Office Plant Care

Overview

A burst of plant greenness in the sterile, lifeless office environment soothes the eye and helps improve air quality. Just as in a home, the office supports plant life if appropriate lighting exists, a large window or strong lights, as well as consistent guidance from a green-thumbed co-worker or hired interior plant care service. In general, utilize plants tolerant of low light and low humidity conditions, as these conditions dominate in an office.

Leadership

Lots of print and online literature exists to help guide the selection and care of plants in an interior environment, allowing nearly anyone to seemingly gain a "green thumb." Plants in a common area at the office, not those personal potted gifts that reside atop someone's personal desk, may fall into a maintenance gray area--whose responsibility is it to check on and nurture the plants? Assemble office employees to learn who has sound experience and dependability regarding plant care. Give that person(s) the role of monitoring and watering office plants. Having one person doing the watering or care avoids over-watering, over-"loving" or the situation where everyone assumes someone else "takes care of it."

Lighting

Plants reside and grow beautifully indoors where windows both exist and do not exist. The key is providing ample light and in the wavelengths of light needed by green plants. Plant Care Guru advises offices lacking windows to use light sources that provide blue and red wavelengths. Metal halide and halogen lights provide the best light for office plants, but make sure these hot lights are not too close to foliage to cause leaf scalding or burn. Select office plants best-suited to your lighting, as more light in interior spaces allows for stronger plant growth and longevity.

Watering

With dry heated and air-conditioned air in the office, ambient humidity remains low. The light in offices also is comparatively low and temperatures year round hover between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Combining these three factors typically diminishes the amount of water needed by an office plant. Brown tips on leaves reveals either over- or under-watering, but over-watering remains the most common factor in an interior plant's demise, according to "Houseplants." Water plants when their surface soil feels slightly dry to the touch and do not allow water to pool and remain in water catch basins as this leads to root rot and bad odors.

Fertilizing

Fertilize office plants with a granular, slow-release fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, once a year in the late spring. Interior plants do not have high fertilizer needs. Liquid fertilizers leach through the pots more quickly and require much more skill in mixing dosages. Never fertilize in the autumn or winter months.

Grooming

Occasionally dead leaves must be removed with a pruners or heavy scissors. Dusting with a damp soft cloth also keeps office plants looking clean and reduces allergens, especially on large-leaved specimens. Avoid using cleaning products made with alcohol, ammonia or wax, as they harm plant leaf tissues.

Pest Monitoring

Since office plants live in close proximity to humans, the appearance of insect pests is particularly bothersome. Chemicals can't be used to kill the bugs. Invert plant leaves to look for common indoor pests like tiny red spider mites, white mealybugs, light green aphids or brown or gray scales. Crush pests with your fingers or a cloth soaked in mildly soapy warm water. Using horticultural oil also smothers the insects without adding harmful chemicals to the closed space of the office.

Keywords: interior plants, office plants, indoor plant care

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.