Office Plants - The Horticult

Gardening 9 to 5: The Office Gets a Plant Makeover!

Photos by Ryan Benoit

We’ve long suspected it…and now it’s been backed by science: that plants boost productivity. Yes, according to a study published last year, adding a ruffly fiddle leaf fig to your cubicle or a zamioculcas to your desktop could increase your creative output — and your happiness — by up to 15 percent.

Twist our arms! This study popped up at exactly the right time. When I got a new job at an ad agency at the beginning of this year, I scored some seriously cool coworkers and a beautiful office — one with tall northwest-facing windows, a quirky geometrical shape and a wall painted a tranquil shade of pistachio. Plant-wise, it was mostly a blank slate. So Ryan and I decided to turn my workspace into a houseplant haven.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Check it out: my new workday digs! The before (top) and very leafy AFTER (bottom).

Office Plants - The Horticult

Office Plants - The Horticult

I also dove into adding art to the office. Above my monitor is a print of “We Think, We Speak, We Love, We Hate, We Look, We Live” by Barbara Kruger.

What’s this new gig? I now work as a senior copywriter for Roni Hicks & Associates, so every day brings new ways get creative, which I love — although at times it can feel like being entrusted with catching lightning in a bottle. Taglines, subject lines, clever calls to action. So it’s kind of nice to have a fern or two to bounce ideas off of! The extra oxygen also helps.

The agency is already extremely plant-friendly, with bromeliads and ponytail palms growing throughout the suite, so they started me off with a tall dracaena. From there, Ryan and I searched for species that would thrive in bright but not direct light: ferns, wax plants, more dracaenas, even select succulents in interesting colors.

Next, we needed planters. Enter hayneedle.com, the Omaha-based retailer known for its abundance of stylish home furnishings and plant habitats. They got in touch with us and proposed a collaboration: Ryan and I do a makeover of a space using our favorite planters from the shop. Fueled by our burning love of midcentury shapes, we made a beeline for this Hip Haven bullet planter, whose turquoise curves glow against a black frame. Plus we love how the latter lifts a houseplant up to hip height. It’s the height of hip! The lushness and texture of a Boston fern turned out to be this planter’s perfect match.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Our new Boston fern is thriving inside its new Hip Haven bullet planter. Against the window: the work of another great artist, Joe Wirtheim of Victory Garden of Tomorrow, whom we interviewed a little while ago.

When transplanting to a larger pot, always loosen the root ball to allow roots to spread.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Pro tip/grow tip: Plants double as things you can hide behind if you fax something incorrectly.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Dilemma: the Hip Haven planter does not have drainage holes, and Boston ferns need consistently damp soil and great drainage. After transplanting the fern to a nondescript black pot, we placed the pot on a bed of gravel inside the Hip Haven planter. This allows excess water to drain out of the primary pot, preventing the soil from flooding.

I didn’t think we would get a second dracaena for my space (as they can come off as a tad too lanky), but my new table-height ‘Janet Craig’ is smaller than many of the dracaenas we’ve encountered, with darker, more compact leaves. It needed a container that was midsize and also modular so that it could nestle against my desk without blocking foot traffic. This Sunscape Steel Square Planter fit the bill — we also adore the smooth cube shape and smartly notched legs.

On the opposite side of the office, a larger black Belham Living Fiber Clay Caterina Square Planter is the yin to its yang — and a sturdy home for my office’s original dracaena.

Office Plants - The Horticult

A Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ is planted in a Sunscape Steel Square Planter. (And a standing desk converter keeps me thinking on my feet!)

Office Plants - The Horticult

Office Plants - The Horticult

We kept the plant in its original pot and placed inside the steel planter. To hide the double planter, we added decorative green moss to the top. Dracaenas make great office plants because they tolerate low light and some neglect. Make sure the planter has great drainage, and you should be fine letting the top inch of soil dry out between waterings.

Office Plants - The Horticult

We stuck a petri dish under the Sunscape Steel Square Planter to catch drainage.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Belham Living Fiber Clay Caterina Square Planter (left) houses the dracaena provided by my agency, and a Hip Haven Planter in turquoise (right) adds Atomic Era zing to a Boston fern.

Office Plants - The Horticult

We also kept this dracaena in its original planter. It needed more height so we placed two bricks beneath the primary pot and concealed the double planter with decorative green moss.

Office Plants - The Horticult

The plant that I might be the most tickled about is my new spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, a lucky find from our local swap meet. Claim to fame: It sends out long stems studded with plantlets, earning its alt name of hen-and-chickens. A very cool feature, but also one that made C. comosum tricky to repot.

After some experimentation we planted the spider plant inside a Playmobil USA Lechuza Classico Self-Watering Planter and positioned it at the top of my bookshelf. The cascade of pom-pom-like plantlets looked playful and vibrant against my books and tchotchkes. (The self-watering feature will come in handy when the workload gets hairy.) The planter’s color also complements the crisp variegation in the leaves.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Our variegated spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, is planted in a Playmobil USA Lechuza Classico Self-Watering Polypropylene Indoor/Outdoor Planter. The print on the left is Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ‘Tenor, 1985.’

We were intrigued by the self-watering planter. The design consists of a subsurface gravel-covered reservoir with a foam float that shows the water level in the reservoir.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Notice that one of the florescent bulbs has burned out? It’s since been replaced as it’s the plants’ main source of light. For spider plants, we strongly recommend watering with distilled or reverse-osmosis water (grocery-store fill stations are a good source). Salt and fluoride buildup will cause leaf tips to turn brown.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Drawing the most compliments from coworkers is our Campania International Basic Element Cast Stone Planter. A soulful, heavy, highly textured hunk of cast stone and concrete, this design made our indoor succulent dreams come true.

We used it to create a colorblocking effect with golden sedum, Cotyledon campanulata, Pachyveria ‘Belle Blue’, and graptosedum, all succulents that do well in shallow planters like this one. (We put it up on little wooden blocks and placed petri dishes beneath to catch draining water.) The final result is spectacular: The plants’ copper, green, purple and blue tones radiate against the planter’s modern gray, which also looks quite handsome against the pale metallic teal of my windowsill.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Office Plants - The Horticult

Office Plants - The Horticult

Thanks to their complementary colors and textures, succulents and stone planters are a match made in plant heaven. From left: Graptosedum ‘Alpenglow’, Cotyledon campanulata, Pachyveria ‘Belle Blue’ and Sedum adophii lend their vibrant colors to this Campania International Basic Element Cast Stone Planter.

 

Office Plants - The Horticult

To prevent soil from draining out from the large holes during waterings, we lined the bottom of the planter with a mesh screen before adding the potting soil. We also added silica sand to cover the dirt for a sleeker, more desert-y (technical term) appearance.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Office Plants - The Horticult

The needs of our plants vary. For example, the fern’s soil will need to stay moist, as opposed to the succulents’ medium, which will be watered rarely, probably just once a month — especially because the window faces northwest and doesn’t get direct sun. The air plants in our DIY frame get spritzed a couple times a week with soaks every other week. The dracaenas get watered about once a week / whenever the soil feels slightly dry. In addition to sticking our fingers in the soil to guide our waterings, we’re putting together a care schedule for everything, which we recommend. We’ve already picked up a Stainless Steel Aguo Watering Can to keep everything flourishing.

How does it feel walking into this green, leafy, plant-filled office? Pure bliss. For all the times it seems like I’m adding more work to my life, it’s nice to remember that I can always add more life to my work.

—TH

Office Plants - The Horticult

We made a quick air plant frame from welded wire lath.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Wax plants make great office plants since they love small containers and indirect light, however, the further away from the indirect light source (window) the less chance they will bloom.

 

Office Plants - The Horticult

Hoya carnosa ‘Crimson Princess’ goes deep into the literature.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Another hoya (aka waxplant) gets cozy with my office cubbies. I water the hoyas once a week to keep the soil moist but not soggy. The planters we’re using for the two hoyas have great drainage with their attached saucers, but can produce a mess. So add water carefully and slowly!

Office Plants - The Horticult

Probably one of the easiest of all house/office plants, the ZZ plant is perfect for indirect sunlight. The number-one killer of ZZ plants is overwatering, so I’ll water only when the soil is completely dry, a little bit about once every two weeks. Here we have it in a vintage planter; for this size container with no drainage, I’ll use about one cup of water.

Office Plants - The Horticult

We added polished pebbles to cover the dirt for a cleaner look.

Office Plants - The Horticult

Boston ferns are a classic houseplant. Key to keeping Boston ferns alive? Water twice a week with excellent drainage. Soil needs to stay consistently damp but not flooded. The elegant, angular Stainless Steel Aguo Watering Can really GETS IN THERE thanks to its long neck.

Office Plants - The Horticult

This post was sponsored by hayneedle.com, whose products we thoroughly dig. Thanks for supporting companies that help the Horticult continue to grow!

 

  • Who wouldn’t want to work in this everyday. You did a wonderful job “lushing” it up!