygen and water exit through the stomata. If those holes are clogged with dust, your plant won’t be healthy as it could be.  And neither will you. Those plants provide you and your home with fresh oxygen. Cleaning your plant’s leaves is like cleaning the air filter in your air conditioner, or your car. Plus they look much better when they’ve been wiped clean of all that dust.

The waxy leaves of the tough hoya plant are easy to clean.

The waxy leaves of the tough hoya plant are easy to clean.

The best tools for plant dusting are microfibre cloths and plain water. The best microfibre cloths are the ones that make your hands feel weird: that sticky, grabby feeling as the microfibres make contact with the micro-edges of your skin. I’ve bought good ones and not so good ones that profess to be microfibre, so do the feel test before you buy. Give your plant a spray with water, then gently pull the cloth over each leaf, under and over the top, to clean off all the dust. The cloth should be just moist enough to remove the dust, not dripping. It also helps to put the plant on a surface you can get close to, like a table, so you can groom at eye level, rather than reaching up to where your plant may live full time, like on top of that bookshelf.

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