How to Polish Your Plants

Feb 3, 2010

There are many, many things that I excel at. Cake Decorating and Photography are just a few that come to mind. Well, also Plants. And, apparently, writing good sentences, such as ones unto the similarity of this.

For today's lesson:

I realize I am probably telling you something you already know. But that is my job. That is actually what I have been assigned by the higher-ups to do; Tell you stuff you already know, like ....... I don't know, don't punch cows and stuff. Whatever.

So I live in a dusty house. I would swear that it is at least 3 times dustier than your average Utah home. And I deal with the dust by ignoring it. Which works wonders! Except today, for who knows what reason, I realized my plants were looking pretty sad. Ok, so the point!!

How to clean and polish your plants. Ta da!

The secret is mayonnaise. Mayonnaise will shine them up and make them look like plastic. (Which is the goal with live houseplants.) Lots of condiments have more than one use like this. You can use ketchup in your windowsill to seal up gaps, mustard will kill a beetle on contact, and pickles are great for throwing at people. Obviously. But the mayo on the plants really is real.

Here is my philodendron BEFORE. Can you see the dust? Can you tell that it is dirty enough to shock your mother-in-law and make her seriously concerned for her son's future?

No, I guess you really can't. You'll just have to trust me.  It is worse than it looks.

And here is the plant AFTER polishing:

Wow! Just look at those leaves shine!

So, here is what you do:
  1. Plop some mayo into a small bowl or plate.
  2. Put a paper towel or soft rag into your hand (right or left, the choice is yours).
  3. Get a little mayo on a corner of the rag and gentle rub it into a leaf. Continue rubbing and polishing until the mayo is rubbed in and it looks clean and shiny.
  4. Repeat with remaining leaves.
It goes without saying that you should be careful. Your plant is fragile and you could easily break a leaf. Which, unlike the phrase "Break a leg", is not used to mean good luck. However, if you do manage to break one (or several), just pinch the leaf off at its root, or base, or jointy-joint thing. (Yeah. Like I said. Knowing everything about plants is what I do best.) Plants really do like being pruned this way.

Maybe you are worried about the smell. Don't worry , it will only smell like sulfur for a few weeks, and you probably won't even notice it anymore after a day or two. If neighbors come over and notice the smell, just blame it on them. That is Basic Hostessing 101.

So maybe there are some of you complaining that you can't even keep your plants alive. All plants are different, with differing needs, but it is safe to say that you are probably over watering them. Very few plants need to be watered every day. I water my plants no more than twice a month. The philodendron is one of my favorites because it starts to look very sad and droopy when it is thirsty and this reminds me to water all of them at once. And it works out perfectly. I also have an Umbrella Tree (or schefflera) that I stuck in an unused room once and forgot about for months. Barely even looked thirsty when I found it again. Just keep it out of direct sunlight and it never asks for a thing. I recommend finding a plant that is as needy as you are giving. I used to have plants that needed lots more love, attention, and water than I was willing to give and they have since died (actually, this happens with my relationships too). It is survival of the fittest at my house. You get on MY watering schedule, or you meet your doom.

The point is, there are plants out there that are beautiful and incredibly easy to maintain. I would tell you what more of them are, but then how would you ever learn anything? Most plants will tell you when they are getting thirsty, and it probably isn't as often as you think. Don't fret over your plant, don't water it every single day, give it the amount of sunlight the little tag that comes with it says to give it, and suddenly you'll find that you have had it for a whole year and it is still thriving.

So get out there, get a plant or two, polish those leaves (it doesn't really stink. I was only kidding), and feel like a botanical genius!