Interiorscape Tips to Keep Your Plants Living Longer

In the interiorscape business, the longer we keep our clients’ foliage looking green and beautiful, the better our profit margin. Since the plants live indoors, we have to imitate mother nature. Being an industry veteran, I’ve learned a few tips that can make a big difference in a plant’s life span and appearance. Rain, wind, and soil all play a part in keeping plants healthy and growing. Here are my top suggestions to reduce your plant replacement factor.

Interiorscape Tip #1: Act Like Mother Nature

A former interiorscape owner taught me how to help foliage open up when it’s struggling. For instance, white birds of paradise are one variety that often need assistance getting their new foliage to split open and expose the young leaves. Outside, the sun and wind help the tight leaves to grow properly. Inside, if I notice a new leaf has shot up but show no signs of opening for a few weeks, I run the tip of my nail along the seam from the top and follow it around to the bottom until the leaf begins splitting away from the center and can open much wider.

If the new leaf remains closed for several weeks, it will rot from the inside, because it cannot collect the sunlight needed to develop the chlorophyll. Marginatas are another plant whose leaves tend to stay closed in lower light situations as well. Another way you can imitate nature is by misting plants. With no rain to wash away pests, I routinely mist susceptible foliage like palms with a mixture of distilled water and a few drops of antibacterial soap. 

Interiorscape Tip #2: Rotation

On days when I’m tired, rotating a heavy potted plant ninety degrees is the last thing I want to do. However, I know, if I never turn a plant that has a strong source of light on one side, it will eventually start growing uneven and look odd. Whenever I notice leaves stretching out and beginning to look awkward, I will spin the container around, allowing the other side to grow. Generally, doing this once every other month is enough. The only time I don’t bother rotating is with plants in corners, against walls, or if it is directly planted.

Interiorscape Tip #3: Proactive Disease Control

As a technician, you see the same plants week after week. Noticing signs of disease is paramount to keeping plants looking good and avoiding a disease takeover. Watch for leaves or fronds turning from a healthy green to a light green or even a washed-out color. Take note especially if the color is spotty. Most likely, spidermites are attacking. Another possibility could be very high light situations in which normal fertilization is not enough to keep up with chlorophyll production.

Personally, I like to add compost products such as eggs shells or coffee grounds into the soil along with increasing regular fertilization to return the new growth to a deep green color. Another problematic sign new growth that doesn’t seem to be developing at a normal pace or if the new leaves are much smaller. You could have mealy bug hiding in the foliage. By sucking off the nutrients, they can stunt plant growth and, if not removed, they will take over an entire area and become your worst nightmare.

Interiorscape Tip #4: Consistency

Just like our children do better when they’re in a good daily routine, being as consistent as possible with servicing our accounts will keep foliage much happier and healthier. I’ve noticed being off one or two days can dramatically affect certain temperamental plants that are of more expensive varieties. Lose a Ming Aralia or a Rhapis Palm and that could mean three hundred dollars down the drain. I recommend watering all the way around the soil base of the plant container, not pouring in the same spot in a hurry. This technique helps give all the roots an even amount and prevents the soil from caving in and weakening the trunk of the plant. 

Keeping the same tech on the same accounts can also prevent plants from going into shock. Every person has a different style of plant maintenance, and even the best technicians need an adjustment period to figure out the unique dynamics of every account situation. It is far too easy for plants to be missed when you’re dealing with several floors, multiple buildings, and hidden offices. Pay a little more in salary, provide bonuses for low replacement factors, and show your team how much you appreciate them, and you could save your interiorscape business accounts, employees, and plants.  

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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