Indoor plants are more than just decorative. They can change the atmosphere in an office and improve conditions for office workers.
The modern office is too often a sterile environment, set up for efficiency but a bit too cold and unnatural in its appearance.
‘Greening’ the office by adding some attractive plants will instantly improve the atmosphere and will also make those who work there feel better about their surroundings.
Plants also improve the health and well-being of people working in offices. Breathing dry air produced by air-conditioning systems can cause respiratory and other health problems, and plants help compensate for this drying effect.
Research by NASA in the 1980s showed that indoor plants increase humidity in offices with fixed windows, and that means it applies to just about every air-conditioned building in cities around the world.
Research has also shown that plants actually remove air pollutants by a process that takes place while most office workers are asleep.
Stomata – tiny holes on the undersides of leaves transpire and give off moisture at night. Moisture attracts airborne pollutants that leach down through the plant to the root zone where microbial action can change the pollutants into harmless compounds.
Office Plants Need Care
Like any living thing, indoor plants need regular care and attention. Considering all that they do for us it’s a small favor to ask in return, and indoor gardening can be an enjoyable pastime.
All plants need light. Different varieties need varying amounts of light and individual plants can be chosen to suit the light in different parts of the office.
Flowering houseplants and those with colorful foliage thrive where there’s lots of light, such as in positions near windows. Because indoor lighting tends to be less bright than that in the outdoors, plants needing lots of light will even appreciate a bit of extra help from lamps.
Leafy green plants prefer less light and do well in areas like corners or places shaded by pillars or furniture.
Keep Plants at a Steady Temperature
Temperature preferences vary between plants but since the ambient temperatures in office buildings are based on what’s comfortable for humans it’s not usually a major issue.
Try to keep indoor plants away from locations where there are temperature extremes or fluctuations, including next to heaters or air conditioning vents.
Plants can only go for about two weeks without water but an excessive amount of water can be equally fatal. Test the soil 1 inch (2.5cm) below the surface and if it’s dry add water. Don’t water if the soil in the pot is still damp.
Plants absorb water through their leaves as well as their roots, so spray indoor plants with a fine mist every week or so. It helps keep dust off leaves and freshens up the plants’ appearance.
Some indoor plants including ferns and African Violets require higher humidity than is usually available in offices. To supplement water in the office atmosphere, put a bowl of water near the plants or spray them with a fine mist every day.
Regular Maintenance is Part of Greening
It’s normal for portions of most plants to die off occasionally, and dead sections should be trimmed off to allow new growth to take its place. Use a sharp pair of scissors for the job and don’t try to just tear off the dead bits.
For green indoor plants with broad leaves wipe the leaves with a damp cloth every week or so to remove dust. For indoor plants with hairy leaves like African Violets use a small soft-bristled brush to lightly dust the tops of the leaves.
Thanks to the variety of commercially available fertilizers feeding isn’t a problem for the indoor gardener. Choose from dry, liquid or stick fertilizer sources and read the instructions on the package before using the product.
Many indoor plants will be just fine without any extra feeding so it’s a good idea to always use a bit less than indicated on the label.
Self-watering pots are excellent for office use. They help to retain moisture in the soil, even if the ‘plant-carer’ is away for an extended holiday. Another big advantage is that there are no worries about spills on the office furniture or carpets.
Plants should always have a bit of growing room in their containers. As indoor plants grow transfer them to larger pots – a task that’s best done in early Autumn or Spring.