GO­ING GREEN AT THE OF­FICE

Bring­ing the out­doors in makes for a bet­ter work­ing en­vi­ron­ment

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY ANN MARIE O’PHEL AN Ann Marie O’Phe­lan is a South­west Florida res­i­dent and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

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 at the Univer­sity of Florida’s In­sti­tute of Food and Agri­cul­tural Sci­ences (UF/IFAS) 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,” says 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 the Sani­belCap­tiva Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion (SCCF) 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.

Just a bit of green­ery in an oth­er­wise drab of­fice can change the mood and pro­duc­tiv­ity of many of­fice work­ers.

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