Glow Up to Grow Up: DIY Rise & Shine Spray for Indoor Plants

In my post for my Glow Up to Grow Up series, I will be sharing a recipe for DIY natural leaf shine. 

What’s leaf shine, you ask? 

Have you ever brought a new plant home from the store and noticed how shiny its leaves are? If so, it’s likely because the plant was treated with a leaf shine product before you purchased it. 

As a former florist, I know that there are numerous commercial leaf shine products on the market. Leaf shine does what its name suggests, and many retailers use it to make their products appear more desirable to consumers. Indeed, commercial leaf shine products are purely cosmetic, and in fact, many store-bought varieties can be detrimental to plant health. 

In addition to harsh chemicals, many commercial leaf shine products contain oil or wax. While these ingredients give leaves an impossibly glossy, perfectly lustrous finish, they can also deposit onto the plant and cause buildup. This is harmful because plants breathe through tiny pores on their leaves called stomata, which are easily clogged. While clogged pores might result in an unsightly blemish for humans, they can result in suffocation or death for our green, leafy housemates. 

The natural accumulation of dust, dirt, and dander can block your plant from absorbing light, thereby affecting photosynthesis and your plant’s ability to grow. For this reason, cleaning the leaves of your plant is an essential part of maintaining good plant health. While it is by no means necessary to use a leaf shine product, I recommend making your own so that you can control the ingredients.

The following recipe will not give your plant the high shine look, which is incredibly artificial. Remember that your plant is a living, breathing organism and that leaf shine – natural or otherwise – is no substitute for regularly cleaning your plant’s leaves. 

The process of polishing your plant leaves begins with cleaning. Here are two methods that I like to use. 

  1. Sponge or Cloth: Remove any excess dirt and debris with a damp sponge or cloth. Make sure to support each leaf with one hand, gently wiping down the leaf and away from the stem with your other hand. Don’t forget the leaves’ underside, which is a common hiding spot for houseplant pests. You can also use a soft brush for leaves that are especially small or delicate (I like to use an old paintbrush or eyeshadow brush). 
  2. Shower: Another method that is particularly useful for larger plants, or ones with leaves that are difficult to wipe, is showering. I live in an apartment, so I generally water my plants in the shower anyways, and it is a fantastic way to give your green friends some extra TLC. It is important to use lukewarm water because plants don’t like their water as warm as we do, and cold water will shock their system. Be sure to gently run your hands through the foliage and hold the plant at various angles to make sure that the water hits the undersides of the leaves too. 

If you’re still lusting after that glossy look, now you can gather your ingredients and supplies for my DIY Rise & Shine Spray

How to Make DIY Rise & Shine Spray

Ingredients for DIY Rise & Shine Spray. Image by Hannah Neufeld (2021).

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups water 
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar 
  • 2 drops Castille/dish soap (I love Dr. Bronner’s). 

Supplies: 

  • Empty spray bottle 
  • Microfibre cloth or paper towel 

Preparation:

  1. Put all ingredients into empty spray bottle and replace the nozzle.
  2. Shake thoroughly to combine.

After mixing the ingredients, you can either apply it to the leaves with a spray bottle or simply dip a cloth into the mixture. I recommend using a soft, microfibre cloth to protect leaves from damage. Another option, if you are concerned about spreading pests between plants, is to use a disposable paper towel for each plant. When you are using the product, be sure to support each leaf with one hand while gently wiping down the leaf and away from the stem with your other hand. 

*Important note: This spray is safe for use on certain types of leaves only. I do not advise using it on delicate foliage, including plants with fuzzy-textured leaves, succulents, and air plants, among others. If you are unsure whether to use leaf shine or want more information, Larry Hodgson of Laidback Gardener wrote an excellent blog post in 2018 called “Do You Really Need Leaf Shine Products?”.

While leaf shininess is not an indicator of plant health, keeping your leaves free of dust can aid in photosynthesis and promote growth. Shine on, plant pals!

Image of Rhaphidophora tetrasperma by Hannah Neufeld (2021)
Freshly shined Rhaphidophora tetrasperma. Image by Hannah Neufeld (2021).

NEW SERIES: Glow Up to Grow Up

I’m excited to announce that I will be beginning a new series on the blog called Glow Up to Grow Up. In this 3 part series, I will be sharing all-natural, DIY recipes to keep your plants happy and healthy.

So, why plants?

It’s interesting to note that houseplants have seen a massive surge in popularity in the last several years, particularly with millennials.
There is plenty of evidence of the younger generations’ affinity for indoor gardening on social media, where hashtags like #plantsofinstagram, #urbanjungle and #plantsmakepeoplehappy are perennially trending on Instagram. In addition to Instagram, there’s also a flourishing online plant community on Youtube. Here’s a video of one of my favourite green thumbs on YouTube, Summer Rayne Oakes, discussing millennials and houseplants with the New Yorker:

Summer Rayne Oakes, founder of Homestead Brooklyn, discussing millennials and their houseplants with The New Yorker.

While social media has given us new ways to document our gusto for greenery, the houseplant trend is far from new. In fact, humans have been tending to potted plants for thousands of years, dating back to the hanging gardens of Babylon. Bloomberg News suggests that with “many millennials delaying parenthood, plants have become the new pets, fulfilling a desire to connect to nature and the blossoming ‘wellness’ movement.”

I’ve chosen to start this series because I am an avid indoor gardener and collector of houseplants like many people in my cohort. I have called it “Glow Up to Grow Up” as a play on the “glow up” videos frequently shared on social platforms.

The idea behind this series is simple, when we take care of ourselves well, we are rewarded with personal growth. So far, I have only shared affordable, DIY recipes for self-care and pet care on this blog, so I thought it might be time to give my plants a few spa days of their own.

Stay tuned for the first installment of Glow Up to Grow Up on August 8, 2021.

Here’s a preview of what’s upcoming in the series!