Stewarts Office Plants

We supply many businesses across the South, from Sussex and Surrey, through Hampshire and Dorset to Wiltshire and Somerset. For more information about the services we offer visit our home page, or contact us here. In this blog you'll find news, interesting snippets, stories and pictures of our staff's adventures out on the road.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Feature pest: Red Spider Mite

As you may be able to tell by the fact it's only a few days since my last post I'm going through a welcome quiet period, so I thought I'd add another feature pest post, and an appropriate one as the weather is (at last) about to turn nice, because this critter loves the sun!

On the right we have an image of a Red Spider Mite. Along with Mealy Bug (that I've already featured), the most common pest on office plants, and like Mealy bug very hard to control, let alone eradicate.

Thankfully this photo is not actual size! The mites are - just - visible to the naked eye. To the untrained eye they look like dust or powder.

Much more noticeable is the damage that they cause as they feed on the leaves.

This distinct pale spotting is classic Red Spider Mite damage. Later I'll blog about Thrips, whose damage looks similar, but they are much rarer, so assume it's Red Spider.In extreme cases you'll get fine spider webs in between the leaves but this is quite unusual.

As I mentioned in my preamble, they love sunny positions and need low humidity, so your best weapon is to keep the plant as damp as you can, and wet-wipe the leaves (in particular the undersides where they mostly live), being careful to thoroughly clean said wipe before going near another plant with it, or even better throwing it away. If you can get your hands on an oily leaf shine product this seems to keep it in check too.

There are predators available too - I've used them successfully on large trees.

Finally, as the leaf damage pattern is permanent, how can you tell if you are keeping the infestation under control? The mites have a distinct gritty feel to them as you rub a finger over the leaf underside, and they will turn a cloth slightly green if you rub it over them.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Feature plant: Dracaena Sunray

I'm going to give up apologising for the large gaps between posts, it's getting repetitive. As before, we are busy busy busy!

This (ahem)  month's feature plant is called Dracaena Sunray. Keen house plant enthusiasts will instantly recognise that it is a variegated D. Marginata, but instead of being a pale pink/green colour, it's got this striking dark green (almost black) edge with a yellow green centre, and still (as the close up below shows) the dark red margin that gives the common D. Marginata its name.

I'd seen a few small two-stem ones in Stewarts Garden Centre, but my trusty Dutch wholesaler managed to come up with these 1.1-1.2m three-stem ones which are a bit more useful in our maintenance clients.

Care tips: well, I assume it'll be like a normal 'Margi' in that it will need warmth and little water, but being a bright variegation I suspect it will need good light.

Incidentally, my plan is to use one where a previous unusual plant (Codieum Tamara) that I blogged about went at one of my clients in Gillingham. Sadly, for all that said plant made me say "wow", it was a rather difficult plant to care for, and is now looking rather sorry for itself. But there's the great advantage of having our maintenance service on your plants, when it dies we replace it, and pick up the bill.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What the cold does to indoor plants

 First, apologies for another long gap between posts; we really are exceptionally busy and the blog takes a back seat. Apart from training a new member of maintenance staff (which takes a month), we are dealing with a lot of new business enquiries and doing a lot of installations.

Which would be easier if it wasn't so damn cold!

Which leads me - as if by magic - to the subject of this post. We recently hired out a small lorry-load of plants to a Poole client for an event in London. Unusually for us, we did not do the delivery but let them collect them.

Despite our warnings, the plants were stored in an unheated lorry, and the above is what happened to them. The plants in the foreground are (I think!) Dracaena White Stripes. They should look like the image on the right. Oops!

So what can you do to prevent this if having to move indoor plants in cold weather?

Well, the first thing to understand is that cold air is the fastest killer, rather than the temperature itself to a large extent, so wrap the plants up in fleece or plastic sheet of some sort. Be particularly careful of the effect of wind chill, which can damage a plant in a few seconds.

It helps to pre-heat any vehicle you are putting the plants in; in our case we try and drive the van inside our greenhouse and load in there, but you can just run the engine for five minutes if that's not practical.

I now have the sad job of throwing all these plants in the chipper...


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Interior Landscaping - marketing vs. reality

Just a bit of pre-Christmas fun. I hope Peugeot won't mind me borrowing their image; hey it's free advertising!

While browsing vans (we are recruiting an extra maintenance technician so may need an extra van), I came across this wonderfully idealised image of what it's like working in my industry, and it reminded me of an old picture from here of how mucky we get.


Interior Landscaping:

The marketing image...

The reality...

Merry Christmas everybody!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas 2017 is really over this time

So I've suggested Christmas is over before, because we had finished taking orders, but - with a week to go - I can confirm that Christmas really is over.

In fact we delivered the last of our 68 trees on Friday the eighth, but I've only just caught up with work.

The attached picture is not the biggest tree we do, and not the best pic, but it was the tree we felt most proud of afterwards.

It's actually got dark blue, silver and white decorations on, but the blue don't really come out in the image. They are there, trust me!

Wishing all my readers a merry Christmas and a happy new Year!


Monday, October 23, 2017

Plant labels - don't believe them!

I have mentioned this before in passing but haven't ever posted about it directly. Today's plant delivery from Holland made me think about it again.

A lot of plants come with little push-in plastic labels with care instructions printed on them. A lot of the care advice on them is - to put it bluntly - nonsense.

Today I have taken delivery of these cute little Nolina Recurveata (also known as Beaucarnea), and immediately planted 24 of them in to some cabinet-top troughs for an installation in Portsmouth this week.

Reading the label - as shown below - reveals that:

1. They cannot tolerate draughts
2. They need to be kept at 21 deg C
3. They are a middling plant as far as watering goes
4. They need to be kept in partial shade

All four are wrong!

Here's my list:

1. They can tolerate draughts
2. They are hardy to minus 5 deg C
3. They need next to no water
4. They need good light, ideally full sun

The only thing I suspect is true is not to eat them (though that sign could be don't eat them with - or use them as - cutlery).

I've noticed this is much more prevalent with high light plants like Ficuses, or low water plants like Sansevierias; the label information is misleading enough to be catastrophic for the plant's future well-being.

So here's my tip: buy your plants, throw the label away and spend five minutes reading up about it on the internet. It may live a bit longer.

Incidentally this is the species of plant that I had to dig out after my staff had kept them alive (in a cold light shopping centre I might add) so long they'd burst out of their planters. So we know what we are doing!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Feature pest: Mealy bug

 In my never-ending quest to find new things to fill the blog up with, it occurred to me that I've spent very little time talking about common indoor plant pests, so here is the inaugural 'feature pest' post.

Sadly, Stewarts aren't immune to their plants suffering from pests. I suspect most come in from Holland on the plants. We have the added complication that our industry is legally not allowed to use pesticides. There's nothing licenced for commercial use, and we aren't meant to use stuff labelled "for home and garden use". We aren't even technically allowed to use plant cleaning products as pesticides, however if we apply them with the intention of cleaning the plant and they have the happy side effect of controlling a pest, that is OK. Daft, but there we are.

So the first pest under discussion is one of the most common: Mealy Bug. This looks like white fluff like little bits of cotton wool stuck to the plant. If you look very closely, you'll see that within the fluff are what look like tiny white woodlice; they are the bugs.

As far as the detrimental effect on the plant, they will eat the flesh of the leaves, leaving yellow patches, as you can see in the photo of an affected Dracaena above. As well as generally weakening the plant, they also excrete a sticky residue known as Honey Dew, which then tends to get secondary fungal infections, and is also a swine to clean off the floor round the plant if it drips on to it.

Saying that, I've known plants live with Mealy for a very long time, so like most pests if managed it's an irritant rather than a catastrophe. So the bit that most people brought here by an internet search are after: how to treat/control it.   

1. Keep the plant as dry as you can - this seems to discourage it.
2. Keep the plant as clean and shiny as you can (a leaf shine product or a good wet wipe down). Bear in mind that they are quite easily transmitted to other plants so don't re-use the cloth on other plants.
3. You can also try spraying the plant with diluted washing up liquid, this seems to keep it controlled.
4. Provado, or similar pesticides will also control it, but it seems to be fairly immune to pesticide treatment, especially as the active ingredients keep getting banned and replaced with less effective ones.
5. If you have a major outbreak (and the plants are in a confined area like a conservatory), try a predator bug, in this case called Cryptolaemus (available here), but I'll be brutally honest and say I've had limited success with these, as they tend to either just sit and ignore their prey or fly away!

So in summary, if you find Mealy Bug (or any pest) on your plants, don't panic! First try and physically remove as much as you can, then try the methods above. It's very rare that a leaf-borne pest will kill a plant entirely.