8 Common Mistakes That Kill Office Plants
In 13 years of experience in greening up office spaces and taking care of office plants, I have seen more dead plants than one can even imagine.
Many business owners and office managers are reaching out to me asking for help and an explanation of why plants just after 6-12 months are declining and look terrible.
Let’s put a stop to this very frustrating experience today!
I have put together the list of the top 8 most common green mistakes many offices make and as a result, plants do not thrive and a lot of money is wasted as plants need to be replaced more often or discarded too soon.
So, let’s talk about these 8 most common mistakes:
#1 Selecting the wrong plants
This mistake is at the top of my list.
This happens when someone in the office is assigned to select plants and does so based on how plants look or which plants they like and not if those plants are the right choice for the space.
For example, Fiddle Leaf Fig - the queen of every interior design magazine and Instagram feed, plant that everyone wants.
Given the recent popularity of Fiddle Leaf Figs, it's no wonder that many offices have been decorated with them. They were placed in dark corners as well as in windowless conference rooms, dressed up in dimmed light wellness rooms, and greeted people at the elevator halls.
These areas don't get enough light for this plant type, so it starts dropping leaves, looking bare, and eventually becomes an eyesore. To avoid this mistake it is best to consult plant specialists and ask for their recommendations or carefully assess the office lighting situation and select plants that are best for it.
Luckily, online or retail plant shops have all plants categorized and labeled by light and care requirements which will help you to make the right choice.
#2 Trusting your interior decorator with plant selection
A lot of times offices rely on the recommendations of an interior designer or an architectural firm that selects plants mostly for aesthetic reasons and does not check if the light environment works for the selected plants.
I have seen Fiddle Leaf Figs, Lemon Trees, Bird of Paradise plants placed in some very gloomy areas to liven and brighten those areas up, or Monsteras, Dracaenas, and Aglaonema plants placed by a south-facing window and being burned by strong sun rays and long sun exposure.
It is best to ask your designer or an architect to consult a plant specialist or ask them to mark areas of your office where they would like to add plants so you can reach out and work with a plant company to green up your office and do it right.
#3 Placing plants in restrooms
The worst place to keep your office houseplants is in a restroom without windows.
Restroom artificial light is often dimmed or the light is on only when the restroom is in use, which doesn't provide enough light for indoor plants.
If your office restroom doesn't have any windows, I would recommend using artificial plants or plant art, like photos or paintings.
#4 Placing plants in low or no natural light rooms that have automatic light sensors
Most conference rooms these days are automatically outfitted with light sensors and if these rooms are not in use, which happens often, the light is turned off.
Avoid placing plants in rooms with limited natural light or where artificial light is controlled by automatic sensors. Remember that houseplants need a minimum of 6-8 hours of consistent light exposure for at least 5 days a week.
#5 Turning office cleaning crew into plant care specialists
Many offices are asking their cleaning crew to water and care for plants.
The problem here is that the cleaning crew does not have enough time to attend to plants properly, check the soil to make sure plants are ready to be watered, trim and clean leaves, and carefully check plants for any pest issues because they are on a very tight schedule to complete their main responsibility - to clean the space + not all cleaning crews have a person with basic plant knowledge and experience with the office environment challenges and plant care requirements.
#6 Not keeping building staff informed
Another issue I have run into with the building staff, especially with the cleaning team, is that they often water plants even if they are not asked to do so if they think that the plants look a bit sad or if some leaves are turning yellow or the topsoil looks too dry.
Many plants get overwatered because of this as not many people know that droopy and/or yellow leaves sometimes are a sign of overwatering or that some plants prefer the soil to be bone dry all the way through before getting a drink.
To avoid this from happening, notify the building staff or your cleaning team that plants do not need any extra care, and make sure to put up “DO NOT WATER” signs on your plants.
#7 Asking an employee to care for office plants
When an office has an employee who loves plants and is willing to take care of them at work, the office will often assign that person to be in charge of the plants.
The issue here, I am sure most office managers know this better than anyone, is that there is always a time when this person gets too busy with his or her main job responsibilities, and needs to put all the attention on a project that has a deadline, goes away on a business trip or just takes a few weeks off.
And what happens then? Plants are neglected and declining, and some will not recover from this neglect even after the attention is shifted back to them.
The result - the plant care person feels terrible, and guilty and needs to discard plants that are beyond saving, the manager is stressed out as the big meeting with clients is coming up and plants in the conference room look horrible…
So, if you have more than 5 plants in your office, hire plant care specialists to care for your plants so you can do your job guilt-free.
#8 Not keeping and not sharing plant care notes
So let's say there are only 1-5 plants in your office.
The receptionist offered to care for plants and he or she has plenty of time to attend to plants and properly care for them. Great!
The most common mistake in this scenario is not keeping a plant care calendar or notes, and not having another person in the office who knows where to find those notes and what needs to be done in the absence of the main plant care person.
To avoid this mistake, keep notes and have someone else informed about the plant care process so plants can be properly cared for when your plant caretaker is on vacation, took a few sick days, or left the job.
So let’s recap. It is evident that keeping plants in an office can be a difficult task.
Proper plant maintenance is not a quick job that can be done in five minutes. Professionals typically spend several hours taking care of all the plants in a medium-sized office.
For the best results, hire professional plant specialists to take care of your office plants so you always have healthy and beautiful plants in your workplace.
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