How to keep your desk plant alive

Is your desk plant needing some R&R?

Indoor plants bring a sense of life to a space, improve air quality and inspire creativity in the workplace. However, while we may have the right intentions, keeping indoor plants healthy and happy can be difficult when set against office conditions. Thankfully, Melissa King, horticulturalist and ambassador for Nylex and Northcote Pottery knows how to combat air-con and fluorescent lights. Here's what you need to know: 

Pick the right plants

The first step for a healthy plant is to choose a species that thrives on low-light and low-watering. Melissa recommends Zanzibar gem, Draceana and Mother-In-Law’s tongue due to their low maintenance nature and durability in dry conditions. If you're after something flowering, a Peace lily offers a pop of colour on your desk space. 

While succulents and cacti are a popular choice, they will struggle without direct sunlight. So unless there's a sunny windowsill to soak up some rays, opt for a species that won't mind fluorescent lights. 

Check hydration

Most offices use air conditioning, which can dry your plants and leave them dehydrated. While it's important to keep them hydrated, there is a risk of drowning them. "When it comes to watering, the biggest mistake people make is is to over-water desk plants, Melissa explains.

To avoid this, Melissa offers a top tip that will give you an indication of the hydration levels. "Before watering the plant, poke your finger into the soil and feel for moisture. If the soil is dry at the point of your second knuckle, then you know the soil needs watering."

For plants such as ferns, orchirds or tropical indoor plants, use a handheld spray to gently spray mist as to delicately hydrate and create a bit of humidity. Melissa encourages the plants to be sprayed in the morning, so the water doesn't sit on the foliage overnight and form fungal disease.

Cover and protect

For practical measures, Melissa recommends putting your plant in a cover pot, also known as a cache pot. "Basically it’s like a seasonal jacket for your plants," she says. 

The cover pot is without a drainage hole, so there's no danger of water leaking onto your desk or damaging appliances. However, it's important to consider the risk of water build up at the bottom. For this, Melissa recomends taking the plant into a sink to water the plant, let it drain and then put it back in the pot to absorb.

Watch out for dust

While our desk plants don't have a very mobile life, they do need a bit of a dust off every know and then to keep the flow of oxygen clear. As Melissa explains, "Dust can clog the pores that help plants to breathe. So when you notice them getting dusty, either wipe them down with a moist cloth, or take them outside and just give them a little bit of a blast or a shower with the hose to wash off those dust particles."

Keep an eye out for disease

"The lovely thing about having a plant on your desk is that you’re close to that plant," Melissa says. "So you're seeing pest and disease problems early and you’re able to see if it needs watering."

If your plant is looking a bit poorly over time, it could be an attack of mealybugs or fungus gnats - a common pest for indoor plants. 

To boost the health of your soil, Melissa recommends using liquid fertiliser that is mixed with water to be used frequently in the growing season, and sparingly in winter. 

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