How To Clean a Large Houseplant

Apartment Therapy Tutorials

Keeping houseplants free of dust, dirt and cobwebs is essential to their health. When we've talked about cleaning houseplants here at Apartment Therapy in the past, the excellent idea of putting the pot, plant and all, right in the shower has been suggested. But it's not possible to lug an 8-foot potted ficus up the stairs to the shower. It's been about two months since this ficus tree's last cleaning, so I documented the process for cleaning a very large (yet very delicate) houseplant:

Material List
• drop cloth
• step stool
• duster
• spray bottle of water
• old sock
• X-Acto knife

1) Place a drop cloth around the base of the pot to catch any fallen dust, leaves and water.
2) Remove any dried or yellowed leaves from the plant.
3) Cut any aerial roots or other unwanted growth from the tree using the X-Acto knife.
4) Using a hand to support the back of each branch, lightly dust surface build-up from leaves with a lightweight duster (I used a Swiffer duster). Work from top to bottom of plant, from base of stems to tips of leaves.
5) Spray water over all leaves until they are dripping.
6) With an old sock over your hand, rub any particularly dusty or dirty leaves. This works a lot better than using a cleaning rag, as there's no extra material to hang down and accidentally snare and pull on healthy leaves.
7) Allow the plant to dry and voila! Shiny green leaves!

The process of cleaning a large, delicate plant such as a ficus tree sounds tedious, and honestly, it is. But it's a rewarding task that ends up taking only about an hour every couple of months. Do you have any other tips for cleaning houseplants to share? Please do so in the comments below!

Re-edited from a post originally published 2.5.2013 - AB

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