Plants can be an important part of your life at the office just as they are at home. In the office a careful selection and arrangement of plants adds color and creates a gracious atmosphere. In some offices plants are provided and maintained by contract arrangements with florists or nurserymen. Maybe you are privileged to have your own plants, if this is agreeable to others with whom you are working and your schedule allows time for their care.

The choice of plants for an office should be made in relation to the area in which you will place them. What are the conditions of light, humidity, water, temperature, air circulation. You will need to give thought to the extent of your control over these elements in a place where you spend only 35 to 40 hours per week, and to how the plants will fare at night and on weekends.

In an office with daylight from windows, your problems will probably be minimal if you select plants suited to the office's exposure - north, south, east, or west windows.

If your office is a windowless enclave, you will probably find that your plants thrive in the light afforded by overhead fluorescent fixtures or from comparable desk lights.

Wide expanses of glass with sun shining in often concentrate too much heat on nearby plants. Move plants back from such windows or filter the sun's rays with blinds or draperies. In winter, to shield plants from extremes of cold near windows, move the plants back from the glass when you leave the office for the evening and the weekend, or place paper or cardboard between the plants and the glass.

Most of our indoor plants benefit when temperatures are lower at night than in the daytime. In winter, office heat is ordinarily lowered at night but not so much as to interfere with plant growth.

In the office as at home, the relative humidity may be less than ideal. Misting will help if you can conveniently do this without damage to papers, books, woodwork, carpets, etc. Misting is a temporary remedy at best as the moisture rapidly dissipates in the atmosphere. Washington the leaves occasionally will help to remedy an arid climate, as will grouping plants in close proximity. Grouping the plants can also help to simplify the watering routine.

When you water, water thoroughly, let the plant drain, then empty the saucer. Use tepid water. Water according to the plant's needs. Some like to be constantly moist; some to become dry between waterings, and some to be kept quite dry.

If watering is a problem, the source is inconvenient, or the risk to furnishings or official papers is too great, try plants that grow in water, using containers that require only occasional refilling; a few grains of horticultural charcoal in the water will deter rotting and formation of algae scum. Or, concentrate on collections of cacti and succulents whose water needs are less compelling.

It is usually preferable that office plants not grow too large so they should be on a restricted diet. Feeding at six-month intervals is adequate.

The activities in a public place provide some air circulation. Avoid placing plants where repeated opening and closing of doors causes drafts.

Air circulation brings dust. Wash the leaves of smooth-leaved plants with a soft cloth, paper towel or sponge and warm clear water. If they become very grimy or sticky, use a dilute mild soap and water bath and rinse with clear water. Clean leaves have a natural sheen. Don't use a plant-shine product; it will clog the pores through which the plant's life processes are carried on.

Problems and advantages both ensue when you undertake to maintain green plants in the office. But the problems are not insurmountable and the advantages in improvement of the ambience of the office far outweigh the problems.

Some foliage plants suggested for the office are: Chinese evergreen, pothos, peperomia, schefflera, maranta, grape ivy, philodendron, Dracaena marginata, Dracaena Warnecki, Ficus lyrata. Cacti and succulents are increasingly used as plants for the office because of their easy care.