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Before you haul your house plants to work, though, consider:  

1.  Plants need light, and the more natural it is, the better. If you work in a windowless cubicle, you might have trouble keeping a house plant alive. Some plants do OK under fluorescent lighting, but others are just too fragile. Choose a variety that tolerates low light, like dracaena, especially the ones that look like corn plants, or pothos, philodendron or peace lily.  

2. The other thing house/office plants can’t live without is water. At home, you’ve got faucets all over the place, in the kitchen, the bathroom, the laundry room and maybe even on the patio. At work, you might have to walk a good way to get to water, so it’s more of a hassle to take care of your plants. If you don’t water them, they’ll die. And if you over water them, they’ll die. So water your plants regularly with a big enough drink that you flush the plant and the roots. You’ll know your plant has had enough when you see water draining into the drip saucer under the pot, so make sure there’s a saucer under there. Always use pots with drainage holes on the bottom or you won’t be able to judge how much water the plants need. If you want to water less, use a soil that retains moisture. If you love watering your plants, choose a coarse soil that dries quickly. A tip: You’ll harm your plants more if you over water than if you underwater. 

3. Plants can thrive even in a stuffy office with no open windows. This is how plants help you.Plants filter pollutants and even chemicals out of stale office air and return oxygen to help freshen that air. Too much carbon dioxide in an air-tight office building designed for energy efficiency can leave the people working in it feeling drowsy.
Just one potted  plant per 100 square feet can make a difference in the quality of your indoor air.

4. If you ignore a plant, even a hardy one like a golden pothos, it will wilt and eventually die.Live office plants need care even while you’re on vacation or out sick. So make arrangements with a co-worker to tend to your plants when you take time off. 

5. Like people, plants need food  to thrive. Any kind of plant in a container needs regular fertilizing. Choose a time-release fertilizer that comes mixed with soil or that you can sprinkle on top of the soil so it feeds your foliage a little at a time. You’ll only need to add more every couple of months. 

6. Transplant your office plants as they grow. When you buy a plant in a container, it probably looks the best it can, in that specific container. Unless you move it to a bigger pot, you’ll stunt its growth. A growing plant in a pot that’s too small will go downhill quickly.

7. Protect your plant from careless co-workers. Don’t let your colleagues empty their coffee cups or soda cans into your potted plants. Those pots aren’t trash cans, after all. Plants can live through a lot, but abuse like that will harm them.  

8. Select a good “home” for each plant. Avoid placing plants on heating or air conditioning registers or under vents that will blow hot or cold air on them.
Likewise, keep them off of computers or other equipment that radiates heat, not only because that can hurt the plant but because you risk getting water and wet soil on your expensive office machines. And place your plants out of high-traffic areas where they can get knocked over or brushed into too often.

9. Forget about flowering plants, unless you’re lucky enough to work in a corner office with big windows on both sides. Most flowering plants need more babying than you’ll be able to give them while you’re at work. But if your space has lots of light and you don’t mind watering, pruning off dead buds and keeping a careful eye on your plant’s progress, go ahead and  bring in colorful coleus, flowering geraniums, spider plants and even ferns. Otherwise, stay away from flowering annuals and more delicate, light-loving species.

  • Sanderson Ford

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