Monday, February 26, 2024

Cleaning leaves

Question:  I couldn’t find any information regarding dusting of leaves of an African violet?  Is it okay to wash dust off of leaves with water?

Answer:  African violets can be washed, but it’s always a better practice to keep them clean enough that they’ll never require it.  Grow them in a clean environment, though this is sometimes easier said than done.  We’ve had many dogs and cats, but only the dogs spend time in the growing area.  At least they know enough not to lay amongst the plants (or chew on the leaves).  We usually don’t pot plants or use soil in the growing area, either.  The cement floors are gently swept, so as to not disturb the dust too much, then are wet-mopped.  The less dust and dirt that gets on the plant, the less we need to remove–it’s easier to mop the floor then to mop the plants!

Still, with so many plants being grown in “dirt”, at least some of it will find its way onto their leaves!  This can be removed by a gentle brushing.  Use a small paint brush to do this.  The best are those with short, stiff, and soft, bristles.  Be willing to pay an extra dollar or two for a good brush–it will last a lifetime.  It will clean your leaves better and with less work, and your violets will appreciate their gentleness.  My favorite is a white, sable hair brush that I bought around 1980, well worth the $6 or $7 that I paid for it at the time.  When brushing leaves, place fingers of your opposite hand beneath the leaves being brushed for support.  If the bristles are soft enough, and the leaves are supported, you can apply enough pressure to remove the dust and dirt without scarring or breaking them.  Start from the center of the plant and brush leaves from the center, outwards.

Stains that aren’t easily brushed off can often be removed with a soft, damp, sponge.  “Natural” sponges, like those used for ceramics, are best.  Add just a little vinegar to the water to help remove stains left by hard water or fertilizer salts.  If you still want or need to wash your violet, this can be safely done if you’re careful enough.

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