Studies by NASA have shown that plants can reduce the levels of some common indoor pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene. This becomes important in combating the Sick Building Syndrome often seen in our energy efficient, air tight work environments.
Living plants also add warmth, direct traffic, create focal points and lend an air of success to your business. Plants enhance the workplace for clients and also boost morale among workers. Your goal is to maintain healthy plants in the office, not to actually grow them!
Start with healthy plants
Check the leaves both top and bottom for insects. Look closely in the place where the leaf joins the stem. This is a great place for insects to hide. Choose plants with uniform color. The lower leaves should not be yellow. Avoid wilted plants and also those standing in water. Often, insect problems are brought in on new plants.
Often the challenge of office plants is the lack of natural light. Fluorescent lights are suitable for maintaining plants. They must be very close to a plant to provide enough light for actual growth. Set up a rotation schedule for the plants in your office. Once a month, move plants from a lower light area to a higher light setting. This will ensure general plant vigor.
Consider temperature extremes and drafts
Plants vary in their requirements, but generally temperatures between 65-75°F are suitable. Keep in mind that night temperatures may be much lower than in the daytime, and windowsills may get very cold. Along with the lights, heat is often turned down or even off for the weekend. Avoid heat ducts, tops of computers, and doors opening to the outside air.
Water and fertilizer
Because of extremely variable lighting in the office setting, proper watering is often the most important factor for good plant health. Plants don't use water quickly in low light or low temperature environments so monitor closely. Stick your finger down in the soil or lift smaller pots to check the water weight. It's important to allow soil to dry out between waterings. Discard any standing water as soon as possible.
Plants need good drainage
For best results, pots with drain holes (grow pots) should be placed into a slightly larger, watertight (maybe a decorative?) pot, or pots can sit in a saucer. Fertilize sparingly. Remember that your goal is to maintain, not grow plants.
Monitor for pests
Occasionally insects may be a problem. Common plant pests may include mealybug (white and cottony), aphids (small insects which can be green, black or brown), scale (an armored bump on a leaf or stem) mites (silvered foliage and/or webbing), fungus gnats, and whitefly. Because of certain pesticide regulations, insecticidal soaps and stronger insecticides may not be applied in a public setting without an applicator's license. You may, however, take the plant home for treatment. Sometimes disposal of the plant is the best solution.
Great choices for your office
- Neanthe Belle Palm
- Dracaena species
- Snake Plant
- Peace lily
- Chinese evergreen
- Prayer Plant
- Peperomia species
- Cast iron plant
- Grape Ivy
- Spider Plant
**Dish gardens are attractive when first presented but are not designed as long term plantings. They lack drainage and the plants are not always compatible with each other.
Prepared by Chris Mayer