Many house plants belong in the tropics. They tend to lose condition in areas with cool winters and are even more unhappy with the changes of temperature brought about by irregular house heating.

When spring comes, they will revive. Some will need repotting but most will respond to care. First trim off dead foliage. Some brownness may be old age but some may be caused by over-dry atmosphere.

If growth is poor and colour bad, a plant may need repotting. Tap the plant from its container. Cover most of the soil with one hand, invert the pot and tap the rim. The soil ball should come free. Untangle roots and transfer the plant to a container two sizes larger. Firm soil around root ball, then put container in a bucket of water for a good soaking. Do not feed for a few weeks when new growth should show.

Many plants with glossy or leathery leaves can be spring cleaned by sponging with soapy water (do not use detergent). This removes dust and can help remove pests. Do not put water on the leaves of African violets, gloxinias and others with downy leaves.

Regular sponging of the leaves with tepid water helps to prevent attacks by insect pests and provides the wash that indoor plants cannot get from rain. Use cotton wool for sponging and clean both sides. To impart a gloss to smooth-leaved varieties, sponge with a mixture of equal parts of milk and water.

Clean the leaves of hairy-leaved plants with a soft brush
such as a paintbrush, or blow off accumulated dust. The same treatment is recommended for the leaves of varieties with silvery-grey, shield-shaped scales. These scales form the attractive silvery bandings on many members of the pineapple family and are easily damaged by rubbing, so that the appearance of the plant is spoilt.
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