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A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them. - Liberty Hyde Bailey

In a concrete world of desks, tables, chairs, computers, files and cold sterile tiles, the world is gray, black or white, occasionally crème or brown. A splash of green can be added to this tundra-like wasteland, by adding a potted plant or two to your interior office décor. The effect of plants on your emotional well-being is often dismissed as bunk but no matter their silent and green demeanor, having office plants and tending to them, does make an impact on you at work. Office plants often require just as much care as an outdoor garden or outdoor plants and their care is one duty we tend to leave to company maintenance staff. Which is wrong as you care for your home indoor plants and garden, why treat these plants differently? Below, learn how to care for office plants with some simple tips.

Caring for Office Plants

Keep Them Clean
Stacks of papers here and there, rubbish on the floor and on your desk, dusty desktops and stationery... is this what your office looks like? Aside from your cleanliness routine, there is on-the-dot regular maintenance and cleaning performed. Because no one likes a messy, dirty environment to work in. And neither do your plants. Plants attract dust and grime like anything else. They breathe through their leaves, so if the surface is clogged with dirt, they will die. You may have mistakenly spilt coffee on the floor, which you will clean up but what of spilling some on your plant? And your plant's pot is not a convenient dustbin or chocolate wrapper hiding place. Some cleaning steps to follow are:
  • Clean your office plants once in 2 months.
  • If you can see obvious dust on the plants, clean them more often.
  • For firm wide leaf plants, use a soft sponge or cloth from an old shirt (plants have feelings too, use soft cloths) to clean them.
  • Do not use paper towels or tissues, they leave lint on the plant's leaves.
  • Wipe away dust from a leaf with water. Clean both sides and the top and bottom of the leaf.
  • Try to minimize usage of leaf shine products. They have chemicals which can worsen leaves with over-use.
  • Remove any dead leaves or flowers or stems from the plant, even in the pot.
  • Get rid of any insect bodies in the pot and on the plant, live or dead.
  • Once in a while, the plant's pot needs to be cleaned. Transfer the plant to another pot, empty the soil and soak the pot in a soap and water solution for sometime. This should get rid of any mold or bacteria in the pot itself.
Plants Need Water
The problem with plants is that they don't talk or make any noise. This silent trait of theirs is highly conductive for an office and to install a quiet, serene environment. However, silence also means you tend to ignore their needs. So you may forget to water them. Or may water them too much. The following are some dos and don'ts for office plant feeding:
  • Put an alarm, write sticky-notes, make your co-workers remind you.. do whatever it takes but remember to water your plants regularly.
  • Consider the plant's watering needs. Some plants need regular water, some don't. Cactus plants need watering once a month, ferns and spider plants need water once a week.
  • Look for brown tipped leaves on your plant. This is a sign there are too many chemicals in the water used for the plant. Leave tap water out for an hour before using it on the plant. Dried brown leaf tips can also mean you are not watering the plant enough or over-hydrating it.
  • Check soil dampness levels by inserting your finger into the potted plant's soil, about 1 inch deep. If it is wet and moist, do not water the plant until the soil turns dry. If the soil is dry, water the plant until the water drains out from the bottom of the pot.
  • Do not use water at an extreme temperature, that is, either too hot or too cold. Room temperature water should be used.
  • Do not let water run-off collect at the bottom of the plant, the plant might rot.
  • If the plant is kept throughout in water, like a lucky bamboo or a money plant, then empty out the pot and refill with fresh water. Do this once in a while.
Mind the Small Stuff
Aside from water and being cleaned, some miscellaneous points that your office plants needs tending to include:

Soil
  1. Use a fork or a pen to loosen the top layer of soil in the plant's pot. Do this once a month.
  2. Give your plant a treat by applying some fertilizer. Just a little is required and only once a month.
  3. Change the soil in a potted plant once a year. New soil means renewed nutrients and minerals for the plant.
  4. Adding new soil is the perfect time to inspect your plant's roots. If they are tangled in a mess, you need to re-pot the plant in a bigger container.
Location
  1. Plants need sunlight but the amount varies according to their species. Some species, especially flowering plants, will need bright sunny light consistently. Others like succulents, are satisfied with moderate amounts.
  2. A tubelight or lamp is artificial light, plants need sunshine or natural light from time to time. So a large window or a sky light is a good natural light source.
  3. Bright surfaces reflect light and dark surfaces make it darker, keep this in mind when placing a plant on a surface.
  4. Whatever the plant species, do not place it in a dark, dingy corner.
  5. Rotate your plant's pot or vase from time to time, so that all sides of the plant can catch the sun's rays.
  6. Do not keep plants near an air-conditioner or heating ducts and vents. This sort of high or low temperature settings can seriously damage your plant.
Sometimes even with a lot of care, your office plant can wither and die. This could be due to it being ill-suited to living in your office environment. The harsh, often freezing and low-light environment of an office is difficult for most plants to adapt to yet there are some species that can handle such living conditions. Do yourself a favor and pick a plant species that is capable of living in an office and requires little to no maintenance on your part. Do not attempt to turn your office into a greenhouse!