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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Reviving green desk-mates

As offices re-open, many employees have returned to their desks to discover that their once well-tended workplace plants may not have stood up too well to the stresses of isolation.

If you’ve returned to work to find your office plants looking limp and less than happy, there are some quick and easy ways to breathe life back into your indoor beauties.

Here, Melissa King, horticulturalist and Northcote Pottery Brand ambassador, shares her top tips for reviving office plants after self-isolation:

  • Soak severely parched plants: Overwatering is usually the biggest threat to indoor plants, but since isolation has kept us out of the office, drying out is the more likely cause of plants looking lifeless. If your plants are severely parched, start by giving them a good soak in a bucket of water. Mix in a wetting agent to aid moisture absorption. Leave the plant submerged in the bucket until bubbles have stopped forming, an indication that the root ball is wet all the way through. 
  • Encourage growth with a trim: Give plants a good tidy up and encourage fresh new growth by trimming off any brown or yellow leaves and stems. Be sure to cut close to the base. 
  • Dust off: If dust has accumulated on leaves, gently wipe each with a clean, moist cloth. 
  • Re-position: The hours and direction of sunlight have changed over the past few months, so you may need to relocate plants to a spot where they will receive bright but indirect sunlight. 
  • Check for pests: It’s important to check for signs of pests or disease that may have taken advantage of your plants stressed state and treat them accordingly. 
  • Add a touch of tonic: Give each plant weekly doses of a seaweed-based plant tonic. This will help reduce stress, stimulate strong, healthy root growth, and aid recovery.

Plant selection

For those looking to add some greenery to their workspace, we asked Melissa for her top selections, including hardy options for those whose green thumb may be lacking. They are:

200mm Zanzibar Gem $32.90, Bunnings
  • Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata): It copes with low levels of light and it’s as tough as old boots. Plus, it has a striking upright form, which makes a real statement in the office.
  • Zanzibar Gem (Zamioculcas zamifolia): Another top desk plant, with thick, glossy cycad-like foliage. It has an enviable reputation for being virtually indestructible and grows well with low light and low water.
  • Dracaena: If you have space for a feature plant, try growing a Dracaena. They’ll grow happily anywhere from a dark corner of the office to a well-lit position. For a splash of colour, you can’t go past Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolour’ with decorative striped cream, green and pink foliage that lights up your workplace all year round.
  • Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum): If you want to add greenery at all levels, look out for tough hanging indoor plants like Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum), which look magnificent cascading from desks and shelves.

Bunnings horticulturist Katy Schreuder also suggests:

  • Swiss Cheese Plant: Easy to care for, it makes a bold statement in any room. Prefers a large pot and support for big leaves as they grow.
  • Peace Lily: Tolerates lower light levels and needs frequent watering. Expert tip: When your Peace Lily leaves start to droop this is when it needs to be watered.
  • Cacti and succulents: Small and unobtrusive, they can make a perfect addition to a desk and require very little maintenance. Place them in brightly lit spot and let the soil dry out between watering. Expert tip: Group a few cacti and succulents together to create an interesting decorative display.

Don’t forget

  • Some indoor plants thrive in low light, others need brighter conditions to flourish, so consider their light requirements when you are placing them around the office.
  • Do your plants a favour by keeping them away from heaters and blasts of cold air.
  • Don’t worry about not being there on the weekends to water. Overwatering is one of the biggest killers of office plants. Always allow the soil to dry out between watering and if you’re unsure whether to water, do the ‘finger test’. Simply poke your finger into the soil. If it’s dry down to your second knuckle it’s time to get out the watering can.

Say hello to Plant Pals

With interest in gardening increasing during COVID-19, a new campaign has launched to keep Australians engaged with their green thumb as restrictions ease.

Garden Centres Association of Australia (GCA) members have joined together with the greenlife industry to create Plant Pals, an initiative designed to connect new, novice and emerging gardeners with greenlife experts.

By providing simple and easy to follow advice, the campaign aims to ensure that new gardeners are successful gardeners and that they can continue to reap the benefits of greenlife in their homes.

For more information, head to www.plantpals.com.au or look out for #PlantPals on social media.

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