Houseplant Makeover

Marble Queen Pothos
 Some people are said to have a "green thumb" and have beautiful plants, both inside the house and outdoors. Other people claim they can't grow and a thing and call themselves "plant killers."  They don't understand why their plants just don't look good.

Having plants is like having pets ... you have to be committed to taking care of them, and they do take a little bit of time.  If you make the commitment, however, the rewards are grand as you can enjoy looking at the beautiful plants around your home.

In this blog post, I am going to focus on indoor houseplants, and I've chosen three to demonstrate how to give a plant a "makeover." You can apply these suggestions to just about any house plant.




Peace Lily
Dragon Tree
 Let's start out by reviewing house plant basics (just to be sure). First is potting.  Plants need to be potted in appropriate size pots with good potting soil.  As your plants grow out of their pots, they should be re-planted into larger pots or they will become root bound. Don't jump from a small pot to an over-size pot, though.  It the pot is too large for the plant, its roots may not get the right amount of moisture.

Second is watering.  You don't want to over-water or under-water your plants.  This is where most people get stumped and say they just don't know how much or how frequently to water.  Plants that you buy usually come with watering instructions, and there is so much information available on the Internet.  If you're not sure, a general rule of thumb for many plants is to let the top inch or two of soil dry out between waterings, but don't let the soil completely dry out.  Observe your plant on a daily or weekly basis.  If the leaves start to droop, you probably should have watered just a little sooner.  You'll get to know your plant's signals. Plants usually need more water in the summer months and less in the winter months.

Third is sun light.  Learn whether your plant needs more or less sun.  The best rooms for plants are ones with south-facing windows.  I keep my plants close to the windows but not in the direct sun light.

So, your plants are potted in good soil, and you water them regularly, but they still don't make an impression?  Well, you've got to groom them.  If you have a flowering plant, you need to remove the flowers when they start to fade or die.  This is called dead-heading and will encourage the plant to keep producing more blooms.

A Peace Lily produces flowers of white or pink, but when they fade to green, they should be cut off.

Any dead leaves or leaves that are broken or turning yellow or brown should be removed.  My philosophy is that if it looks ugly remove it.  It doesn't help the appearance of the plant to leave it there, and it's taking nourishment away from the healthy parts of the plants. Use clean scissors or pruning shears to cut the leaf off at the stem.  Breaking the leaf off can cause damage to the plant.

Damaged leaf on the Peace Lily plant.  Deterioration like this can be caused by under-watering, burn-out from direct sunlight, insects, or breakage.


Dead leaf on the Dragon Tree plant, most likely caused by under-watering.  Leaf drop from under-watering occurs easily with this plant.  Letting the soil dry out completely can be fatal to it.

If the tips of the leaves turn brown, the plant is either drying out too much or is receiving too much direct sunlight.  If most of the leaf is healthy, you can use scissors to trim or re-shape the leaf.  Just trim that brown off! I keep a pair of scissors just for plant grooming.  Make sure the scissors are clean so you don't infect your plants.  You can wipe them with rubbing alcohol before and after grooming.



You can also remove any leaves that are giving your plant an awkward shape.  The Pothos plant will grow to extreme lengths, almost as if there is no limit to its growing power.  Some people like the long trailing vines, but I like to trim them back so that the plant fits nicely on a table or dresser.  These trimmings can be placed in a jar of water until roots develop on the stems; then you can plant them in small pots and give them away as gifts. Nice!

The vining stems of this Marble Queen Pothos plant would trail to floor in no time.  I like to keep it trimmed back to table top lengths.

Now that your plant has had a "hair cut," the next thing it needs is a "facial."  To take the make-over one step further, I have found the best booster for plants is a leaf shine treatment.  I use Miracle Gro Leaf Shine, but there are other brands on the market.  Leaf shine can only be used on smooth leaf plants. You can't use it on hairy leaf plants such as African Violets or cacti.


 The directions say to spray the leaf shine directly on the leaves.  I find that this can leave spots on the leaves, and the overspray gets on the walls, floor and furniture.  It takes a little time, but I spray the Leaf Shine on a folded paper towel and wipe each leaf with it.  Continue to soak the paper towel with Leaf Shine as needed. It is really amazing.  It removes the dust and dirt and instantly makes the leaves look darker green and shiny.  In the photo below, you can easily see the difference between the leaves that were wiped with Leaf Shine and the one on the right side of the photo that was not.


One last thing ... remember to feed your plants.  They take in the nutrients from the soil, which need to be replenished.  I use Plant Food Spikes.  You just push some down into the soil every month or two.  When you water the plants, the nutrients are released into the soil.


I've been caring for the plants in these photos for more than ten years. A weekly watering, monthly feeding, and occasional grooming and re-potting have kept them healthy and beautiful. 

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