A large company near our office has moved to another building. We got the chance to take over some of their office furniture, including two pretty massive office plants.

Click on pictures for full size.

Plant 1

Plant 1 Plant 1 detail

Plant 1 water level

Plant 2

Plant 2 Plant 2 water level

The point is, we don't know what kind of plants these are and how much water they need. The plants have been left in the old office for quite some time and they look a bit dried out.

I gave one of them water until the water level meter was at the "optimum" point (7 liter). The problem was that most of the water started dripping out of the pot and the water level dropped to "minimum".

  • What kind of plants are we dealing with?
  • How should we take care of them?
  • How do the water level meters work? It seems that watering the plant until the optimum point has been reached is not possible, because the pots start to leak water.

1 Answer 1


Plant number one is a Rhapis excelsa palm, a real beauty.They grow well in bright diffuse light but will tolerate periods of low light. The die back at the ends of the leaves is natural. Just take a pair of scissors and trim it off leaving a tiny margin of dead material on the leaf so you do not cut into live tissue.

Plant number two is a Dracaena Janet Craig with a nice little aglonema at the base. Both are very common and tolerant of low light conditions.

All of these plants are growing in Leca or

Grow rock is a Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate (L.E.C.A.), That is a type of clay which is super-fired to create a porous texture

This system used to be very popular for interior plants but there were issues:

  • soluble salt level would build up in the water medium over time
  • costly and time consuming to get a plant to adapt to live in the medium
  • heavy to move
  • any cracks in the pots would leak large quantities of dirty smelly solute on the floor. Oh the memories!
  • the indicator would tell you how much water to put in. Usually the float would stop working or small children would fill the float area with leca and you had to guess how much water it needed

If the pots leak water that is why they were left behind as the hydroponic thing cannot work when the container leaks.

The Dracaena and aglo are very common and new ones can be purchased inexpensively. The Rhaphis palm is a real gem and work keeping. Here's how:

  • buy a large new pot with a drainage hole at the bottom and a saucer to hold the overflow
  • get some potting soil suitable for tropical plants
  • get some strong friends and a large area with a tarp on the floor
  • remove the plant from the pot
  • gently remove as much leca as possible
  • place plant in new pot, add soil, water and observe

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