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RSW Living Magazine

Going Green at the Office: Bringing In The Outdoors Makes For A Better Working Environment

Jun 25, 2018 08:00AM
We are seeing bamboo added to floors, recycled furniture added to conference rooms and LED lights added to desk lamps. When it comes to greening up an office, however, the importance of potted plants cannot be overlooked. Office plants help purify the air, reduce noise, add oxygen and absorb organic compounds and carbon dioxide, not to mention they also help lift the spirits of office workers.

“I have a Boston fern and an English ivy,” says Tess Williams, a Southwest Florida resident who works in the building industry. Williams enjoys the texture and color that plants add to her cubicle, as well as having the chance to take care of them. “It’s kind of fun to water them and watch them grow,” adds Williams.

“Pothos, corn plants and dracaena plants do well with the low lighting that is often indicative of an office environment,” says Stephen H. Brown, horticulture agent, UF/IFAS (University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) Lee County Extension. These plants can withstand a decent amount of neglect that may occur when the owner of the plant is out of the office for an extended period. The plants are also slower growers, so they won’t outgrow their pots anytime soon. 

Although they are able to tolerate low moisture, it is still good to run them through a faucet once a month or so, and be sure to drain the pot completely. “Using a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer helps the plant thrive, and dusting off and misting the leaves also keeps the plant and leaves happy. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to take a closer look at the plant to see how it’s doing,” adds Brown. For example, if the leaves are browning or yellowing or showing signs of rust, there might be a watering or disease issue. Should this happen, you can contact the UF Extension for advice. 

The plants Brown recommends, as well as others that tolerate the indoors, such as aloe, areca palms, jade plants, peace lilies, philodendron, snake plant, spider plants and rubber tree plants, are generally easy to find in any local nursery. 

The Native Landscapes and Garden Center at SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) specializes in native plants that prefer outdoor light sources and the ability to spread their roots; however, the garden center does have a few that could adapt to indoor growing conditions.

“Coontie is tolerant of low light and dry soils, but don’t overwater this one, “says SCCF garden center manager Jenny Evans. Coonties grow slowly, so they won’t become root-bound in a pot quickly. 

Another suggestion by Evans is Florida peperomia, which is often used as a houseplant. It is tolerant of low light and dry soils but does not like to be overwatered. “This plant grows slowly and seems to do well in a pot for a long time,” says Evans. 

For large office interiors, there are companies that specialize in choosing and tending to the plants. For example, Sarasota-based Tropex sells, leases and maintains plantings for commercial interiors. It has several offices in the state, including Southwest Florida. The company has an 18,000-square-foot greenhouse with more than 3,000 plants in a variety of shapes and sizes. One popular option Tropex offers for the office is a living wall, which is partially or completely covered with greenery.

Whether adding a single plant or a whole wall, a business will see benefits. “I think the best benefit of adding an office plant is bringing in a touch of the outdoors, particularly if you are in an office or room with small windows or no windows,” says Evans.

Incorporating plants helps lend some life to an interior space; and research indicates that plants add to physical health by lowering blood pressure, lowering anxiety levels and increasing attentiveness. In an office, plants may improve workers’ well-being, thus helping improve attendance, and even raise job satisfaction.

“I know that the plants I have in my office have made me enjoy my day at the office more,” explains Williams. Her plants help Williams take her mind off a busy day or a pressing project. “If I just take a few moments to look at them, dust them off or water them, I switch my focus and it helps alleviate the stress,” adds Williams.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

SCCF Native Landscapes and Garden Center 

1300 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel 
239-472-1932; sccf.org

Tropex

800-874-8712
Fort Myers/Estero: 239-995-0855
Naples/Bonita Springs: 239-597-5656

UF/IFAS Lee County Extension

3410 Palm Beach Blvd., Fort Myers
239-533-7500; sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lee/

Written by Ann Marie O’Phelan, a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.