AMES, Iowa – Office plants are popular additions to any workspace and bring life and color to the office. As COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of American life, many individuals are now doing their office work in their homes. As you gather your laptop and other supplies for extended time at home, don’t forget your office plants.
In this article, horticulture and integrated pest management experts with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach remind Iowans that many office plants won’t survive several weeks without maintenance; bring them home to brighten up your home office.
It is important to secure your plant for its ride to your home. This may sound obvious, but you don’t want it rolling around, damaging leaves, breaking stems or spilling soil. This can be detrimental to your plant, and you don’t want to be cleaning up soil from your car seats. Putting the pot in a box or bucket works nicely, or securing it with the seatbelt or twine/rope. Also placing the plant on the floorboards or the cargo space behind the back seat of SUVs might work, depending on the size of the plants.
If you have to move plants on one of our colder Midwestern March days, be sure to bag the plants in a trash bag or something to hold warmth, and if possible, have your car running and warm near your office building so they don’t spend much time outdoors.
Light, watering and fertilizer
Many office plants get their light from fluorescent lights in your workspace. Find a good location in your home to place your temporary guest. Most indoor plants do well when placed in brightly lit locations near a window. If you are unsure of the amount of light your plant should receive, do some online research, or dive into the search function on hortnews.extension.iastate.edu and find your plant’s needs.
Continue to water your plants. Be careful of overwatering with pots that have no drainage holes; you don’t want to keep the roots constantly wet. A good rule in general is to water when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. When watering, continue to apply water until water begins to flow out the bottom of the pot. Discard the excess water.
Fertilizing your plants will keep them healthy and growing by providing essential plant nutrients. Use a complete fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Houseplant fertilizers are available in liquid, crystalline, granular, spike and tablet forms. Frequency of application depends upon the product and varies from every two weeks to once every 3-4 months. Carefully read and follow label directions.
If needed, spring is a good time to repot your houseplants, and what better time to repot your office plants while stuck at home. The new pot should be no larger than 1-2 inches wider in diameter than the old one. It should also have drainage holes in the bottom. Once repotted in an appropriate potting mix, water thoroughly.
Remember that taking care of a living, growing plant can add some stability in unstable times.