Office Plant Ideas

August 22, 2012

Watering Office PlantOffice plants often face a hostile work environment, and just like people, not all plants are suitable for every line of work. Lighting, unstable temperatures, low humidity, and forgetful caretakers are just some of the harsh conditions that office plants have to contend with. For plants on public display it's even tougher'trash, coffee and soft drinks, cigarette butts, and the pinching fingers of curious children. When your weekend finally rolls around, consider the fact that your plants will still be working.


Office Plant Basics

Lighting: Indoor lighting can be highly variable. Does your office space have access to windows? The type of lighting, distance from fixtures, and how many hours the lights are on all have an effect on your plants. Does your office leave a certain amount of lights on at night for cleaning crews or security purposes? Is so, you'll need to give them extra water and fertilizer occasionally, as they are essentially working 24 hours a day.

Water: Plants located near electrical equipment or heating and cooling units tend to dry out quickly. Unless you have a maintenance contract with a florist (or caretaker responsibilities are clearly spelled out), self-watering containers are a great way to reduce the likelihood of over or under-watering.

Temperature: Since the invention of air conditioning, most modern offices tend to run on the cool side. For plants suitable to office environments, this actually works out pretty well. Low light and cooler conditions slow growth and reduce the need for food and water. Most plants appreciate a moderate amount of humidity though, so if your office environment is dry keep a spray bottle nearby to provide an occasional misting.


Coworker Considerations

Allergies: Many people have allergies to pollen and mold. Pollen isn't usually a problem with indoor plants unless they produce flowers, in which case you can snip off the buds as soon as they appear. Low light and constantly damp soil can lead to mold problems. To avoid this, make sure the plants you buy are potted in 'houseplant' potting soil (they probably are) as it is generally lest resistant to mold. Water plants thoroughly, allowing the topsoil to dry out a bit between watering.

Keeping up appearances: If you decide to bring plants into the office, commit yourself to talking care of them. Healthy plants can really elevate a workspace. Dead plants look even worse than no plants at all'and at least at a subconscious level, will bring down morale.


A Short List of Office-Worthy Plants

Asparagus Fern (Plume, Plumosa, Spencer): There are several different kinds of asparagus ferns and they all somewhat resemble each other. Although usually used as hanging plants, they tend to drop their needles when up high, so in an office setting, are better off on a table. Their preference is for moist potting soil and cool, well-circulated air.

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior): As its namesake suggests, this old-fashioned houseplant takes poor conditions in stride. It's known for its tolerance to low light, drafts, low humidity and neglect in watering and dusting. It's great for highly air-conditioned offices as it is the most cold-tolerant of all houseplants.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema species): Chinese evergreens are tall plants with leathery, dark-green leaves. They don't mind low-light or dry air. This plant may work at the office longer than you do, as it can live for 25 to 30 years without repotting.


Dracaena (Gold Dust, Janet Craig, Warnecki, Dragon Tree, Corn Plant): Most of the plants in this group will grow in almost any kind of light, from low to direct. Water them well and remove the surplus drainage. Dracaenas like dry, well-ventilated rooms and can handle cool nights. These are great space-filler plants.

English Ivy (Hedera helix): English ivy is an attractive tangled mess when it's happy. Its shiny green leaves come in a variety of different shapes. To be happy, they need bright light, damp soil and cool, fresh air (almost cold). They also appreciate an occasional misting.

Marble Queen Pothos (Scindapus aureus): This is one the hardest working indoor plants you can find. Pothos are good climbers and will fight to stay alive no matter how harsh the environment is around them. They like medium light. Drench them and then let the soil dry out a bit between watering.


Peace lily (Spathiphyllum clevelandii): Here is a pleasant surprise for the low-light conditions of the office. The peace lily has dark green, leather-like foliage, with a lily-like flower that is really a sheath around the stem. Along with low light, it prefers moist soil and low humidity.

Rubber plant (Ficus elastica): This is one tough cookie if you give it half a chance. With dry, well-circulated air and bright to medium light, rubber plants can grow quite large. Water it well, letting it run all the way through, and then drain off the excess. Do not water again until the soil is somewhat dry. If you over water rubber plants the bottom leaves will turn yellow and drop. This plant can be cut back to encourage branching.

Spider plant (Chlorophytum capense, comosum): This plant is great for the budget minded, because it throws off long stems containing leafy plantlets that are ready to transplant. It enjoys medium light, cool nights and warm days.

Comment Pin it! Was this helpful? 2


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 523 Posts
December 29, 20150 found this helpful

Hi, Ellen,

I'm glad to see you listed Aspidistra among your choices. Many think of this 'Cast Iron' plant as a dull, monochromatic green. Not so, any more. Now, there are many variegated varieties. Some are absolutely beautiful.


Another thing some folks don't know, is that most varieties are winter hardy to zone 7. They are a bit expensive, but I'm contemplating replacing a few Hosta with Aspidistra. When the Hosta has died down for the Winter, the Aspidistra will be in all it's glory.

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January 3, 20160 found this helpful

I had several African violets on my desk at the school where I worked and they were beautiful. They blossomed just about all the time. My desk sat by the window but mostly light was provided by the overhead lights. As soon as I brought them home, I lost them.

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