You’ve already deep cleaned the inside of your dishwasher, vacuumed the mattresses in every room and scrubbed every inch of your kitchen countertop. So, your spring cleaning is officially complete, right? Well, it might not be if you forgot about your plants.
Yes, even your pothos plant and lemon tree need to be scrubbed every once in a while. According to Crazy Plant Guy, you should be spring cleaning your plants—including teeny cacti, that gargantuan banana leaf plant and the orchid that you’ve miraculously kept alive—at least once a year. Here’s how to do it, in eight easy steps.
1. Do a plant inventory
Walk around your home and give each plant a check-up. Is it getting enough sunlight? Or too much? How’s that soil looking? Consider everything from the appearance of the leaves to the size of the pot. Keep tabs on specifics for each plant, either by writing it down in your Notes app or taking a picture on your phone to address each problem.
2. Do a little reorganizing
Now’s the time to move all those green guys into their new homes for the spring and summer. Start by taking plants off of shelves and gathering them in one spot. Take this time to wipe down their usual spots, including the shelf or table you took them off of and the exterior of the pot, too.
When replacing your plants, consider moving the varietals that can handle direct sunlight closer to the window. The fronds that enjoyed the softer rays of the winter sun will probably need to be moved further away from direct light, to avoid burning their leaves, Crazy Plant Guy points out.
3. Give those greens a nice cleaning
Plant housekeeping is very real. Here’s how to properly clean the leaves, according to plant type:
Large, shiny leaves: Use just a damp cloth on bigger plants like fiddle leaf figs and elephant ears. If you find insects eating or flying around your plant, add a drop of dishwashing liquid to your cloth.
Fuzzy leaves: Like those found African Violets, grab a soft, clean paintbrush and carefully brush away dust and dirt. Never use water, as it can leave water spots post-cleanse.
Cacti: Spray an air-compressor can a few inches away to carefully remove debris. Again, these plants thrive in dry environments, so adding additional water can be damaging.
Most other house plants: Bring other houseplants, like ZZ plants or miniature ivy into the shower or sink and lightly hose off the leaves. Use lukewarm water, not hot or cold, as the extreme temperatures can be damaging. If your plant is on the smaller side, simply dunk the top part in a bucket of lukewarm water and carefully swish around, making sure to hold a hand above the soil, to prevent it from falling out.
4. Get rid of anything dead or brown
Gather leaves that have fallen in the soil and toss them. If you find yellow or brown leaves and stems that easily snap off, do so carefully. Never yank or pull leaves out of a plant. Use scissors to trim additional dead leaves. If you come across a leaf with an unfortunate brown spot, you can prune that, too. Only cut away the parts that are dead and make sure to follow the natural contour of the plant as you snip.
5. Decide if it's time to repot
Hold up, why do you even need to repot your plant? “You want to make sure the plants aren’t going to be root bound during the growing season, since they do tend to grow faster and bigger,” Crazy Plant Guy says. Root bounding is when the roots hit a barrier (like the side of a pot that’s too small) and thus, can’t grow properly. How do know if you need to repot entirely or if you can work with you got? Look for the following clues:
- Roots are popping out from the bottom drainage hole
- The top of the plant is pushing up and out of the planter
- The plant is still growing, but at a much slower rate than before
- You have to water your plant much more often, as it dries out quicker than before
- There’s noticeable salt and mineral buildup on the top layer of the soil
If you can check off any of those, move onto #9. If not, proceed to #6.
6. Learn to aerate your soil
If you need to repot your plant, skip to step number nine. But if you’re keeping your plant in the same pot, grab a loose chopstick (you know you have a few floating around your kitchen), and use it to poke air holes in the soil of each plant. Don’t stress if you hit or snap a root; they’ll grow back over time. This aeration process will loosen up packed soil (which occurs naturally while you water plants over time) and help get the nutrients directly to the roots of your plants.
7. Now, add some new soil
Spring is a great time to add some new soil (and thus, new nutrients) to your greens, if you’re not repotting them. You can either add a handful on top of the existing soil, or remove a few inches of stale dirt and replace it with some newness.
8. Don’t forget to fertilize!
If you do like to fertilize your plant babies, the start of the growing season is the time to do it. While Crazy Plant Guy notes that he doesn’t fertilize, he has been adding eggshells to the soil of his plants and seen some great results. (It’s a tip he picked up from his grandpa, awww.) His advice: Use a blender to turn the eggshells into a powder and then sprinkle it lightly on the top of the soil. The next time you water the plant, the eggshells will be soaked into the soil and the calcium from them will help balance the acidity of your soil.
9. It’s repotting time
Wondering how to repot a plant without killing it? We’ve got a few tips for you. And if you’re looking for what size pot to look for, consider finding a replacement that’s just one to two inches larger in terms of diameter and one to two inches deeper. Any bigger and the roots will need to grow quite a bit before the plant itself can grow. And smaller and, well, your repotting process will be all for waste.
Et voilà, now your plants are clean, green and ready for spring.