You’ve owned your Anthurium for a while, and it’s beginning to lose its luster – literally. Its once-glossy leaves have grown dull and drab. Should you rinse them? Wash them? Buff them with plant shine? Is there any way to make your Anthurium’s leaves shiny again?
How can you keep your Anthurium leaves shiny? Anthurium leaves have a naturally waxy sheen, and wiping them with a damp cloth two or three times a month should let them gleam as brightly as ever. DO NOT use leaf shine products; these contain oily compounds which can clog the pores your Anthurium uses to breathe.
If the foliage is spotted with chalky white patches, your Anthurium’s roots could be absorbing high concentrations of mineral salts, which are deposited on the leaves when water evaporates through their pores. To avoid these mineral deposits, give the plant and potting soil a thorough rinse every few months. We discuss these methods – and other ways to keep your Anthurium’s leaves shiny – in more detail below.
Why Aren’t My Anthurium Leaves Shiny?
Houseplants have become almost as popular on social media as babies, pets, and duckface. And no wonder – plants are beautiful, and we firmly believe they make every home more pleasant. But in the age of Pinterest, it’s easy to become a little too obsessed with having bright, gleaming leaves on our houseplants.
Most foliage in the wild isn’t very shiny at all. There’s a good reason for that: leaves are designed to absorb light, not reflect it. Every photon that bounces off a leaf and into a plant blogger’s iPhone is one less photon that the plant can use for energy.
That said, Anthurium leaves actually do have a fair amount of natural gloss. It’s one of the things that gives them such a distinctive appearance. We’ll go over some of the reasons Anthurium leaves can grow dull and talk about how to remedy each one.
Reason One: Your Anthurium is Dusty
Even people who dust their shelves and lamps on a regular basis don’t always think to give their houseplants the same treatment. After all, it’s not like feather dusters exist in nature, right? But outdoor plants get cleaned off regularly by the wind and the rain. Take them inside, and they’ll accumulate dust like any other stationary object.
A layer of dust probably won’t kill your Anthurium, but it will cut down on the amount of light the plant can absorb. This can decrease its vigor and make it less likely to flower. That grime can also block the stomata (the tiny pores that plants use to breathe and pull water up from their roots).
How to Get Dust Off Anthurium Leaves
The most common way to clean Anthurium leaves is to simply wipe them down with a damp cloth.
Take a soft washcloth or sponge – an inexpensive microfiber cloth is our favorite tool for this – and a bowl of lukewarm water. Dunk the cloth and wring it out so that it’s damp but not dripping. Cup a leaf in one hand for support and wipe it down gently with the other, moving out from the central vein.
Repeat until you’ve cleaned the whole Anthurium, rinsing and squeezing out the cloth between leaves to avoid spreading dirt around the plant.
Reason Two: Mineral Buildup on Your Anthurium’s Leaves
Another possible cause for the loss of your Anthurium’s shine is that salt compounds are accumulating on the surface of the leaves. This happens when the concentration of minerals in the water or soil is too high. Some of those chemicals are pulled up through the plant’s roots and dry out on the surface of the leaves.
The result is a mottled pattern of chalky white spots on the foliage. This is especially common if you fertilize your Anthurium, or if the store-bought potting mix you’re using has fertilizer included. Over time, minerals from synthetic nutrients can leach into the soil.
Watering your plants with tap water may have the same effect if the municipal water in your area is “hard,” meaning it contains high concentrations of minerals like magnesium or calcium.
How to Remove Mineral Salt Buildup From Anthuriums
Giving your Anthurium distilled water or rainwater to drink often reduces the problem of mineral spotting. You might also want to ease up on the fertilizer; Anthuriums only need a fairly low dose of added nutrition. You can read more in our article on fertilizing Anthuriums.
It’s also helpful to occasionally flush your Anthurium’s pot to wash the salts out of the soil. Place the container in the sink or shower and run the water over it for several minutes. Keep going until about four times the container’s total volume has passed through the potting mix and out the drainage holes at the base. Again, use lukewarm water to avoid stressing the plant.
Doing this once every two or three months keeps the soil from accumulating too many minerals. This is good for the plant’s health as well as its appearance. High salt concentrations in the pot can pull water out of the roots and damage your Anthurium.
(By the way, busy houseplant owners: rinsing your Anthurium in the shower is another way to clean the dust off if you don’t have time to lovingly wipe down every leaf.)
To get salt deposits off the leaves, you can use the washcloth method described above, but add a bit of vinegar or lemon juice to the water to help dissolve the minerals. Mix the juice from half a lemon into a pint of water, or use one teaspoon of vinegar per gallon.
Reason Three: Your Anthurium Has a Pest Problem
Damage from plant pests like spider mites can make leaves look dull or dusty. If you think your Anthurium could be infested, act quickly; quarantine it from your other plants and inspect the leaves and stems for signs of insect attack. For a detailed guide to identifying and eliminating Anthurium pests, click here.
Cleaning your Anthurium’s foliage can actually help with infestations as well as ordinary dirt. Hose down the plant to knock loose as many bugs as you can, then spritz the leaves with warm water with a few drops of mild liquid soap mixed in. A small amount of neem oil can give this solution an extra punch.
For each liter of water, use approximately 1 teaspoon of soap, or 1 teaspoon of neem oil with ⅓ teaspoon of soap. You may need to repeat this treatment a few times to really eradicate your pest problem.
Should You Use Leaf Shine on Your Anthurium?
There are a number of commercial products that promise to give leaves an attractive shine. We do not recommend using these on your Anthurium! They work by coating the plant with oily chemicals that reflect light well. However, they also gum up the stomata – much more severely than ordinary dust and debris.
Anthuriums are especially susceptible because they have stomata on the tops of their leaves as well as the bottom – and the top is where the bulk of the shine will be applied.
Retailers often use leaf shine because it makes plants more eye-catching to buyers. The clogged stomata also don’t release as much water, which delays wilting while the plants are sitting on the shelf. This is another reason why Anthuriums often seem to get a bit less glossy after you take them home – the artificial sheen is gradually wearing off.
These products are bad for your Anthurium in the long run. That goes for DIY treatments like mayonnaise, too. Oily goop is oily goop, whether it comes from the garden store or the supermarket.
A little bit of regular maintenance should keep your Anthurium’s leaves shiny and healthy. Wipe them down with a damp cloth every few weeks, and rinse the plant and pot every few months. Use ordinary lukewarm water with a bit of vinegar or acid if you’re dealing with stubborn mineral buildup.
Anthuriums don’t need artificial plant varnish to look stunning. All they need is an occasional cleaning to let their natural beauty shine through.