Interior plants – lockdown survival

July 16, 2020

In March, the great office exodus left tropical plants all alone, in darkened rooms throughout the country.  While personal desk plants were carefully transported home, company greenery was left behind in deserted buildings, leaving facilities managers to consider the ongoing plant maintenance.

‘Can’t we just water the plants ourselves?’, some asked. Well, the physical watering might not be an issue, the tricky part is giving the plant the correct quantity of water at the right intervals and not only do plants need a drink, they also require food for nourishment to grow and remain healthy. So, here’s why many of our customers have provided access for trained GP Plantscape technicians to continue maintaining their plants – protecting their investment and keeping them in prime condition for the eventual return of their colleagues.

Knowing how much is enough

Over watering is a most common problem when plants are cared for by the well-intentioned, but inexperienced. A plants root system needs oxygen as well as water and when it becomes saturated, the oxygen is eventually excluded, and the root system begins to rot. While the plant may look healthy enough initially, the decaying roots will eventually lead to its demise if the problem is not recognised and the plant is unable to dry out. Conversely, a plant which has been under watered is somewhat easier to rescue with some professional TLC, but denied hydration over a long period of time, will also eventually die.

Intimate knowledge

Plants become accustomed to their environment. Temperature, humidity, and light levels all play a part in shaping a plant’s home and ultimately determine how much food and water it requires. Therefore, the same type of plant may need different amounts of food and water depending on location. Through consistently servicing the same sites week in week out, the interior plant technicians develop an intimate knowledge of the individual plants and their environment to become skilled carers, providing food and water in the correct quantities just when it’s needed. At every single service visit, the technician is trained to observe changes, for example in leaf colouring, rigidity and drop, all indicators of the plant’s thirstiness enabling them to adjust the watering accordingly.

Plant stress

When offices were suddenly vacated, the plant’s surrounding atmosphere became altered. The lack of human presence reduced the carbon dioxide and body heat in the office atmosphere, while in some offices, lights remained switched off and heating turned down. Living plants, like people, can become stressed when their environment changes drastically and although they can adjust over time, some will need intervention to keep them thriving. Interior plant technicians have the expertise to recognise a plant unable to cope with these changes before it’s too late and, more importantly, can take action to reduce the plant trauma.

Pest control

As well as watering and feeding the interior technician regularly cleans the plant – dusting and shining – prunes and checks for pests. While the plant will handle a small build-up of ‘stour’, some pests left unchecked will quickly destroy the plant. Even in an empty office, pests such as red spider and mealy bug can still find their way into foliage.

Cost v cost saving

Living plants have become an integral part of the modern office environment, largely due to the increased recognition that natural surroundings have a positive impact on our well-being. Research has linked increased productivity and reduced absenteeism to the presence of plants in the office building. So, looking forward to the time when staff return to the office, providing a positive environment for employees will be crucial to successful re-migration from home to office – even if it is partial. Furthermore, plants left unattended will eventually flag, look dreadful and have to be replaced – a cost to be avoided. And lastly, tending plants takes time – time staff will be distracted from their core functions.

So, while the temptation to buy a watering can and ‘do it yourself’ may be appealing, it is worth considering the knowledge and time needed to ensure the office plants pull through the pandemic too.