Adding a houseplant to your desk is a surefire way to add life to your otherwise cold workspace. A plant is like having an office pet, except it’s less responsibility, and you don’t have to worry about vet bills.
Some people even name their plants (I don’t), and a little bit of greenery can make your workspace feel more like a refuge. So if you don’t have a plant in your office, what’s holding you back?
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Why Should You have a Plant in Your Office?
There are many benefits to having a plant on your office desk, and we’ll run through these. But if we’re honest, you don’t need a reason. Plants are just cool, so you should get one already.
However, if you’re looking for some fluffy information to give yourself the warm and fuzzies, there are some things you can consider when it comes to houseplant ownership.
Plants Reduce Stress
Actively interacting with your plants has been shown to have a calming effect and reduces stress in the work environment.
Whether this comes by way of watering your plant, trimming it, petting it, or transplanting it, you’re going to experience stress reduction. And who is going to complain about that? (not me)
Plants Increase Productivity
A study from an English University concluded that indoor office plants result in a 15% increase in employee productivity. Employees also did better on memory retention tests if a plant was visible from their desks.
To be fair, similar results occurred after introducing photographs and natural lighting to the workspace. But incorporating plants while personalizing your workspace is a great way to boost your productivity.
So if anyone gives you grief over your green leafy friend, point out that you are maximizing your productivity (unlike some people!).
You’ll Use Less Sick Time
A Norwegian study found that health and discomfort symptoms were reduced by 21% to 25% when people were around plants. The symptoms include things like fatigue, headaches, dry throat, and itchy skin.
Another university study in the Netherlands showed a 20% reduction in sick days when companies had plants in the office. This same study showed that employees had an improved state of mind and were less bothered by working overtime (your boss will love this!).
Houseplants Don’t Clean the Air?
You’ll see many news articles, blogs, and advertisements touting the air cleaning benefits of houseplants. There is an often-cited study by NASA from the 80s that substantiates this claim. However, more recent studies have debunked this notion as a myth.
To receive any clean air benefit from a house plant, you would need about 1 plant per 20 square feet of living space. So if you’re in a shared area, your plant has no meaningful impact on the air quality in your workspace.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a plant! But if you want cleaner air, you should get an air purifier instead. Otherwise, your building’s air exchange system is going to do a much better job of cleaning the air than a houseplant (you should still get a plant though).
What Plant Should you Get?
Because this plant will be in your office, it should be low maintenance and suitable for various light conditions. If the plant becomes a distraction or a nuisance, then it will likely draw the scorn of your manager.
There is no such thing as a “best plant for the office,” so find one that appeals to you and go with it. In any case, we’ll at least cover some of the more popular options that make good office plants.
The pothos is about as easy as it gets when it comes to houseplants. If you’re looking for something that is no-hassle and hard to kill, then this is one of the best office plants.
About the golden pothos:
- Native to French Polynesia
- Stays green in low light conditions
- Commonly known as the Devil’s Ivy
- Easy to propagate from clippings
The spider plant is another hardy plant option that is difficult to kill and does well in moderate light conditions.
About the spider plant:
- Native to Africa
- Blooms with little white flowers
- Also known as an airplane plant
- Produces little spiderettes that can be planted
The philodendron ‘monstera’ grows large glossy hearty shaped leaves that split as they mature. This plant is sure to add some visual interest to your workspace.
About the monstera:
- Native to Central and South America
- Does well in most light conditions
- Drought tolerant
- The slits and holes in the leaves are called fenestrations
The sansevieria features sword-shaped leaves with zebra striping. The plant is also commonly known as a mother-in-law’s tongue, devil’s tongue, or a snake plant.
About the sansevieria:
- Native to Africa
- Suitable for most lighting conditions
- Requires little watering
- Easy to propagate with clippings
If you want some color, an anthurium is a perfect choice. It has glossy green heart-shaped leaves and flowers year-round.
About the anthurium:
- Native to the rain forests of South America
- Best suited to bright and indirect sunlight
- The “flowers” are actually colored leaves called spathes
- Requires little watering
Air plants, or tillandsias, grow in the wild throughout the southeastern United States down to the middle of Argentina. They thrive on trees, telephone wires, and rocks. So they are a very hardy plant that is perfectly suited to an office environment.
About air plants:
- Should not be planted in soil
- Does well in bright filtered light
- Needs minimal water (soak for 2-3 hours every two weeks or mist)
- Requires nearly zero maintenance
Succulents and Cacti
It’s hard to go wrong with succulents or cacti as an office plant choice. There are so many options that you are sure to find something that appeals to you. I find myself partial to jade and string of pearls. If you’re looking to start a collection, consider getting a monthly succulent box!
About succulents and cacti:
- Overwatering will kill them
- Grow naturally in arid or dry conditions
- Prefer well-draining soil (cacti or succulent potting mix)
- Does well in direct or bright sunlight
Caring for Your Office Plant
Once you get a plant for your office, you’ll want to be sure that you’re giving it proper care. Otherwise, it’ll probably die. So be sure to provide adequate consideration to some of the essential components to keeping your plant alive.
Light is essential to a plant. Of all the facts you learned from your sixth-grade science class, plants producing food from the absorption of sunlight by chlorophyll ranks up there with water having three states and the solar system having eight planets (nine if you’re old enough).
Even though you’re no longer in sixth grade, you may have already surmised that plants still need sunlight, or at least a suitable substitute.
Some plants prefer direct sunlight, whereas others aren’t too fond of it. So I would recommend that you do a little research on your plant and get this part figured out early on.
If your office or cubicle is windowless and has no light, then you could get an LED Grow Light for your desk. This would have the result of making you look like a high-tech plant lover, which will surely garner the respect of your officemates.
Water your plant is a relatively simple task, but it’s possible to overwater your plant. All of the plants mentioned earlier should only need to be watered once a week at the most.
If you stick your finger down in the soil (don’t be weirded out by doing this), you’ll be able to tell if the soil is dry or moist. If dirt is sticking to your finger and is dark in color, then you probably don’t need to water your plant. If the top layer is dry down about an inch or so, it won’t hurt to water your plant.
You can use a cup or pitcher to water your plants, but if you want something that gives you next-level plant ownership status in the office, then you can get a stylish watering can.
Some other plants, like a Boston fern, prefer damp soil. For plants like this, a self-watering or lazy flower pot makes an effortless and low maintenance way to ensure the plant has enough water. Some even come with a water indicator.
When it comes to pots, your choices are endless and subjective to your tastes. There are plenty of patterns and styles to choose from, but you want to be sure the pot serves the houseplant’s needs.
For example, plastic pots tend to retain water for more extended periods, which means less frequent watering. They’re also lighter, so they work better for hanging baskets.
Terra cotta or clay pots, on the other hand, will absorb water. This makes the soil dry out faster, which is suitable for succulents and cacti.
Other features to look for are self-watering, drainage holes, and smart features such as moisture detection and timed grow lights.
As far as what size pot to get, find one about the same size as the one the plant comes in. If you want to upsize, go with one that’s about 2-4 inches larger in diameter.
As far as soil is concerned, any potting mix should work for general purposes. For succulents and cacti, be sure to get a soil mix that drains well.
In pots without a drain hole, add a layer of drain rock mixed with horticultural charcoal below the potting mix to avoid saturation from accidental overwatering.
Plant fertilizers are generally a formula comprised of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium compounds. Fertilizers are especially crucial in potted plant growth because nutrient deficiencies can be unhealthy for plants and cause problems.
So be sure to keep fertilizer on hand that is appropriate for your plant. Below are some links to products that work well for different plant types:
Generally speaking, stick to liquid or spray fertilizers for easy application.
Start with One Plant
If you are not already an experienced plant owner, you may be tempted to start collecting plants en masse. However, you are best served to start with one plant and then add to your collection as you get the hang of plant care.
Plant care isn’t rocket science, but if you don’t take time to learn how to tend to your plant correctly, it can die. So take your time, do some research, and pretty soon, you’ll be well on your way to being an office plant person!
If you have a favorite plant, please tell us about it in the comments below!