Houseplants benefit from occasional bath

CORVALLIS--Houseplants don't need a bath often, but an occasional washing improves the plant's appearance and promotes plant vigor.

Washing houseplants removes dust and insect eggs, according to Jan McNeilan, consumer horticulture agent with the Oregon State University Extension Service. It also helps control houseplant insect pests such as mites, mealy bugs and scale insects.

Most houseplants can be washed in warm, soapy water at bath temperature, about 90 to 100 degrees. The exceptions to houseplant bathing are hairy-surfaced plants such as African violets and begonias. Wash all leaves, stems, and buds. Clean both sides of the leaves, shake and allow to dry overnight in the sink or on a newspaper.

You can also put the plants in the shower, under a fine gentle spray to rinse off the soap, said McNeilan. If you shower your plants, cover the soil in the pot with aluminum foil or plastic. Repeat the washing as needed to bring out the natural shine of plant foliage.

Also, don't water the plants every time you walk by them. More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering. Water houseplants thoroughly, but only enough to prevent wilting. If you over-water, the fine roots, or feeder roots, rot and can't absorb water for the plant.

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Jan McNeilan

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