Giving Your Houseplants a ‘Spring Clean’ Will Boost Their Growth—Here’s How To Do It

Photo: Stocksy/Marc Tran
Springtime is the unofficial season of cleaning all the things—your living space, finances, and even your soul, while you're at it. And as it turns out, spring is also an ideal time to show your plant babies some love by giving them a good clean.

After a long winter of dormancy, spring is when your houseplants, well, spring back to life, according to plant doctor and stylist Maryah Greene. "During winter, they're not pushing out too many leaves," she says. "They're just sort of sleeping." But once spring rolls around, longer days mean more sunlight for the plants, allowing them to start growing rapidly again. And in order for them to reap the benefits of all that light and truly thrive, they may benefit from a cleaning and some maintenance, too.

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Before diving in, however, it's important to keep one guideline in mind, says Greene: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This means that if your plants seem happy, you don't need to make too many adjustments this spring (see: light dusting and pruning below). But, if your houseplants do show some signs of unhappiness, read on to learn how to clean and maintain them this spring in order to ensure they experience a healthy, happy warm-weather season.

Here's how to clean and maintain your houseplants this spring to enhance their growth

1. Give them a good dusting

First up, treat your plants to the freshness of dust-free leaves. By removing the layer of dust sitting on top of the plants' leaves, they'll be better able to absorb sunlight, which promotes an increased growth rate, says Greene.

For smaller plants, you can dust them with a damp microfiber cloth, swiping it over the tops and bottoms of leaves; and for larger ones, Greene likes to dust with a Swiffer duster. This way, you can also pop off the disposable dusting pad and replace with a new one in between plants, which reduces the risk of passing an infection or disease from one plant to another, she says.

Nika Vaughan, the founder of Chicago-based plant and beauty shop Plant Salon, also suggests cleaning your plants with a pest-deterrent spray, like a neem oil spray, to help remove dust and debris while also repelling and knocking out pests that may be lurking under leaves.

2. Do some light pruning

Use this spring-cleaning session as an opportunity to do some light pruning (aka cutting off dead leaves), which also encourages new plant growth.

"There's no conditioner that's capable of [repairing split ends]. It's the same thing for plants. Once a leaf turns brown or yellow and it's wilted, it can't bounce back." —Maryah Greene, plant doctor and stylist

Greene compares these dead leaves to the split ends of hair. "There's no conditioner that's capable of [repairing split ends]," she says. "It's the same thing for plants. Once a leaf turns brown or yellow and it's wilted, it can't bounce back." These dead leaves are just a natural part of a plant's life cycle. So, if you spot any of them on your plants, get to snipping; they'll thank you later.

3. Check their placements

As you're taking a moment to clean your plants, it's also smart to consider where they're located in your home and whether their placements are still providing them with an appropriate amount of light, depending on whether they thrive in brightness or prefer shadier areas.

"You may find that your home has more areas during spring and summer that will provide lots of light for your plants," says Vaughan, which is why it's a good time to assess and adjust accordingly. As we move into the sunnier seasons, she also suggests spacing out your plants, if they're placed pretty close together, in order to encourage a bit more airflow between them. "The increased space can help move stagnant air and allow you to find any tucked-away pests more easily," says Vaughan.

A word of caution: As you're shifting things around, be careful not to move plants too far from their previous locations, especially if they seem happy and thriving, says Greene. (Otherwise, the big change could prove traumatic to them.) If you just want to make sure that they're getting even sunlight exposure in their current spots, particularly as the amount of sunlight increases, she suggests rotating them 45-degrees once a month.

4. Adjust your watering schedule

Part of your spring houseplant maintenance should include a tweak to your watering frequency, too. During winter, there's less of a need to water as frequently because plants receive less sunlight and therefore don't dry out as quickly. But as spring arrives, you may need to dial up the watering because additional sunlight will cause water to evaporate more readily, leaving your plants thirsty more often.

Pro tip: The only way to really know if a plant needs water or how often you should water it is by checking the soil with a water meter (which will assess how wet it is) or, if it's a smaller plant, by sticking a finger in the soil to determine how damp (or dry) it feels, says Greene. If the soil seems moist, you can hold off on watering, and if not, go ahead and give the plant a drink.

5. Repot if needed

In the spring, it's also wise to consider whether any of your plants might be due for a repotting—which is something to do when it seems like a plant needs more space to grow (roots are growing out the bottom of the pot or forming a rootball, or the plant isn't maturing any more), or it could use fresh soil (perhaps it's become infested with pests). Because the process of repotting can be traumatic for a plant, Greene says now is the ideal time to do it (if any of the above scenarios rings true)—when the plant is otherwise exposed to the ample sunlight and optimal growing conditions of spring.

To do so, Vaughan recommends choosing a new pot that is one to two inches larger in diameter than the current pot. "Gently loosen the soil in the plant's pot, tip the plant to the side, and tap or shimmy the plant out of its current pot," she says. "Then, carefully loosen the plant's roots, so that much of the old dirt falls away." Next, set the plant to the side while adding fresh potting soil to the new pot—enough for the plant to sit just about one inch below the new pot's rim, she adds. And lastly, place the plant in its new pot and finish adding soil to cover the roots completely.

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