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University of Illinois

Freshen Up Houseplants Now

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 16, 2013

Houseplants are an important feature in my house year round, but are especially important to me in the winter. I find that fall is a great time to spend some time to spruce them up a bit and give them new life.

If you haven't brought your houseplants indoors for the winter yet, do that soon.

First, check to see if the plant has any insect or disease problems. Over the years I've decided that discarding these plants is often the best option since it is really hard to control pests indoors on plants. Some plants, though, can often be remedied with an insecticidal soap application or simply a good cleaning.

Next, see if the plant needs repotted. Houseplants grow well outdoors in the summer and often need moved to a bigger pot. Sometimes plants just need repotted to give it fresh soil with better texture and nutrients. When repotting, use a good, sterile, multi-purpose potting soil. Never use garden soil for houseplants grown in containers.

Clean and groom plants to keep them healthy, clean, and attractive. Clean plant leaves to remove dust and dirt build-up with one teaspoon non-phosphate soap in one quart of water. Commonly used soaps include Ivory dish soap and PineSol, but many others are okay too. Use a sponge, cleaning cloth, or paper towel to wipe all surfaces of the leaves clean. Wipe down containers too.

Another cleaning option is to spray plants with a non-ammonia glass-cleaning product (such as Sparkle) and wipe clean. Hairy plants should be cleaned only with a brush or feather duster. I do not recommend using mayonnaise or furniture polish or anything that could clog the plant's breathing pores.

Groom plants by removing debris. Debris found on the plant, on the top of the soil, or at the bottom of the container should be cleaned out regularly. Keep the plant attractive by trimming off old flower heads and all dead or dying leaves. Plants kept outdoors during the summer may need pruning to fit back indoors.

As you go through each plant, think about what is missing. What could be more fun than a new houseplant this winter?

Houseplants bring nature indoors and allow homes to come alive. In fact, studies indicate that houseplants help keep people happier and healthier. Plants fill an important psychological function and are also proven to cleanse indoor air. Plants help us be more productive. I have seven houseplants in my office and have to think they help my creativity too.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event listed in this news release, contact your local Extension office.

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