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How to Care for House Plants

Grooming House Plants

Simple grooming can mean the difference between an unattractive house plant and one that is really stunning, yet it is the most neglected aspect of basic plant care. Here are a few tips on how to turn your ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.


plant being trimmed
Removing dead leaves improves
a house plant's appearance.

The Quarter Turn

Plants naturally tend to grow toward the light and will soon begin to bend toward the nearest window, causing them to look lopsided or even to topple over. Prevent this by giving the plant a quarter turn each time you water it, so that the plant gets light from all sides. The result will be a symmetrical plant.

Keeping House Plants Clean

As plants grow, they produce new leaves and flowers and lose older ones. It is important to remove all dead and yellowing plant parts, not only to improve the plant’s appearance, but to prevent the proliferation of insects and diseases that often get their start there. A pair of scissors can be used to snip off dying leaves and flowers and to trim brown leaf tips to a natural-looking point.

To keep dust and grease from building up and slowing growth, clean leaves once or twice a year with a soft cloth dipped in soapy water or put them under the shower or outdoors during a warm rain.

A Pinch in Time

Don’t be afraid to prune out unattractive sections of the house plant. Generally, for every cut made, two new branches will be produced, making the plant look fuller than ever. Soft new growth can be pinched -- squeezed between the thumb and forefinger -- to promote branching without leaving a noticeable stub.

A Helping Hand

House plants that are properly pruned and receive a regular quarter turn rarely need staking. However, if an attractive stem has grown to the point where it no longer can support itself, use an unobtrusive stake, such as a section of bamboo, to prop it up. The result will look great.

Keep reading to learn about propagating house plants.

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