indoor plants

The Office Jungle

The Office Jungle

A lot of us spend half of our waking hours in an office—often an office with drab walls and colourless furniture that creates claustrophobia. I always feel much more comfortable in an office that has a few plants in it. The simple beauty of plants is more than enough justification to fill the office with them.

Due to the nature of most working environments, plants in the office will almost always be grown in containers. Indoor container gardening requires procedures and planning a little different than regular outdoor gardening; for the best results, there are a few simple points to keep in mind.

First, choose containers that will match the office decor. Colour, shape, and size should complement, not compete with, other elements of the office design. Ceramic pots are an attractive choice; they’ll be at home in most office environments. Plastic is lightweight, durable,
and retains water well, but often the selection of styles and colours is somewhat limited.

Anything grown in containers should be planted in potting soil, not regular garden soil. Ordinary soil gets packed solid in containers, which can choke roots; potting soil is looser, giving roots room to breathe. Since potting soil is actually a soilless mix, it’s free of most soil-borne diseases common to garden soil.

Careful attention needs to be paid to the feeding and watering of office foliage. Most indoor plants like a dose of 20-20-20 fertilizer once every two weeks during the growing season. During periods of slow growth or dormancy, fertilize at 1/2 rate every two to four weeks. At
Hole’s we often feed plants with Nature's Source 10-5-3.

Transplanted potted plants should be started off with 10-52-10 at a low concentration of 2.5 ml per litre of water, repeated every two weeks for up to one month. The high phosphorus content (represented by the middle number in 10-52-10) is important for root development.

Different plants have different watering requirements; check with your garden centre when you buy the plants to find out the particulars. In general, the most important thing to remember is to prevent the plants from drying out. Consistent watering is much better for the plant than droughts followed by overwatering. For most indoor plants, wait until the soil surface is dry; then water thoroughly, enough so that the excess starts to flow out of the pot’s drain holes. On a related note, most indoor plants require high humidity. If the office is dry, pots should be placed in water-filled trays that have a layer of pebbles for the pot to rest on. (This prevents the water from entering through the pot’s drainage holes and saturating the soil.) The water from the tray will evaporate over time and raise the humidity level of the area around the plant.

Indoor plants are often prone to attack from insect pests. To combat this, you may have to spray with insecticidal soap every so often.Plants should be checked regularly for bugs to prevent them from being overwhelmed. Plants with smooth foliage should be syringed or gently rinsed once a month to get rid of dust and grime; buildup of these materials can inhibit plant respiration. Larger plants with sturdy leaves can be wiped with a damp cloth or sponge. For stubborn dust, try a very weak tea solution; it will keep the foliage nice and shiny.

It’s important to choose the right spots for your plants. All plants need some sunlight, even if it’s indirect; try giving them spots near windows, or be prepared to supplement natural light with grow lights. If you use hanging baskets, avoid spots where they could interfere with foot traffic or access to supplies. Plants should never be placed to close to machines like computers or photocopiers; these devices give out heat that dries out plants very quickly. There’s also some danger to the machines; it’s not difficult to imagine spilling some water or fertilizer into a delicate piece of office equipment while tending to the plants. Drafty spots need to be avoided, too; air movement will dry out plants, so avoid spots next to air conditioners or fans.

Probably the most important decision you have to make is what to plant. Are you more interested in bright splashes of colour, or low maintenance? You might not have a good deal of time to invest in your office garden—in that case, look at choosing low-maintenance plants like cacti. You might even want to grow a few herbs to add some zing to those bag lunches or microwaveable soups.

Before you buy any plants for the office, do a survey of your coworkers to discover their preferences—some might have allergies, so this too must be taken into consideration. It’s also a good idea to know who will be responsible for the plants; indoor plants need consistent, regular care. Watering, fertilizing, checking for insects—none of these tasks can be ignored while the primary caregiver is on a two-week vacation, so it might be necessary to select only low-maintenance plants.

Whether you choose a simple cactus or an indoor palm, a single pot or a dozen, plants bring a touch of nature to the office that makes work a lot less stressful.

Office Plant Varieties

There are a staggering number of plants suitable for office use. Here’s a breakdown of some of the popular varieties.

Plants for low maintenance • For offices on the go, there are several choices • cacti, Sansevieria (Snake Plant, Mother-in-Law’s tongue), spider plants, Bromeliads, Aspidstra (Cast Iron Plant, Barroom Plant), and succulents (aloe, jade plant, burro’s tail) are but a few. Plants in terrarriums require very little maintenance after the initial setup; terrarriums may be the best choice of all for some hectic offices.

Plants for fragrance • Jasmine, Gardenia, and Stephanotis all have lovely fragrances, but they require careful attention; if you must have fragrance in the office, be prepared to spend some extra time looking after them.
Plants for colour • Poinsettias, Crotons, and Pot mums all add bright splashes of colour to the office.
Plants for low light levels • For spaces that receive no direct sunlight or are more than 3 metres away from windows or skylights, there are a number of tropical plants that can adapt to this kind of environment. Asparagus fern, Aspidistra, Chinese evergreen, Kentia Palm, Neanthe Bella Palm, Peace Lily, and Sansevieria are all good choices.
Non-tropicals • Herbs are great for flavouring, and they also make attractive greenery. Make sure they’re placed in an area with plenty of light.
Holiday plants • Easter lilies and poinsettias are lovely additions to the office, and can be enjoyed for longer than just the duration of the holidays. Easter lilies only last three or four weeks, but properly maintained poinsettias bought in December are known to provide colourful leaves until May.
Plants for desktops • African Violets are perfect for desktops—they’re small, easy to care for, and grow well under artificial light.

Pets and Poisonous Plants - The Overblown Myths

A few times a month I get calls or queries about poisonous houseplants and garden plants and people's pets. Most often it is about their cat has eaten a plant they have determined to be poisonous. 

doggo eating grass.jpg

Most recently a customer came to me about her cat who was eating and chewing numerous plants that she read were poisonous and her cat was still very healthy. She was mystified why her cat was still doing well and would continue to chew plants that were suppose to be bad for her. 

After speaking with this lady I explained the whole poisonous plant myths. Take poinsettias as an example, every year I hear people who would never have a poinsettia in their house because of their cat. A cat could never consume enough poinsettias leaves to kill them. The leaves have a sticky sap and I have eaten some to prove they are not this deadly plant that kills pets and people. 

Over the last 50 years we have had several dogs and cats roaming our greenhouses when they were filled with poinsettias. Never did any one of them become poisoned by poinsettias or any other plant. 

We have grown thousands of other varieties of trees, shrubs, bedding plants, perennials, and houseplants in those years. 

The most common problem I have experienced with people and most often their cats, is they are damaging their plants by scratching, digging in the soil, and chewing off leaves. 

These problems are usually easy to solve by relocating and changing the plants. In some cases simply add rock to the soil surface, raise the plant, wrap the stem in a protective cover and prune it. 

One thing we must remember with pets is that they have evolved and survived by simply not eating too much of any plant and most have the ability to quickly vomit up anything that is discomforting.

In the last 50 years, we've found that healthy and safe homes can have both pets and plants living together with very few problems. 

Your Urban Oasis

TOMATOES ON THE 23RD FLOOR

“Gardens have an almost magical ability to transport us to another place, far away from our everyday stress and worries. You don’t have to live on a farm to experience the magic. You can carve out a vegetable patch in a tiny urban backyard. You can fill a windowbox with potting soil and create a flowerbed on your apartment balcony. You can even tend tomatoes on the 23rd floor of an office tower.” - Lois Hole, I’ll Never Marry A Farmer

BALCONY BEAUTIFUL

Spending time in nature can be difficult when you live in the city. Start by creating an inviting outdoor space for your family and friends to enjoy! Hole’s carries a huge selection of pre-made flower planters and hanging baskets to instantly make the outdoors actually feel like the outdoors. One quick stop at Hole’s Greenhouses and you’ll be enjoying your balcony like never before! Take advantage of our FREE planter delivery from June 16 to July 10!

FRESHEST FLAVOUR

Straight from your plant to your plate (or cocktail!)—it doesn’t get any fresher than that! Have you ever purchased herbs from the grocery store? They’re affordable and taste great, but after a day or two, they begin to wilt and end up in the trash. Growing your own herbs saves time and money, and prevents waste. Right now at Hole’s, save 25% on Lois Hole’s Herbs & Edible Flowers book with the purchase any of our herb plants!

YOUR URBAN OASIS

A breath of fresh city air—yes, it’s possible! The indoor air we breathe can be stale and unhealthy, but plants are natural air purifiers—and they look great too! Relax and breathe easy knowing your air is healthy and clean.

Where can you start? Try an easy-to-care-for indoor plant like a spider plant, ivy, or fern. Plus, from June 16 to July 10, get your indoor plant repotted for FREE with the purchase of any decorative pot!

No Space, No Problem! University of Alberta Students Build Sustainable Growroom

A group of University of Alberta students, lead by Hayley Wasylycia, are gaining attention after building an Urban Growroom on campus, based on Space10 Growroom’s open-sourced design. In fact, the University of Alberta’s Growroom is the first ever Space10 Growroom to be built outside of Denmark.

The Space10 Growroom is a multi-tiered, spherical garden, designed to alleviate the issues of available space that often arise when trying to integrate food and gardens into the urban landscape.

Hole’s Greenhouses is pleased to have been involved in the outstanding project, through the donation of greenery. Beyond urban growing and sustainability awareness, there are tremendous benefits on-campus Growrooms and plants have for students. With their air cleaning and oxygen producing capabilities, studies show that plants boost attention spans and increase productivity. A Growroom on campus provides students with a tranquil space to catch a breath of fresh air between classes, studying and exams.

The University of Alberta’s Urban Week event took place March 20th-24th, 2017, during which time the Space10 Growroom was on display. It will soon find a permanent home in Edmonton, and a permanent one on the University of Alberta campus is being explored.

Visit https://growroomyeg.com/ for more information and upcoming Space10 Growroom locations.

Study Better... Just Add Plants!

With final exams quickly approaching, Hole's Greenhouses is now offering students a 10% discount on indoor plants. With their air cleaning and oxygen producing capabilities, studies show that plants boost attention spans and increase productivity – making them your best study-buddy yet!

Check out these articles for more information on the benefits of plants:

House Plants Make You Smarter -Scientific American

Plants In Offices Increase Happiness & Productivity -The Guardian

Study better than every before... just add plants!

DIY: Build Your Own Terrarium!

Because a terrarium is a self-contained ecosystem, you must set it up properly the first time, using proper materials. Be sure to buy a high-quality potting mix and select the appropriate plants. 

Materials

Supplies needed:

  • One terrarium with air holes or a glass jar without a lid
  • Small gravel, pea rock or coloured glass
  • Jim Hole’s Potting Soil
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Decorative accessories (stones, drift wood, wtc.)
  • Plants (two or three for every 3L of space; avoid fuzzy-leaved plants – they hold water and are susceptible to rotting)

Preparing the soil

 Start by creating a 1 cm base of gravel at the bottom of the terrarium. The gravel provides proper drainage, which is important because the container has no holes. 

Next, cover the gravel with a layer of potting mix. At least 5 cm of mix is required, but the mix can come up as high as half the height of the terrarium. 

Note: Charcoal is not necessary. The common belief is that charcoal will ‘filter’ the soil and keep it clean, but activated charcoal becomes inactive as soon as it is exposed to carbon in the air. 

Transplanting

Space plants according to the mature height and spread listed on their tags. 

Prepare holes in the soil where the plants will go by gently scooping away enough potting mix to bury the roots to the same depth as they were growing in their pots. 

Remove plants from containers and examine the roots. Packed and tangled (rootbound) rootballs can be gently teased loose. Don’t worry if the soil falls off plants while transplanting. Losing some is fine. 

Place plants in prepared holes and gently firm the soil, being careful not to pack it. Remove any damaged leaves. 

Trimming the terrarium

Decorate the soil with bits of moss or add other finishing touches such as driftwood or decorative stones. You’re creating your own little world, so let your imagination guide you. 

Watering

Give plants a thorough watering, but don’t over water. A terrarium sustains itself, so the first watering is essential to establishing the correct moisture level. 

Watching it grow

Placing a terrarium in a direct sun might seem like a nice treat for your plants, but it’s the equivalent of steaming vegetables in a pot! 

If you didn’t use a container with air holes, don’t cover your terrarium with a lid. Although it’s possible to grow plants in a self-contained environment, it’s incredibly difficult and requires perfect light, temperature and humidity conditions. 

Visit Hole's today and find everything you need to create your own custom terrarium!