#3 Jade Plant
#5 ZZ Plant/’Zanzibar Gem’
#6 Aloe Vera
#7 Janet Craig Dracaena
#8 Golden Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)
#9 Chinese Evergreen
#10 Dragon Tree
Some plants are temperature-sensitive, but most houseplants cope well with the steady thermostat-controlled temperatures typically found in offices.
Inconsistent temperatures are generally best avoided. Plants should be located away from drafty spots, air-con outlets and overheating PC fans etc. Inconsistent temperatures can cause leaves to drop off and the plant to grow too slowly.
Some plants may prefer a more humid environment, absorbing the moisture to help their growth. Because office air is often dry and warm, humidity can be in short supply. Most plants will actually help increase humidity. However, you may need a few plants before you will really notice an improvement.
Increased humidity can help reduce symptoms associated with dry air; eye and skin irritation, dehydration and even more serious problems such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
A good watering method can really help a plant thrive.
Everybody knows that most plants need regular watering, but over-watering can kill a plant as surely as under-watering. It’s important to check your plant actually needs watering.
Many plants benefit from drying out a little between watering, so a good rule of thumb is to actually use your thumb (or finger) to prod the soil. If you can feel some dampness in the first 1-2″ (2-4 cm), delay watering. If it’s dry, it’s usually a good time to water. This does not apply to all plants but is good practice for most plants.
When watering, ensure that all the roots are quenched, without leaving them sitting in a rot-inducing puddle.
Another good practice is to water your plant with the following technique:
- Apply water continuously to the entire soil surface until water starts to drain through the bottom hole(s)
- Once watered, allow to drain until the base of the pot is dry – this prevents roots becoming moldy
- Room temperature tap water is usually fine, although some plants can be sensitive to fluoride commonly found in tap water. This would likely lead to discolored leaves and droopy branches. Distilled water can be a solution
Some plants will appreciate a misting in the summer months, although it’s rarely essential.
Appropriate, timely feeding can help a plant thrive. Especially once the roots have filled the pot and the soil has been leached of nutrients.
When: Plants get hungry when flowering and growing. Many plants appreciate a feed every 10-14 days from early spring through summer. But many others need feeding less frequently, some preferring a feed just once or twice during their growth season.
How: A diluted, balanced household fertilizer is a safe general fertilizer. Balanced means the key ingredients (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) are present in equal measures, indicated by numbers like 15-15-15 or other variations.
Take note of the manufacturer instructions, the strength of the formula can vary significantly. Dilute with clean, room-temperature water.
Err on the cautious side in the early days. Over-fertilizing will harm your plant. Start out with a 50% diluted mixture. You can always feed again in a couple of weeks if needed, but it can take much longer for a plant to recover from over-feeding.
Pruning & maintenance
Common office plants are generally low maintenance. But even so, they may require a bit of floral nip and tuck from time to time.
There’s no hard and fast rules about when to trim. It’s up to you to determine when and where. Usually it will depend on the plant, the growing environment (especially light and container) and the size and appearance you’re aiming for.
The only rule is do not prune when your plant is flowering.
Pruning your plant like a bonsai gardener can be relaxing. But if you would rather avoid it, there are plenty of suitable plants that grow slowly and don’t require any pruning.
Also, don’t go crazy pruning everything at once – give your plant a breather to help it regenerate. This will also help you manage new growths into a desirable shape, taking your time to see where it is most needed
To re-pot or not?
Re-potting: changing the soil/container….Potting-up: moving to a larger growing medium
Neither of these needs may be something you want to do for a simple office plants. The good news is, many houseplants will grow well without ever being re-homed.
But re-potting your plant can be more than just an opportunity to get rid of an unsightly plastic pot.
If the plant is not growing as healthy as expected it may help to refresh the compost. This can be of particular benefit if the plant needs better drainage [such as cactus, Chinese Evergreen and Aloe Vera].
A soil including perlite and/or sand can improve the aeration with charcoal or other suitable products, particularly useful for plants that need well-draining soil
You can use just about any container as a plant pot
Although it will need a proper drainage outlet at the bottom to allow the water to flow through.
- Classic clay pots are ideal, as they allow moisture to move more freely
- Metal pots should be avoided as they rust. Consider placing your plant in a standard plastic pot within a metal container, if you still want a metal container
Feeding your plant a suitable fertilizer at the right times should reduce the need for re-potting.
Potting-up is something you should consider if the roots of your plant are poking through the bottom. This is a sign your plant is rootbound, restricting growth.
Tip: You should only pot-up if you want a bigger plant. Keeping your plant rootbound is an effective way to prevent your desk becoming a jungle.
Be sure to check your plant’s needs before potting-up. Some plants appreciate being rootbound. The Peace Lily, for example, will only reward you with flowers once it becomes rootbound.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to bring your pet to work [an increasingly popular way to engage employees] or work from home, poisonous plants may be a concern. Many popular houseplants are known to be harmful to pets and children if ingested. Some re particularly toxic.
We’ve included toxicity info in our Top 10 but any plant can be checked online easily. The ASPCA website is particularly useful, as it covers most common indoor plants. You can also get practical info on what to do if you believe your pet has consumed plant leaves.
Don’t hesitate to seek medical help if you fear a plant has been consumed.
Your work colleagues
Should this be left to last?
One important consideration you won’t read about on your average gardening website is whether your new desk plant could be a problem for your colleagues. If you work from home this probably doesn’t matter, although you might need to worry about kids and pets.
Most desk plants should be a non-issue for your colleagues. But, assuming your boss allows it, you may need to consider:
- Allergies – Pollen allergies are common and colleagues may be concerned your plant will cause further irritation. Some plants can be an issue for people with rubber allergies.
- Toxic plants – Toxic colleagues are one thing. Plants that can actually make you sick though are very common and often found in public spaces. Look out for plants that are toxic or can cause irritation if pets or children are likely to be around
- Bugs – Although it’s unlikely your little old desk plant will be a magnet for insects, it is possible. If there is a bug infestation in your office, your plant may fall immediately under suspicion
- Vacation and holidays – Will your plant be cared for when you’re sunning yourself in the Caribbean? Will you need to butter up your colleagues with coffee and donuts? Can you take your plant home with you if not?
The safest option if you work in a shared workspace? Ask your colleagues/boss first…
We hope you found this article suitably informative. Thanks for reading!