By Kenneth Freeman, Head of Innovation at Ambius
This week the nation celebrates National Plants at Work Week (10th-14th July), an initiative designed to help raise awareness of the benefits of having plants in the workplace – which include reduced stress, increased productivity, focus and a boost in happiness .
Research has demonstrated that plants can increase productivity by as much as 15%, as well as an improving employees’ sense of wellbeing in the workplace by up to 40%. These positive benefits in the workplace are especially important as the UK struggles through a national productivity slump. Recent statistics from the ONS reveal that British productivity currently sits 18% below the OECD average , 35% below the output of Germany and 30% below the US.
While adding plants is a simple and effective way to brighten up an office or workspace, it can often be overlooked as part of the design process. To celebrate National Plants at Work Week, we’re giving away some of the most popular desk plants at selected locations across the country. If you can’t make it to one of these locations, your local garden centre will have a range of suitable options. Here are some of the best desk plants to choose from.
Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum), also known as Pothos (although that is actually a different plant) and is a type of evergreen vine. The leaves are large and sometimes heart-shaped and come in a wide variety of light and dark colours.
This species adapts well to a variety of office conditions, from low light levels to brighter ones. This easy-to-care-for plant with heart-shaped white-splotched leaves makes a lovely addition to a desk, shelf or table, and larger specimens, trained around a pole or cane, look great in big pots on the floor.
Sometimes just called “aglos” or Chinese evergreens, Aglaonema are popular because of the colour that the leaves can attain. While many are deep green, they can also have traces of silver or red. The scientific name is derived from two Greek words; ‘aglaos’ meaning bright and ‘nama’ a filament or thread, referring to the striking stamens produced within the flowers. It is a popular plant with the Chinese, to whom it symbolises long life (hence “Chinese evergreen”).
Ficus benjamina, commonly known as the weeping fig, is a versatile plant which looks attractive as a standalone specimen or as part of a mixed display.
Ficus benjamina grows wild in the tropical forests of India, Southeast Asia and Northern Australia and derives its name from an Indian acme Ben-ja. Young plants often develop from seeds lodged in the branches of other trees, soon producing aerial roots which reach down to the ground. Gradually they surround the host trunk and in time fuse together to strangle the tree. Cold drafts from windows or doors will harm them, so be sure to place them somewhere where drafts will not be an issue.
Commonly abbreviated to the ZZ plant, its complicated-to-pronounce name isn’t indicative of how hard they are to maintain. Their fat stalks and bulging roots store a huge amount of water, meaning you don’t have to search around the office for a watering can every day.
A favourite for people who are prone to killing their plants, the ZZ can also tolerate prolonged periods of low light. This makes it the perfect candidate for a desk plant since our winters can be quite dark. You might think this all sounds great, but it gets better – It needs little in the way of fertiliser and gets very few pests – enjoy a hassle-free plant!
Perfect for reception areas or dotted along corridors, Bromeliads may require a bit more maintenance at first in order to bloom – they are notorious for taking their time – but once they bloom, aside from the odd watering, they require very little care.
One of the main reasons for this is that they don’t require much fertiliser, meaning all you need is water and someone to look at them once in a while. With their striking colours and beautiful blooms, this won’t be hard.
Philodendrons have been a mainstay as indoor plants since their discovery in the late 1800s in South America. The Imperial Green is a man-made hybrid with large, lush, deep-green leaves with a glossy coating and can maintain this sleek appearance in the shade.
Preferring a low humidity and temperatures of around 18-20 C, they are ideal for offices as they can be used as part of a large display in the corner of the office, either with other Imperial Green’s or other different plants, giving your office a lush, tropical feel.
(Spathiphyllum) Peace lilies have very wide, broad, deep green leaves and grow beautiful white flowers that have given them their common name. They are popular because they don’t need a lot of light, they are also forgiving of occasional over-watering as well.
Peace lily plants are also known for cleaning up the air, helping to remove toxins and create a nicer environment to work in. They are tolerant of low light and are vigorous growers too. These plants work well for focal interest and screening.
Dracaenas can be some of the toughest plants out there and they make a great choice for eliminating pollutants. Easy to care for, they can also provide a focal point or be used as a screening plant.
Dracaena cincta (sometimes called Dracaena marginata), can survive in drought-like conditions and has a relentless root system which makes them tough to wilt – perfect for a neglected desk plant. Not only are they sturdy, but they look attractive on your desk with their thin, often colourful leaves. For darker areas, or where a statement is needed, Dracaena “Janet Craig”, with its bold, green foliage is ideal – tough and forgiving.
Known as “Mother-in-law’s tongue” or “Snake plant”, it is possibly one of the more sinister, devilish looking things in your office but can provide a much-needed visual stimulus to your workspace. One of the top reasons why people tend to kill off their plants is due to the irregular care they provide to it. But the Sansevieria plant can last up to month without water, survive in low light or even be fully exposed to the sun for long periods.
Cacti and other succulents
When all else fails, there are cacti and succulents. Commonly found in dry, harsh deserts, they are probably one of the few species of plant that really do thrive on neglect. The cactus family is just one of many families and genre of succulents, which also include the crassula family, many Euphorbias, sedums, aloes, etc. All succulents have evolved to adapt to periodic drought and have many different ways of managing water. One thing almost all succulents have in common, though, is a requirement for a period of darkness every day.
Cacti do prefer higher light, so if you are lucky enough to have a window desk they will thrive. Just be sure to keep it located where no one is likely to be reaching across your desk. Succulents are very popular in design circles at the moment due to their ease of maintenance and variety of eye-catching shapes and forms.
Adding one of these low maintenance plants could provide the much-needed boost to your productivity and wellbeing at work. If you are still wondering what plant to put on your desk, professional indoor landscaping companies like Ambius can provide the expert knowledge to help you design your workspace to effectively channel the power of plants.
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