Office Plants Care Guide

Have questions about your office plants? Hopefully we have the answers. Below are some of our most frequently asked questions, but if you don’t see your question below feel free to send us an email or give us a call. We’re passionate plant experts and we love to share what we know.

WATERING

There are typically two types of plants used in office settings: desert-based succulents and tropical plants that grow beneath jungle canopies. Both types require a different approach.

An indoor tropical

For tropical plants used to moist substrate and humid air, touch the surface of the soil with your finger. It should feel slightly damp but not leave any residual moisture on your skin. If your finger comes up wet, you’re over-watering. If the surface is dry, your plant probably needs a drink.

A succulent arrangement

For succulents, the surface of the soil should typically be dry but slightly damp an inch below. These plants typically grow in arid environments and are used to unreliable rainfall. Think of them as the camels of the plant kingdom. Because they are built to store water over long periods, they soak up as much water as they can when they can get it. While this can be nice for the casual plant enthusiast because of the reduced maintenance requirements, it’s very easy to drown them. If your succulent sags or looks droopy, it’s probably over-watered. If its skin begins to prune, it might be time to hydrate.

To know how often you should water your plant it is always helpful to do a little research into your specific plant, but even without having a background on your plant you can get an idea of whether or not it needs to be watered using a finger test. A finger test is a way of testing the moisture level of the top soil on your plant. It is done by sticking a finger in the top soil down to your first knuckle (about an inch) to determine if the soil in the root zone is damp. If the soil is dry below the surface, it is time to water.
Filtered, distilled, or tap water. Tap water is perfectly acceptable however, can sometimes contain high levels of chlorine, fluoride and other minerals that can be damaging to some plant types over time. To rid tap water of minerals, let water sit overnight allowing for these minerals to escape as gas.
While some people may prefer a cold shower in the summertime, plants like it consistent. The best temperature is room temperature, which is what the plant itself maintains in order to avoid thermal shock. In an office setting, avoid using chilled water. Try to keep temperature fluctuations to a minimum, bearing in mind how these plant would experience the seasons in their natural habitat. While it may be tempting to use the office cooler, remember the water in these units is often chilled.
Tropical and subtropical plants suffer the most from thermal shock, which is why these plants are often found in a greenhouse.
If your plant container feels heavy and the plant is drooping, you probably have a water-log crisis. Fungus gnats are also a sign of too much water. If you see many small black bugs circling your plant, reduce the frequency of watering and check to be sure you don’t have standing water at the bottom of your pot.
To save a waterlogged plant, place several sheets of newspaper in a pan or basin, lay the pot on its side, and slide out the root ball. Allow the root ball to dry out in newspaper overnight. Use clean, sharp scissors to cut off any dark-colored or slimy roots before repotting the plant in fresh potting soil. Adding small stones or pieces of broken clay– a flower pot of broken glass helps prevent this problem by promoting good drainage.
If a plant dries out so severely that it collapses, promptly place it in a bowl or a sink of lukewarm water. It is possible that it will be so dry it floats. Use a cup to slowly pour water on to the top of the soil repeatedly and allow the plant to soak for 30 minutes. Remove the plant and place it on a dish rack until excess water dries away. Most plants will recover from being dried out for short periods of time, but repeated trauma can become an issue.


LIGHT

Light is the single most important determining factor in the health of a plant. Think of it as your plant’s food. If the plant becomes malnourished, it’s more susceptible to sickness and disease. When plants are deprived of light, watering and fertilization are meaningless–it won’t have the energy to process, and plants placed in dark areas can often drown because they’re too exhausted to be able to absorb water.

Plants for the office typically come in two flavors: shade-loving tropicals and succulents. Both of these types of plants are chosen for their hardiness and adaptability, but there is one key thing to look out for to ensure they maintain optimal health.

Exposure to sunlight. This may seem like a no-brainer but the intensity and duration of sun as well as the cardinal direction of the office window all have a great impact on your plant. However not all plants like direct sun. Indoor tropicals typically prefer indirect light, while succulents usually do best when placed directly at a window. At Greenery NYC, we also provide low profile LED lighting solutions to optimize growth in offices without access to direct light.

It is always helpful to do a little research into your specific plant to determine its light requirements. Most plants need a minimum of three hours of natural sun just to survive, and most will do best with six hours of bright indirect light. Plants that require high light prefer at least four hours of direct sun from a southern or eastern exposure. Plants that prefer low light should be placed away from windows in bight north or west facing rooms.
Plants that are native to the under canopy of forests are the most adaptable to low-light office conditions. The best office plants are those that are versatile and can survive in low light to bright indirect light conditions and sustain the dry air environment that often is found in office spaces. All of the plants on our online shop have been selected for this reason and are some of the best choices in office plants.

Normal household bulbs do not emit the full spectrum of light that a plant needs for good growth. In offices, plants are often subject to fluorescent lighting, which can be enough to keep low-light tolerant plants like pothos alive, although not thriving. High pressure sodium lights provide adequate light but get very hot to the touch and can dry a plant out, as well as being a little too bright for the office.

At Greenery NYC we prefer to use the latest in LED lighting technology, not only for its low profile and pleasant light, but because the energy demands are minimal in comparison to more traditional sources. LED lights are smaller and fit into more unique spaces, from desk lamps to ceiling hanging pendant lights to light strips. Contact us today for an assessment of your office space.



MAINTENANCE

All plants go through a certain level of dormancy in the winter, but in office spaces or areas with centralized air there is often a rough adjustment once the winter heat kicks in. Office plants will dry out much quicker than usual, and it’s not unusual for plants to shed their leaves and go through a mild state of shock.

The watering schedule will change for your plant with the seasons. For instance, in Autmumn new growth slows as the days become shorter, resulting in the need for less water. As the indoor humidity level drops and as the winter heating season begins, you can carefully increase the watering levels until the plants appear content.

Cactus will be dormant in the winter and require very little watering. If the soil is totally parched, give it a little drink.
Some plants can tolerate pots without drainage, but they are doing just that – tolerating. There is no plant that will be truly succesful without drainage of some kind.
Containers for plants must have dranage holes in the bottom. Without proper drainage, roots suffocate and are unable to receive oxygen potentially causing root rot. Some signs of poor drainage are yellow, brown, or rotting leaves. Soil may also appear overly saturated
As a general rule, you fertilize plants whenever they are actively producing new growth, which for most plants is in the spring and the fall, when light levels are high. Plants that stay under bright light in the winter should be fed too, but only if they are doing well. If a plant that is doing poorly is fed in the winter it is likely to crash.
Your plant may need to be repotted if there’s little to no new growth, the roots are sneaking out of the pot, the plant frequently tips over, the plant is chronically thirsty, salt deposits have formed, and lastly if the plant has been in the same pot/soil for several years.
The browning on the tips of the leaves on a plant is considered a physiological disorder, and is one of the most common. The browning of leaf tips can be caused by tainted water, erratic watering, over feeding or a combination of factors. Plants with long strappy leaves are the most typical to develop these symptoms because moisture and nutrients much make such a long trip to cells at the leaf tips to keep them well supplied with moisture and nutrients. If the browning leaves are a bother, you can improve your plants’ appearance by either snipping the brown bits off with a pair of sharpened scissors, or cutting the leaf at an angle that appears natural. Whichever way you do cut it, be sure to cut just outside the line where the green leaf tissue turns brown. Cutting in the green part of the leaf can cause a new browning margin.

There are various reasons why there may be white powder on the leaves of your plant. One reason could simply be dust that can easily removed using a damp rag, on the other hand white residue could be a sign of an infestation. White residue is the most common first sign of a mealy bug infestation.