My indoor plants are looking a little sad at the moment, and their leaves are gathering some serious dust. As I watered them this morning, I wondered if olive oil was an excellent option to polish them up and make them seem brighter and livelier.

You should not put olive oil on plant leaves because it collects dust and reduces plant efficiency to conduct photosynthesis and transpiration. You can use olive oil diluted with water to add some shine on the leaves or to clean them.

Olive oil may not be the best solution for making plant leaves shiny and healthy, but there are many other considerations to make when thinking about what to best use to shine your plan. Can you use coconut oil? What about baby oil? Will olive oil on plant leaves kill bug infestations?

Can you put olive oil on plant leaves?

Pure, undiluted olive oil is not recommended for cleaning plant leaves due to its viscosity and hydrophobic qualities. Plants absorb air through their leaves to utilize carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

Olive oil can block the stomata that allow air to enter the leaf and cause your plant to wither and turn brown. Olive oil can also cause plants that live in direct or indirect light to burn and wither, as the heat from the sun is trapped and magnified by the oil.

You can use diluted olive oil mixed with water and spray it on the leaves to clean them up.

It is best not to apply olive oil during the heat of the day or it can accentuate the suns rays and cook the foliage. It is also better to choose a more transparent oil over an opaque one which will block too much sun and the plant will not be able to photosynthesize. This is even more true for houseplants which have to live in lower sunlight conditions. – Tru West, Certified Master Gardener, A Familiar Spirit

Does olive oil help plants grow?

Olive oil has not been proven to help plants grow and can hinder the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients through its roots if the soil is contaminated. Olive oil lowers the pH of the soil and increases bacteria levels in the groundwater if added in large quantities.

Soil contaminated with olive oil inhibits the plant from effectively absorbing natural minerals from the water and can cause roots to shrivel. It is recommended that soil contaminated with olive oil be replaced immediately to avoid causing further damage to your plant.

Putting olive oil on plant leaves gives them a good instant shine. Though it has several vitamins and nutrients, putting olive oil on plants in any way can be harmful. Applying oil on the leaves creates a coat that creates a hindrance between the leave and sunrays. Where the outer layer may burn, the leaves may not get enough sunshine. If you dilute it with water, the pH levels go down and can attract unwanted pests and insects which can even cause death to your plants. – Colin Barker, Co-Founder, Filter Smart

Does olive oil kill bugs on plants?

Olive oil can kill bug infestations on plants by blocking their pores and making it impossible for them to breathe. However, olive oil can also attract more bugs and pests due to its intense and distinctive aroma. Avoid using olive oil as your primary pesticide solution, as this is likely to damage your plant.

Can you clean plant leaves with olive oil?

You should not clean plant leaves with pure olive oil because of its pore-blocking abilities and dust attraction properties. Due to the sticky nature of olive oil, it can increase the presence of dust and dirt on your plant’s leaves.

A better option for cleaning your plant’s leaves is to combine 1 part milk with four parts water and use a damp cloth to wipe down the leaves. The natural enzymes in the milk help give extra shine and a nutritional boost to your plant.

How to use olive oil on plant leaves?

If you must use olive oil, mix 1 part olive oil with five parts water in a spray bottle and shake vigorously to combine. Take a clean cloth or towel, dip it in the mixture, and then wipe down your plant’s leaves. Once the leaves look clean and shiny, spray the plant with some clean, cold water. Leave your plant by a window or in an airy location so that it can dry naturally.

spray bottle
Spray bottle I use to water or spray neem oil

Be aware that olive oil is difficult to remove from plant leaves entirely and will remain and attract dust for weeks. The viscosity of olive oil can cause long-lasting problems with oxygen uptake and may cause your plants to wilt slightly.

While you can in some scenarios apply olive oil to leaves, I would advise against it. If you really want to use some to improve the shine of your plants’ leaves, you should create a mixture of a tiny bit of olive oil and water to rub on with a towel/cloth instead of applying the oil straight-up. Olive oil, or any type of oil, forms a layer over the surface of the leaves, which blocks the pores and prevents the plant from getting adequate oxygen. This can cause the leaves to turn brown, shrivel up, and even die if you’re not careful. – Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO, Lawn Love

Can you put coconut oil on plant leaves?

Like olive oil, coconut oil is not recommended for plant leaves because it can block the system between the plant’s food mechanism and its oxygen intake. Coconut oil can also cause the plant’s leaves to burn and wither if exposed to sunlight after application.

Coconut oil can be used as an effective herbicide due to its high viscosity, which can suffocate unwanted plants in your garden. Melt coconut oil until liquid, then wipe onto leaves and stem of the unwanted plant.

Can you put baby oil on plant leaves?

Baby oil is not recommended for plants due to the additives and preservatives present. These can irritate the plant’s internal systems and damage veins and roots necessary for carrying water and nutrients to the leaves.   

Can you put neem oil on plant leaves?

Neem oil can be used on plant leaves as it is designed for horticultural use. Neem oil is an effective pesticide and is highly biodegradable, making it a safe option for indoor and outdoor gardening use. In low doses, neem is non-toxic to mammals and can be used safely around your pets and family.

Does vegetable oil hurt plants?

Vegetable oil does not hurt plants as it’s one of the safest oils to use. It breaks down easily in the soil.  Horticultural oils are based on vegetable oils and are effective in controlling pests like spider mites and mealybugs, which deplete the sap of your plant.

Traditional horticultural oil is less viscous than vegetable oil and spreads easier, meaning that it will not clog plant pores in temperatures greater than 30 degrees Celsius. Vegetable-based oils are easier to remove, and if spilled on the soil, can be broken down by the bacteria and microbes without depleted nutrient levels.

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Is canola oil good for plants?

Canola oil is good for plants due to its vegetable base and similar properties to other vegetable oils. You should avoid using canola oil in large amounts because this can saturate the plant’s roots and reduce nutrient uptake.

In small amounts, canola oil can help retain moisture in the soil and help boost nutrient uptake in your plant. To use, pour a small amount evenly around the base of your plant and overturn the soil gently to distribute thoroughly.

Canola oil should be used sparingly when applying to plants that require bright direct or indirect sunlight, as it can cause burns and permanently damage your plant’s leaves and stems.

Is used cooking oil good for plants?

Used cooking oil is not good for plants due to the residual food pieces and waste contained within. Used cooking oil is more viscous than fresh cooking oil due to the heating process and is, therefore, more likely to block the pores on plant leaves and cause damage or burns.

Used cooking oil is an effective herbicide, as it blocks the pores and disrupts the plant’s absorption of air and nutrients. To use cooking oil as a herbicide, pour the liquid into a spray bottle and apply to the weeds until completely coated.

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