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Succulents: Rise of the Plump Office Plants

Succulents: Rise of the Plump Office Plants

| February 21, 2019
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One of the best ways to increase productivity is to create an ideal work space. Obviously, this should be one that is quiet, free from too many distractions, and has a desk set up with easy access to those items you use most: your computer, your phone, your cup of cooling coffee. There are a hundred tips about organization, whether you want staples or paperclips, overhead lighting or a desk lamp, pens or pencils. Obviously, a lot of this comes down to your personal habits and then those habits you want to build for yourself. Office décor comes into this in a different way. The art on the walls, the little mementos you have on your desk (mine include a figure of a porg from “Star Wars” and a nameplate that reads “Evil Genius”), even the design of the mug you use every single day are all reflective of your personal style and tastes.

In decorating an office, we all feel that there’s a certain aspect of the outside that should come inside. Enter the ubiquitous office plant. The office plant has become a fixture, with researchers proving that the presence of live plants reduces stress in humans, as well as the facts that plants can act to muffle sound, increase oxygen levels in an environment, and even reduce the levels of airborne bacteria, believe it or not. Granted, office plants are not the same as wall art, and some, like certain wall art choices, are definitely more successful than others. Living things require care. There are the offices that have given up completely and have bowed to the plastic and cloth flowers stuck into floral foam to decorate end tables and the tops of cabinets. There are the inherited plants that no one is quite sure how to take care of after all this time; it’s always someone’s job to water them, but no one knows who they originally belonged to and no one is sure how much water is really the right amount of water so they alternate between soggy roots and dried stems.

While I’m not advocating the swift disposal of these poor leafy orphans, maybe it is time to update and personalize the plants that you’re responsible for in your own space. So what makes a good office plant?

Even if you have a perennially green thumb, this isn’t the time to get exotic. The bulk of your time in the office will be dedicated to work, so the plants under your guardianship should be easy to care for and not too big, without too many unique requirements. Not only will this make sure you get the most for the least amount of work, but you will also be cause of celebration for any coworkers tasked with taking care of your office garden while you’re on vacation. There’s also the restricted natural light in an office setting, as well as the

There’s the classic “lucky bamboo,” a street festival impulse buy that will mostly likely need to be repotted as soon as you get it home. Given the correctly draining pot and the right amount of water, one of these plants can grow very well in an office environment. Ficus trees are another favorite, remaining small enough for the limited space in an office but sprouting large leaves that look good and are great for that air purification we mentioned earlier.

But if you’re looking to update your office with plants that look unique and can still thrive in an office environment, maybe what you should do is invest in the currently-trending succulents. You’ve seen these plants in the pages of any interior design magazine for the last few years, and likely in upscale restaurants, and various Instagram feeds. If you’ve never had a succulent before, there is some research involved when choosing your succulents for the new office look. You’ll need to consider your own office space’s lighting conditions as well as the size area you’re allotting your new potted friend. If you’re new to them, there are some rules to learn about the care of succulents, including the Golden Rule: Never overwater! In general, you should let the soil dry completely between waterings. This means poking the soil with your finger to check rather than relying on sight. Once it’s time for watering, completely wet the soil until water runs out the bottom of the pot. Then let the whole cycle start again. You’ll be surprised how rarely you’ll actually have to water your succulent, somewhere around once every two weeks. If you can keep to this one, you’ll have a great relationship with your succulent for years to come.

With the current popularity of succulents, they’re not difficult to find. You’ll likely find a wide variety at your local garden shop and even home goods stores or hardware stops. I have a habit of adopting the little ones with broken leaves you find on clearance; you’d never guess the giant Lace Aloe on my window sill starting out as a pitiful, lopsided thing in a too-small pot at a Home Depot with a $3 price tag on the side of its cheap pot. Here are a few small and medium options that would do well in an indirect sunlight setting of an office.

  • Dwarf Jade Plant Portulacaria afra: Also called “Elephant Bush,” “Porkbush,” and “Miniature Jade,” this succulent was made for offices. It’s a good-looking plant that’s pretty foolproof for beginners and grows to between 6-8 inches.
  • Zebra Cactus, Haworthia fasciata: This is not actually a cactus, but is still a dramatic choice with its dark green spine-like leaves striped with white. These will grow in clumps, so they also do really well if you put a few of them in the same container.
  • Blue Rose Echeveria, Echeveria imbricata: A Mexican native with blue-green leaves edged with coral, this is one of those succulents you’ve seen in those magazines. Another one that does well with multiples in a pot, this is a good and hardy plant that looks great with minimal effort.

A search for any of these will lead you down a rabbit hole of succulent delight, with plump leaves and great hues. Feel free to grab a few! Once you master the starter plants, you’ll be ready to dig in to see what else is out there. Just be careful—succulents are surprisingly addictive, and your window sill or the top of your desk could get really green, really quickly.

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