If you’re in the gardening mood and it’s snowing outside, now is a good time to tidy up your houseplants. Should you see dust on the surface of your curtain rods, the leaves of your plants are covered with the same coating. Your curtain rods are clueless, but dust affects the health of your plants. Cleaning from the top down is best, so dust the curtain rods and then do the plants.

For large plants that are not movable, use a soft damp cloth and wipe the surface of the leaves.  Supporting the leaves from the underside with your other hand will prevent damage. Take your time and talk to your plant as you go.   It’s good to bond with them.

Smaller plants will enjoy a shower. Wrap the top of the pot with plastic wrap to keep the soil in place. Also bring the temperature of the water to tepid so as not to shock the plants. I line the bottom of my tub with an old towel that also covers the drain.  

While bright and shiny is the in thing, with plants, high luster from chemicals is detrimental. Sprays sold as leaf shine puts a coating on leaves that seals their pores and attracts more dust.  So, if you’re into sparkle, better to spend your time cleaning your silver.

Fuzzy  leafed  plants, such as African violets and some begonias, can be cleaned of dust with a soft bristled brush. Be gentle. 

Like the plants in your garden, indoor plants need time to rest. Their growth slows and they enter a resting mode. Some stretch looking for the sun and may flop, others just sit and rest.

Don’t be tempted to whack the floppers back this month or douse them with fertilizer. An occasional yellow leaf is not a big deal. Plants shed their aged leaves just like we shed our hair, so clip them off and go on with your life.  

Pruning plants for shape or repotting in the winter months is not a good idea as it stimulates new growth when plants are dormant. However, removing damaged, diseased or yellowed leaves should be done on a regular basis.

Should you need to perk up your plants, top dressing the soil with a thin layer of worm castings will give them a gentle boost. Espoma (  now sells it in garden centers.  

I’m also a big fan of SUPERThrive ( . This vitamin amendment, not a fertilizer, at a drop or two in a cup of water keeps my plants looking perky year round.  

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at

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