My landlord decided to have our building power washed this past week. When it was done, the brick glistened and the windows sparkled, but the plants had seen much better days! The shrubs were deep brown, the grass had whitish yellow patches all over it, and the roses had ugly brown and yellow spots on the leaves and some of the branches had simply died. Not a pretty sight.
It's not just outdoor plants that can be damaged by cleaners. The same thing can happen to your houseplants. For instance, did you know certain air fresheners, the kind in the aerosol can, can leave ugly spots on your plants? It's true. Bleach will leave your plants discolored and burned, and window cleaners can take the color right out of delicate blooms like geraniums. Even cooking oils can harm your plants. If you have plants in your kitchen and do a lot of frying or sautéing, their leaves will soon be covered in a greasy residue. Not only does this residue attract dust and make your plants look dirty, but it can prevent the plant from taking in carbon dioxide and suffocate it.
Does this mean no plants in the kitchen? Nope! Simply move or cover your plants when using spray cleaners. If some does get on the leaves, rinse immediately under cool water. To prevent greasy buildups on leaves, clean regularly with a soft damp cloth, using a drop of gentle dish soap.
Another thing that can harm your plants is the sun. Believe it or not plants can get sunburned too. Make sure they have some protection. Most plants don't need full sun all day, and many, like philodendrons, don't need full sun at all.
If you smoke, never touch your plants without washing your hands first. Tobacco mosaic virus can be spread by the residue cigarettes leave on your windows.
Have you noticed the top of your soil is crusty and white? You probably have hard water. Hard water has too many minerals in it and watering your plants with it can leave that residue behind. You can avoid this by watering with bottled water.
Keep these tips in mind and your houseplant collection won't end up looking like my yard!