What do you think about when you hear the word ‘spa?’ A massage? A manicure or pedicure? Wearing a cucumber face mask while noshing on bonbons? Whatever you think of, it probably entails some method to de-stress, relax, and feel better about yourself. Only this year, a face mask has taken on a whole new meaning. What a year 2020 has been. Everyone is probably feeling worn out from all of the stress, I know I certainly am, and I’m sure we could all benefit from taking some time to focus on ourselves.
Back in March, when the shelter-at-home order was in place, COVID-19 forced many businesses’ to close, and months went by, where we only left the house to get necessities. This isolation was a stark reminder of how much we depend on others for some of our basic needs. Even something as routine as going to get a haircut was not an option, and it wasn’t easy to adjust to this new normal. Just ask my teenager about the time I begged him to let me cut his hair after several months of not being able to go to the barber.
People craved these services during isolation. Perhaps it was because they needed to feel a shred of normalcy or simply because it made them feel good about themselves during this time of unrest. We all need to feel cared for, and taking the time to focus on ourselves is essential for our well-being.
As silly as it may sound, the same is true for our houseplants; they also depend on others for their basic needs and benefit from some pampering. So, in between taking care of your loved ones and yourself, don’t forget about your plant companions. It’s time to give them a much-needed day at the spa!
We know how good it feels to wash our hands or take a shower after coming in from our gardening chores. Feeling clean rejuvenates us. Well, the same can be said for our plants. Being indoors, our houseplant’s leaves accumulate dust, which can clog their stomata and interfere with their essential functions over time. Without rain to wash their leaves, our houseplants depend on us to keep them clean. Whether placing them directly in the shower and gently hosing them down or using a damp rag to wipe down the leaves, your plants will be happier when they’re dust-free.
Showering your plants will also aid in dissolving excess mineral salts that can build up in our houseplants’ soil. Leaching is a term used to describe the process of washing the salts off the surface of the soil and is accomplished by gently running warm water over the soil and letting it drain. Allow the plant to sit for about an hour and repeat the process, dissolving these potentially harmful minerals.
Just as we enjoy a good haircut, our plants can often benefit from some grooming. Pinching back growth and trimming broken, weak, or wayward branches, as well as removing dead or browning leaves, will help our plants thrive. And don’t be too quick to throw out those cut stems if they are healthy; often, cuttings can be rooted to create more plants!
When giving your plants a spa day, check to see if they need repotting. Rootbound plants cannot thrive and greatly benefit from a slightly larger pot, providing ample room to spread their roots. Refreshing some of the potting soil at this time can also be helpful.
Why not give our plants a treat as well by lightly feeding them. Unlike outdoor plants that have the opportunity to spread their roots deep in the soil to gain nutrients, houseplants are limited to the soil in their pots. If more nutrients aren’t added, plants will eventually deplete what is available in the potting soil. Most gardeners fertilize their houseplants on a schedule from March through November when they are actively growing. In the winter months, when the plants are dormant or have slower growth, fertilizer is withheld.
Let there be light! Make sure your potted plants are getting enough light, especially indoors. Often indoor plants are getting light from only one direction, wherever the windows are in the room. Occasionally spinning the plant a quarter of a turn will ensure that the entire plant gets the light it craves. Spinning will also prevent the plant from reaching towards the light, creating an unbalanced look in the pot.
These are all practices that can help maintain the health and happiness of your houseplants. Keep in mind that these are some general methods of care for our plant companions. Different varieties of houseplants have particular needs and preferences, so make sure to research what your specific plants require.
Everyone deserves to be pampered once in a while, even our plants. So, after you’ve given your houseplants a spa day, sit back, relax, and enjoy your healthier, happier plant companion. Then, take some time for yourself and do something you enjoy and love, making you feel good about yourself. Because after the year we’ve all had, you deserve it too!
Photographs (top to bottom): Feature image: ‘Marble Queen’ Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) Photo 1: Ginseng Ficus Bonsai (Ficus Retusa) Photo 2: Philodendron Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera adansonii) Photo 3: Amazon Black Shield Plant (Alocasia polly) having its leaves cleaned Photo 4 & 5: Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii) receiving a spa treatment Photo 6: A rootbound Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) plant Photo 7: ‘Blushing Bride’ Caladium (Caladium hortulanum) Photo 8: Pickle Plant (Delosperma echinatum) Photo 9: Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)