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If you have green fingers, you’ll be pleased to know that turning your cubicle into a Brazilian rainforest has many benefits. It makes you happier, more productive and healthier; it reduces stress; it helps you focus; and it also improves air quality.
Okay, so you won’t trick anyone into thinking your cubicle is a Brazilian rainforest, but the benefits are the same if you only have a few small plants. The problem, though, is that you can’t spend your entire workday caring for plants without getting into trouble with your boss. Luckily, there are many office plants that are low maintenance and can survive well in even the dullest, hostile environments.
In no particular order, here are the 20 best office plants to make your cubicle suck less.
Aloe vera contains a gel that has been used everywhere: from cosmetics to skin lotions and beverages to food. It also serves as first aid kit for minor burns. In addition to its medicinal and cosmetic uses, aloe vera is also used for decorative purposes, growing successfully indoors as a potted plant. It requires well-drained, sandy potting soil and bright, sunny conditions. It is extremely important that it is allowed to completely dry before re-watering.
2. Boston fern
Also known as the sword fern, the Boston fern is a very popular indoor plant and is often grown in hanging baskets. It likes damp – but not soggy – soil that is rich in nutrients. It thrives in humid conditions, so if relative humidity falls below 80%, misting becomes necessary. It does not tolerate excessive heat and, therefore, requires indirect sunlight. (Boston ferns are safe for cats to eat, by the way, in case you have a pet-friendly workplace.)
3. Asparagus fern
The appropriately named asparagus fern is closely related to the vegetable asparagus. It is an evergreen perennial plant that grows in most soils and is fairly tolerant to drought. That said, it does better in organically rich soil and when watered regularly. Under the right conditions, they can grow to three feet tall – perfect for an empty corner in your office! Its long vines produce small white flowers which eventually turn into red berries.
Philodendron derives its name from the Greek words philo (meaning love or affection) and dendron (tree), and comes in vining and non-climbing varieties. If you choose the latter, make sure you place it next to a bookcase or cubicle wall for it to climb. Philodendrons are very low maintenance plants and should be watered when the top inch of the soil is dry. They do well in both bright and indirect light environments.
5. English ivy
A familiar sight in gardens, on house walls and in wild areas, the English ivy is an evergreen climbing vine that requires little care. They just need to be watered enough to keep the soil moist and do well in low light conditions. When grown indoors, it can reduce airborne faecal particles (yeah, gross) and filter out formaldehyde (a chemical compound which can pose a significant danger to human health).
6. Cast-iron plant
The cast-iron plant is perfect for the busiest workers out there. It comes in dwarf and variegated varieties and grows well in all kinds of light, though it should be kept out of direct sunlight. It can handle sporadic watering but requires regular watering in the spring months. But, it should be watered less frequently if placed in a low light area.
7. ZZ plant
Also known as the Zanzibar gem and emerald plant, the ZZ plant is a tropical perennial plant native to eastern Africa. An ornamental plant, mainly for its attractive glossy foliage, it grows best between 18C and 26C. It takes well in interior low light levels and can survive up to four months without water – though we don’t recommend trying this. Despite mass hysteria in the 2010s, the ZZ plant is not poisonous and does not cause cancer, though needle-like calcium oxalate crystals may irritate sensitive skin parts. That said, the plant has air-purifying qualities.
8. Snake plant
Also (entertainingly) known as mother-in-law’s tongue, the snake plant is an evergreen perennial plant and is among the easiest plants on this list to care for. They can be neglected for weeks on end and still maintain their elegant, stiff and tall leaves. They do well in indirect to low sunlight, though need to be kept in well-draining soil as they are extremely susceptible to rot. Snake plants are known for removing formaldehyde and benzene from the air – and they can even be used as weapons against an annoying co-worker or micromanaging boss.
9. Corn plant
While mature corn plant specimens in the wild can reach 15 metres in height, they typically grow to about 2 metres indoors, though they can be cut at the top once they reach a suitable height. Corn plants are another easy-to-care-for plant and are quite tolerant of neglect. They thrive in light shade or filtered sunlight, and their soil should dry completely before watering again (watering should be reduced in winter).
10. Rubber tree
Native to East India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, China, Malaysia and Indonesia, the rubber tree can grow to a whopping 60 metres tall. It is also grown as an ornamental plant, where its maximum height can reach a measly 3 metres. It prefers bright sunlight but not hot temperatures, while it is highly tolerant of drought (though it thrives in wet, tropical conditions).
11. Bamboo palm
Potted bamboo palms are a great aesthetic addition to any office and aren’t very fussy when it comes to lighting. Having said that, they grow better in more light. They prefer filtered water at room temperature when the soil surface is dry.
12. Peace lily
Native to tropical regions in the Americas and southeastern Asia, the peace lily (or spath) does not need large amounts of water or light to survive. But, if it does not flower, you may need to move it to a darker room – brown leaf tips are a sign the plant is receiving too much sun.
13. Chinese evergreen
In Asia, Chinese evergreens have been grown as luck-bringing ornamental plants for centuries. They are distinguishable by their shiny, two-toned leaves. They prefer warm temperatures (above 12C) and moderately humid conditions, though they can survive in a less ideal environment. In addition to its visual beauty, it’s good at removing toxins (ergo, every toxic workplace needs one of these babies).
14. Weeping fig
The weeping fig or ficus tree is a popular indoor plant, but it can be a little finicky. They don’t do well with low temperatures and drafts – in fact, they should be kept in temperatures above 16C and, preferably, 21C. Weeping figs are rapid growers (they can reach 30 metres in natural conditions!) and require fertilisation once a month during the spring and summer and once every two months in the autumn and winter. When growing indoors, ficus trees require a relatively high humidity and regular misting. They also make good bonsais.
15. Wandering Jew
Wandering Jews are among the easiest plants to grow – you’d have to really try to kill them. Their leaves have strong dark green and silver contrasts. Its cousin Tradescantia pallida makes a more colourful alternative with its purple leaves and white, pink or purple flowers. In the summer, Wandering Jews should have moist soil – in the winter, you will need to drastically reduce watering.
16. Parlor palm
Parlor palms are cheap, they thrive indoors and also help purify the air – what’s not to like about them? They can grow to about 2 metres tall but growth is very slow (if you want to encourage growth, make sure room temperatures are above 20C). It requires watering infrequently and is able to grow in almost every possible condition with little help or care. A great gift for any lazy employee, for sure.
17. Areca palm
Also known as the butterfly palm (due to the way its leave curve upwards, creating a butterfly look), the areca palm is great at filtering xylene and toluene from the air. It’s also an excellent natural humidifier. They do well in bright and indirect light, though require repotting every two to three years.
18. Jade plant
Native to Mozambique and South Africa, the jade plant is sometimes referred to as the ‘money tree’ – a nickname shared with the French chestnut tree. They are resilient plants and do well in conditions with moderate light, which makes them a common indoor plant. They have excellent bonsai qualities, providing a great way to spruce up your desk and add a little bit of Feng shui to your workspace.
19. Golden pothos
The golden pothos, or golden devil’s ivy, is another common indoor plant, largely due to it requiring little maintenance and its leafiness. This evergreen vine can grow to 20 metres or more under the right conditions and given the proper support. The golden pothos has been found to be efficient at removing a variety of pollutants from their air.
Last on the list is moss, but not just any kind of moss – moss terrariums! You can buy one online or make your own little DIY project out of it. They require hardly any care (you only have to keep the moss moist) and although they won’t help clean your office’s air, they will help brighten up your desk.
Things to Consider
Before you start buying plants left, right and centre and begin decorating your workplace like there’s no tomorrow, there are some considerations you first need to take into account:
- Lighting: While some plants have flexible lighting requirements, others do not. It is, therefore, important that when looking for office plants to ensure you are able to provide the right environment for it.
- Time and work responsibilities: Before bringing in 50 different types of plants, ask yourself whether you will have the time to carry out all your work responsibilities and care for your little garden?
- Acclimation: If your desired spot is unusually dark or bright, your plant will need to be slowly acclimated to it. When you bring it to your office, place it somewhere with medium light and then gradually move it to your desired spot over the course of a week.
- Coworker allergies: It is likely you will have a co-worker who has pollen or mould allergies. Make sure you ask co-workers about any allergies or at least notify them of your intentions.
- Company policy: While employees who decorate their workspaces with things like live plants report improved happiness and productivity levels, some companies have a strict no-plants policy in place. Take BBC who, when they refurbished their London headquarters back in 2013, banned workers from bringing in plants.
Have you decorated your workspace with plants? Are you slowly turning your cubicle into a personal garden? Join the conversation down below and let us know – and don’t forget to share your favourite office plant with us!
If you’re worried you’ll only end up killing plants, why not find other ways to spruce up your workspace? Check out these cool office gadgets for some ideas!