4 “Plant Peeves” Only Experienced Interiorscapers Will Understand

Keeping a plant alive is something most interiorscapers can accomplish. Keeping a plant looking like it just came out of the greenhouse, however, is the real challenge. 

When your staff pays attention to details, it reflects in the quality of your interiorscape service. When a plant tech doesn’t, it shows even more. Here are some common service issues that can reflect poorly on the quality of your service.

Obvious Dead Ends

As experienced horticulturists, we sometimes forget trimming doesn’t come naturally to everyone. For example, after training a technician, I began to notice some of the Janet Craigs and corn plants had leaves that were cut straight across. Instead of being irritated, I realized I never explained how to trim in the natural shape of the leaf.  Most foliage is curved or triangle with a few exceptions, such as the Rhapis palm. Never assume a new tech will automatically trim in the natural shape of the leaf. Another tip that isn’t always common sense for new techs is to cut the edges that face the wall when possible. So if the plant starts to turn color at the cut, it wont be as noticeable from the front.

Dirty Dusty Foliage & Containers

There are certain interior circumstances that tend to create dirty environments, such as large open hallways, high foot traffic areas and building entrances. A mall is a perfect example of an account that would house these types of areas that are havens for dust which can easily collect on plant leaves and pots. When foliage becomes encrusted with dirt, not only is it unattractive but also unhealthy for plant growth and chlorophyll production. If you don’t keep up with regular dusting, it can become a nightmare to remove especially with small leaf plants such as ficus. I like to keep a spray bottle filled with soft water and a few drops of dish soap. Using soft water makes all the difference since hard water, like we have here in Florida, can leave mineral residue making foliage look even worse. Keeping extra items such as dusters, plant paws and clean towels with you on a regular basis makes dust removal more efficient. Many times, I’ve noticed that while the plant is clean, the container is spotted with mud or the rim is gray from a layer of dust. Often times this is a result of the tech cleaning the plant but forgetting to wipe down the decorative pot. If you see dirt spots on leaves, most likely the container has them as well.

Exposed Mechanics

When trying to keep top-heavy plant stocks from leaning, using green floral wire or fishing line can steady most problematic trunks. The first solution should be to add more soil to the container; second is pulling leggy stocks together with a thin wire or line. Top heavy plants not properly maintained not only look bad, but can also fall over risking damage to a client’s property or worse, hitting someone. Once foliage is secure, it’s important to make sure the wire is hidden as best as possible among the foliage. I’ve seen rope, black zip ties and rubber bands used to secure plants and nothing screams amateur more than a chain of rubber bands or scotch tap holding two mass cane trunks together.

Visible Grow Pots

Keeping a supply of moss on my cart when I service an account makes it easy to fix containers where the top dressing has deteriorated to the point that both soil and the ugly grow pot is showing. It’s a simple detail to correct, and yet I see it all the time. Nothing disappoints me more than when I see a beautiful atrium design that has black plastic pot rims poking up from the soil bed, like sunken tombstones in a graveyard. Again, this is an easy fix by either cutting off the exposed plastic, planting the pots deeper or adding more soil. Understandably, it takes more time and physical effort to walk back to your vehicle or the shop than to make the correction, so it is something typically missed over and over. The good techs, the ones that keep plants looking like new, are always conscientious of their work and always prepared with any material or tool they may need.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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  • Larry

    Its nice to know I’m not the only owner who deal with these peeves on a regular basis.

  • crazy_shar

    Thank you. From one Sherry to Another… You named 4 of mine

  • the Ficus Wrangler

    Great points, Sherry. But one thing was puzzling me as I read – if techs are trained, and there’s some kind of quality control from supervisors or some such, why do these things appear often enough to become “peeves?”

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