Áfrican violets are one the most popular houseplants worldwide. This is because they are relatively low-maintenance and they can live for decades under the right care.
This also means they need to be cleaned every once in a while, especially if they are kept in a place that accumulates dust and dirt. If you keep your plant on the floor in your house, it should come as no surprise that it will be dustier than plants kept higher up.
In this article, we will discuss the reasons you should clean your African violet’s leaves, and how to do it properly without damaging the plant.
Why do you need to clean the leaves of your African violet?
Just like all houseplants, the leaves on an African violet accumulate dust over time. You may think that dust on the leaves is completely harmless and that the plant will be completely fine if you never clean it off, but you would be wrong. The layer of dust on the leaves can become so thick that it can literally block the sunlight from reaching the surface of the leaves.
Aside from dust, water stains can also form on the leaves, and these are an eyesore.
Cleaning your African violet not only keeps your plant healthy; it can also keep it looking pretty and vibrant.
If you have recently treated the plant for pests or fed it, the neem oil or the fertilizer spray may have left a buildup of substances on the leaves that will make them look dull. This layer of fertilizer or oil also impedes the normal exchange of air through the leaves’ pores.
If you have had a recent mealybug infestation on the plant, you will be familiar with the waxy substance these insects leave on the leaves and on the stems. This is also another reason to clean your African violet’s leaves.
What will I need to properly clean my African violet’s leaves?
The tools you will need to clean your African violet’s leaves will depend on the size of your plant. You need tools that will effectively wipe or brush off dust and soil from the plant’s leaves.
Ideally, find a tool that will no longer be used for any other purpose around the house. Keep the tool exclusively for cleaning your plant.
If you are using a used brush, for example, make sure you wash it beforehand so there are no chemicals or substances on it that may harm your African violet. Try to sterilize it before use as well. A simple solution to sterilize the tool is to dip it in a cup of rubbing alcohol and allow it to soak for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, shake off the excess alcohol and leave the tool to dry for several minutes before using it on your plant.
Some examples of tools you can use are a clean piece of cloth, an old makeup brush, an old paintbrush, a kid’s toothbrush or a sponge.
How do you clean an African violet’s leaves?
Use a damp cloth to wipe off dust or grime on the plant’s leaves. Make sure you squeeze out the excess water from the cloth or sponge before using it to wipe down the leaves.
Only use lukewarm water, because cold or warm water may do the leaves more harm than good.
Hold each leaf with one hand as you wipe it with the other. This supports the leaf so that it does not tear or break off as you are cleaning it.
Be patient and clean every single leaf, one by one and slowly. Do not rush, because you could end up tearing the leaves due to your impatience.
If you want to dust the leaves quickly, use your makeup brush, paintbrush or toothbrush to brush off the surface dust. Brushing works better for removing loose soil on the foliage.
Can you wash an African violet, and how is it done?
Yes, you can wash your African violet. You may have heard that you should never get the leaves of an African violet wet because it can lead to brown spots. This is true, but those spots will not develop as long as you dry the plant immediately after washing it. If the plant is properly dried, you should not need to worry about washing it.
There are different techniques for washing your African violet, and we will discuss four of them.
Before we start, though, remember that this process is only advisable on fully-grown and mature plants. Refrain from washing young plants as they may not respond well to it.
Run the faucet in your sink until the water is lukewarm. Once the temperature is optimal, lower the pressure so that the water is only a trickle.
Take your plant and hold it at an angle as you slowly bring it under the stream of water. Rotate the plant to let the water wash over all the leaves, one by one.
Keep the plant angled at all times in order to avoid any water directly hitting the center of the plant, or the crown.
Using your fingers, rub or massage the leaves and the crown gently to remove the dirt. Take the leaf between your fingers so that you simultaneously clean the top and the bottom.
While you do need to be gentle with this process, try not to take too long because you want the plant to be under the water for as little time as possible while still cleaning it properly.
If your kitchen sink has a sprinkler, turn it on and bring the water to lukewarm.
When the water is at the right temperature, lower the pressure to a gentle spray.
Bring your plant to the sink and, also at an angle, run it under the spray of the sprinkler. Rotate the plant to make sure all of the leaves are washed.
For this method, you need some cling film to wrap around the base of the plant, as well as the entire pot.
To check that the pot and soil have been sealed properly, turn the pot over: no soil should fall out.
Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water and dunk the entire plant into the water.
Dunk all of the exposed part of the plant and make sure to keep the wrapped parts dry.
Swirl the leaves in the container of water for at least 10 seconds.
The dunking and swirling should be enough to remove most of the dust on the leaves.
This method requires a spray bottle filled with lukewarm water.
Wet the leaves of the plant with the spray and clean them by rubbing them with your fingers.
While using any of the techniques above, take the opportunity to clean the plant’s pot as well. Clean off any dirt and grime on the outside of the pot as well as on the rim, and wash the bottom of the pot to remove any buildup of dirt or loose soil.
How do you dry the African violet you have just washed?
Dry the African violet by blotting the excess water from the plant’s leaves with paper towels, a dry cloth or a sponge.
Do not forget to remove the excess water in the crown of the plant.
Be gentle with the blotting, just as you were when you wiped and washed the leaves.
Take note that the leaves are soft and delicate after washing, so be extra careful. Hold each leaf to support it as you blot it.
While you are waiting for the plant to dry, do not put it where the sun can hit it, because the droplets on the leaves will act like a magnifying glass when hit by light, and this will burn the leaves and leave brown spots on them. Allow the plant to dry completely in a dark place, ideally overnight.
After it has completely dried off, you can put it back in its proper place.
Cleaning your African violet leaves once a year is important because dust, dirt, and grime can block the sunlight and air from reaching the leaves, and this affects your plant’s overall health and aesthetic.
Wipe the leaves gently with a damp cloth to remove the dirt and dust that have accumulated on the surface. If there is minimal dust on the leaves, you can just use an old makeup or paint brush to brush off the dust. Be very gentle while handling the leaves, because they can be torn easily if you are not careful.
Image: istockphoto.com / kosobu