Biophilic elements within the workplace, such as plants and living walls, don’t just look good; they also offer proven benefits such as boosting the health, happiness, creativity, and productivity of employees.
Without proper care and maintenance, however, your office’s living decor will suffer. No one wants to be surrounded by tired-looking, wilted, or dry plants. Here’s how to ensure your natural office decor stays lush, green, and healthy for years to come.
All living things require water, and, of course, biophilic elements such as plants and living walls are no different. The problem within a workspace is that people often assume other staff members will water the surrounding plants regularly, without actually establishing this. Unfortunately, this will ensure one of two things:
No one ends up watering the plants within a workspace because everyone assumes it is someone else’s responsibility
Everyone (or multiple people) takes on the responsibility of watering the plants, resulting in them developing root rot or other issues from over-watering.
As a team, appoint just one person to be in charge of keeping plants and living walls watered, or develop a weekly watering schedule that sees a different person take on this responsibility throughout the week.
Of course, not all living decor is the same, and each plant will have different watering needs. The frequency of watering will depend on the size and type of plant, size and type of pot, temperature, humidity, and rate of growth.
As a general rule, water office plants slowly, using room temperature water, until water trickles through the drainage hole. You should also only water a plant when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch — never if the soil still feels damp from the previous watering. Allow the plant to drain thoroughly and avoid leaving the pot to stand in water for lengthy periods of time.
Living walls are a little different than standalone plants, but ensuring they receive adequate water is still simple. This is because well-designed living walls will feature a water tank that provides hydration to the entire collection of plants. Simply top this up when required to keep plants looking lush.
To prevent your living decor from becoming too unruly, you’ll also want to ensure it is pruned regularly. While you can allocate this task to a staff member from time to time, we recommend relying on a professional instead, as pruning requires more experienced plant knowledge.
The best time to prune indoor plants is right at the beginning of the growing season, for example, which usually occurs in late winter or early spring. For flowering plants, however, it is best to wait until right after a cycle of flowering before their growth is pruned.
While it might be tempting to grab the scissors from your desk drawer and get carried away trimming, we recommend you avoid the temptation. After all, doing so will likely cause more harm than good!
Professional gardeners will use hand-held pruners or secateurs to prevent damage to the plant. They will also know exactly where to trim the plant to ensure it continues to grow healthily, including above plant nodes.
You might be wondering why living decor would require cleaning, but even plants can gather dust, dirt, or grime on their leaves or receptacles. Particles floating around the air can easily land among these biophilic elements and clog the pores of the leaves. If the dust or dirt is thick enough, it can actually hinder the photosynthesis of the plant, causing healthy growth to slow or halt altogether.
To safely clean a large-leafed plant, moisten a soft cloth in lukewarm water and gently wipe each individual leaf. Use your other hand to support the leaf as you wipe it in order to prevent bruising or cracking it. Smaller-leafed plants can be turned upside down (while being supported with one hand) and their leaves can gently be swished in lukewarm water. Then, let the plants drip dry out of the sun.
Finally, if your living decor is made up of plants containing fuzzy leaves (such as African violets, lambs ear, or some Peperomia varieties, for example), then these leaves can easily be cleaned of dust and other debris using a soft-bristled brush.
Another key element to maintaining biophilic elements within your office is to provide food for the greenery. Plants that grow outdoors in the ground receive nutrients from the soil. However, in a living wall, the lack of soil means you'll need to manually add nutrients through fertilizer.