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Good Grooming Habits

As plants grow, their leaves mature, eventually wither and die, and get replaced by new and maybe bigger leafage. Dying or dead leaves that don't naturally fall off will drape themselves along the edge of the pot, giving the planter a ghastly unkempt look.

Don't simply grab and yank off the dead leaf because some leaves remain "stuck" to the plant, and trying to pull it off could result in one of two things: the plant will be uprooted, or the pot will fall off the shelf and come crashing on the fax machine. Cut off dead leaves with a pair of scissors.

Many houseplants can remain indoors for indefinite periods of time, becoming part of the furniture, gathering as much dust as the tabletops and bookshelves. Therefore, dusting and cleaning the indoor greenery should be part of the housekeeping chores.

There are different ways of leaf cleaning for different types of foliage:

Large, smooth, shiny leaves: Moisten a paper towel or soft cloth with plain water and wipe the tops of the leaves in gentle outward strokes. If the leaf blades are spiked or thorny at the edges, avoid getting pricked by wrapping a moist piece of soft cloth around the tip of a ruler. Hold the cloth secure with a rubber band, and wipe the leaves gently.

Hairy, spongy leaves (African Violets): Use a small and soft-bristled paintbrush to very lightly dust off the tops of the leaves. Make-up brushes (blushers) and camel's hair watercolor brushes are the best for miniature violets.

Tiny, clustered leaves and fronds (Ferns) : A feather duster is the best leaf-cleaner for these types of foliage. The plants can also be taken outside for a mild spraying with water to clean off unreachable dust and dirt.

Thorns and spines (Cacti): A thorny plant can be cleaned with a soft-bristled paintbrush. If lint and cobwebs manage to form dust bunnies close to the base of the thorns, use a toothpick or skewer to pry them out.

Be very gentle, and try not to scratch, bruise, or break foliage while grooming indoor plants.