Leaf Shine CAN Harm Houseplants (But It Probably Won’t)

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This probably won’t be a very long article – I was planning on just adding a section to my house plant cleaning article, but I thought it’s probs easiest to have a separate one.

I’ve seen a lot of misleading information about leaf shine products. Like everything online, we see people fighting wars over things that really aren’t that big of a deal.

Can leaf shine harm plants?

Leaf shine is unlikely to cause significant harm to your plants. If you have a particular leaf shine product that makes your plants shine like diamonds, and that in turn makes you happy, then go ahead and keep using it.

Do I recommend leaf shine products? No.

As you’ve no doubt seen online, they can clog stomata and leave a film on the leaves that can negatively affect photosynthesis.

HOWEVER

The way I see it, if you’re taking the time to painstakingly clean and spray each leaf, you’re probably doing as much good for your plant as you are harm. The dust is being removed, and whilst the stomata may be clogged by your product, a lot of the leaf sine sprays have ingredients that are beneficial to your plants, whether that’s nutrients, silica or pet deterrents.

The products probably aren’t helping, but you are. It’s a bit like speaking to plants. It’s not the speaking that helps them – it’s the fact that you’re there, caring for them and noticing any issues.

People who take pride in their plants, and that take the time to clean them down and shine them up are doing infinitely better by their plants than people like me that accidentally neglect them for a month or two.

What plants should you not use leaf shine on?

That being said, there are a few plants out there that you shouldn’t spray leaf shine (or anything!) on.

As a general rule of thumb, anything with velvet leaves won’t like being wet. Definitely dust them regularly – a lot of people swear by makeup brushes, but I like those microfibre makeup removing cloths – but keep whatever you’re using dry.

It varies plant on plant how much they’re bothered. Philodendron micans isn’t too fussed about being wet. Calathea velvet touch really don’t like it, and will go brown. Anthurium clarinerveum don’t care either way BUT will always end up covered in mystery fuzzies if you use anything damp.

Never ever EVER casually wipe your Clarinerveum with tissue paper because it looked dusty and that’s all you had to hand. Learn from my mistakes. Those things are indestructible but seem to revel in looking shite (and having thrips).

Alocasias vary. Sometimes they get brown spots if you wet them, and sometimes not. They are a pain to get fuzzies off though, so use microfibre.

How can I shine my leaves naturally?

As I mentioned, I’m a BIG fan of the humble makeup-removing cloth. I don’t really use them on my face, because they are eyelash thieves, but they’re great for dusting plants and you can get up a bit of a shine.

I stay away from using things like milk and mayo because…they’re gross. I don’t want them on my plants. Just seems like a great way to attract flies.

Also, oil isn’t great, because that will both clog the stomata and accelerate sunburn. Make sure it’s diluted. If I was to buy a leaf shine spray, I’d buy one of those crunchy essential oils ones. They usually have neem, which can help prevent pests, and are pretty dilute.

How often should I use a shine spray on my plants?

I recommend cleaning your plants at least monthly (obviously I don’t do it that often, but that’s what I aim for), and I don’t see why you couldn’t use leaf shine every time. If the leaves are still shiny then perhaps wait until it’s rubbed off. You don’t want it to build it to that point at which it becomes harmful.

Cleaning your plants is even more important in winter than summer because it can prevent pests from building up to significant levels, and it helps the plant makes the most of the available light.

I would advise not using leaf shine in winter. Or rather, determine leaf shine use like you would fertiliser – continue as normal if your plant is still growing, stop if it’s not.

How winter affects your plants depends on the conditions in your home. If it stays warm and bright then the plant may never need to know that it’s winter.

Final thoughts

The use of leaf shine sprays in house plants tends to polarise house plant hobbyists, but I sit firmly on the fence. In reality, the type of people that like to keep their plants shiny are also more likely to look after them well, which is far more helpful to the plant than a bit of leaf shine is detrimental.

If you want shiny leaves, go for it. Your plants may grow a little more slowly, but they’re unlikely to be significantly compromised.

For those of you on the fence about it, or who are worried they’re damaging their plants, then try using a microfibre cloth.

Plant leaves aren't meant to be super shiny, because it reflects a lot of the light. 

I wonder if that’s why the new ones are shiny – to stop them from burning?

…But if you like shiny leaves and they bring you joy, go ahead.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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