††††††††††† Flat end surgical hemostat (pulls out large leaves and debris)
††††††††††† Long needle nose hemostat (pulls out small leaves deep in the plant)
††††††††††† Long tweezers (pulls out material deep in the plant)
††††††††††† Artist brushes with long handles (various sizes, for finer cleanup)
††††††††††† Scissors and Exacto knife (for trimming leaves)
††††††††††† Pair of old calf-length cotton sports socks (poke holes in toes, wear like gloves
††††††††††††††††††††††† to protect your arms from prickles)
††††††††††† Bar of Ivory soap (to clean leaf surfaces)
††††††††††† Saferís soap (to remove scale)
††††††††††† Spray bottle (for pineapple/citrus juice or club soda)
††††††††††† Remove trapped large leaves and debris by hand. Use a hose with a nozzle that will give a good spray without too much pressure to wash out remaining dirt and debris. After the first wash, examine the deep parts of the plant for missed debris. Use hemostats to remove this material. Be careful not to dig around too harshly so you donít break or tear a leaf. Loosen stubborn dirt at the base of leaves with artist brushes. Wear gloves to avoid scratches.
††††††††††† Rinse the plant again to remove loosened material Clean the surfaces of leaves individually. Cleaning intensity will depend on the delicacy of the leaves and amount of scurf. If scurf is present, be careful not to remove any of it because it will not regenerate, and the bare patches will be obvious to the judges. Suds each leaf with soap solution and a heavy artistís brush. If leaves arenít prickly, pull each leaf through your bare fingers to loosen any stubborn surface dirt. This should also remove any dead scale that might be attached to the leaf. If the scale doesnít rub off quickly, apply Saferís soap. Scale is a big no-no for a show plant. Rinse the plant with clean water using the hose and gentle spray.
††††††††††† Set the plant aside to dry and process the next one. You canít really tell whether some plants are really clean or not until they are dry. You may have to go back and touch up missed spots, and rinse again. Be sure to get all the soap out.
††††††††††† If you have salt deposits, sometimes another soaping of the salted area will do the job. Let the soap stay on for a little while and work on another plant. Then rub the salted area lightly being very careful not to damage the leaf. Pineapple juice or any citrus juice can be sprayed on leaves to remove salt deposits. Just be sure to rinse the juice off well or it may leave a sticky, shiny film on the plant that the judges will penalize. Try club soda. Some gardeners say it does not leave a film on leaves.
††††††††††† Some procedures may have to be repeated. It is almost impossible to completely remove the residue from some darker leaved plants, but you can take a chance and enter them if only faint traces are visible.
††††††††††† It is usually easier to repot a plant than to clean the pot. This is a good time to select a pot size in proper proportion to the plant. A larger pot makes it easier to center the plant and cover any exposed caudex caused by leaf removal. Donít pot the plant too deeply unless you are trying to hide a flaw, because that is what the judges will assume. Be aware of the show rules about what constitutes a ďstandardĒ pot. A pretty or unusual pot should be entered in the Artistic, Decorative Container division.
††††††††††† Leaf damage is a common problem but judges will certainly notice where you have trimmed. But if you have done a good job they may not take off points unless they observe too many trims. Before you cut, analyze the effect the cut will have on the plantís overall appearance. Cutting a leaf too far back it could change the natural shape of the leaf and the plantís conformation. Trimming a plant with a brown/damaged fingernail tip is tricky. You may decide not to trim at all if it will do more harm than good. Cutting leaf edges very close to the base can be done where there are no spines, but try to keep a smooth leaf edge. Judges can usually see your dilemma and be lenient if there is little else wrong with the plant.
Final evaluation before show entry:
††††††††††† View the plant from all sides and from the top. Straighten the plant if needed and firm the soil around it. Be sure the mix on top of the soil is neat. You can use a special top dressing, but this is optional. Neat appearance counts.
††††††††††† Ask: Does the plant appear healthy and properly grown? Does its foliage have the appropriate sheen and/or scurf ? Are the colors rich? Are the markings clear? Is the symmetry appealing and appropriate? Is the size close to maturity? Is the leaf damage inconspicuous? Does the plant need more grooming?
††††††††††† Donít be overly critical. Fix what you can, but remember that there are very few, if any, perfect plants.
††††††††††† Take extra time packing your plants to be sure they donít damage each other or topple over in transit. Take your tools and extra potting mix with you just in case thereís a mishap along the way.