by Ruby Bayan
Plants need three things to do their "plant thing": water, carbon dioxide, and light. Plants, with the help of their green pigment, chlorophyll, synthesize carbon dioxide and water (the hydrogen component), using energy from sunlight, to produce organic material like carbohydrates. Yes -- photosynthesis. Deprived of light, plants struggle to perform their food-production mandate.
Although fluorescent lights on office ceilings simulate the radiant energy of the sun, some plants are not able to absorb as much as they truly need. So, to compensate, they react in different ways. Some plants "stretch out" looking for light -- new branches grow longer and thinner than the rest of the plant. Some plants' leaves remain small and "retarded" (malnourished), or they turn pale, or outright die and fall off.
When indoor plants begin to show these telltale signs of inadequate lighting, it's time to give them a break. It's time for plant rotation. In fact, a better strategy is to rotate the plants *before* they show light deprivation symptoms.
Planters that have been relegated to spruce up an otherwise sullen, dark corner should regularly be moved to brighter areas of the office (by the window, at the open atrium, under the sunroof, or at the viewing deck) for a chance to worship the sun and regenerate. They can be replaced by plants who have had their exposure. The trick, therefore, is to have several planters to alternate.
Remember, though, that because different plants have different lighting requirements, rotation should always address each specific plant's needs. A shady-area plant, like a helitrope or primrose, that has turned yellow from sitting in a cramped bookshelf, will be in a worse position if it's suddenly "rotated" to a northern window that gets ten hours of unhampered sunlight.
Indoor plants will tolerate low or inadequate light only for a limited length of time. Giving plants a chance to photosynthesize effectively under sufficient lighting will assure lush and healthy growth.
[First published by Windowbox.com.]