A TOP 10 OF OFFICE PLANTS

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The Independent Online
1 Ficus benjamina The most popular of the evergreen ficus varieties, benjamina has smooth leaves on drooping branches and tolerates poor light. In its winter dormancy it needs less water. Make sure you sponge the leaves regularly.

2 Kentia palm An elegant member of the palm family. Plant it in a compost made up from equal parts of loam, sharp sand and peat.

3 Spathiphyllum Sometimes called "white sail", this broad-leaved plant is notable for its long-lasting white flower shaped like a spinnaker. If well fed it can flower both in the spring and in the autumn. This is a plant that should be re-potted annually.

4 Dracaena Tall plant with long, spiky leaves, often variegated in combinations of green and white. Needs a fair amount of light.

5 Philodendron scandens Vigorous and hardy, with dark, shiny, heart-shaped leaves, scandens can survive quite low temperatures.

6 Yucca Spiky-leaved plant that comes on tall or short stems, depending on the variety. Bears small white flowers. Quite hardy.

7 Aglaonema This is a plant with broad, often variegated leaves that likes to be in the shade. It is important to keep it fairly moist by spraying the leaves.

8 Chamaedorea Another palm (for a suitable potting mix, see kentia), notable for its notched green stem.

9 Aechmea Most popular of the bromeliads, with broad, grey-green leaves and a pink central flower that appears spasmodically. Keep fairly dry in winter.

10 Hedera The common ivy comes in many varieties and is useful if there is a structure for it to climb over. Sponge leaves regularly. Potting mix as for palms.

CULTIVATION HINTS The plants listed above, with the exception of the palms and ivy, will thrive in a compost made up of three parts peat, one part perlite, two parts vermiculite, one part humus and a heaped tablespoon of charcoal and lime for each six-inch pot. A number of made-up house-plant composts are also readily available.

The best way of watering is to stand the pots in a large tray of porous pebbles and water from the bottom, ensuring that the roots do not get dry. The compost must never be allowed to dry out completely but the surface need not be wet all the time. Feed with a house-plant fertiliser according to the instructions on the label, or use one of the new brands of slow-release nutrient tablet; these will last the whole season.

These plants will survive in a normally heated office. Special arrangements may have to be made if the heating is turned off during breaks.

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