If you're like most people, your house plants have probably suffered from neglect while you've picked summer flowers and planted fall bulbs. The question is, what's the best way to revitalize and winterize a house plant?
Master gardener and University of Alaska instructor Marion Owen says it starts with a 'Clean and Feed,' a technique she developed to clean indoor plants and feed them at the same time.
"Every home and office space creates dust and other airborne particles that eventually settle on everything from table tops to leaf tops," says Owen. "Plants breathe and even feed through the tiny openings in their leaves. If these openings become clogged, plants suffer. For us, it would be like trying to eat and breathe through a sock."
To clean and feed plants, Owen takes a section from a clean, white T-shirt or rag and dips it in lukewarm water, or diluted broth left from steaming fresh vegetables or boiling eggs. For even better results, she uses PlanTea, the organic fertilizer in a tea bag she developed and patented in the mid-1990's. Then, supporting the leaf on your upturned hand, gently wipe the leaf with the cloth. Rinse and re-dip as needed. For hairy, African violet-type leaves, just brush with a clean, dry paint brush to remove dust. Owen recommends Mozart or Enya as good music to clean and feed plants by.
"Studies have shown that indoor plants not only clean the air, they lift our spirits," says Owen. "As valuable additions to our living spaces, they deserve to be clean." According to Larry Hodgson, author of Houseplants for Dummies, "Dirty, dusty foliage cuts back on the light indoor plants receive and slows respiration, leading to weak, lackluster growth and even leaf loss." Cleaning house plants, says Owen, improves their appearance, stimulates growth, and helps control pests.
Feeding houseplants is what prompted Owen to develop PlanTea. After moving to Kodiak, Alaska, Owen bought several plants to brighten her home. Frustrated by the lack of convenient, organic fertilizers, Owen set out to mix her own. After collecting leaves, grass clippings, and kelp from the local beaches, Owen filled the blender and hit the "puree" button. She fine-tuned the original recipe and now PlanTea is blended and bagged in California.
PlanTea is available online from www.plantea.com. The site also includes organic gardening tips and unusual recipes. For more information, to request a sample package or artwork, please contact Marion Owen at 1-800-253-6331 (907-486-2500); 9 to 5 p.m. Pacific time; or at firstname.lastname@example.org.