Who’s keeping abandoned plants?

NYT Article, “Semper Ficus: Who’s Keeping Abandoned Office Plants Alive?”


There was an interesting article in the NY Times this week of interiorscapers doing “their thing” in empty office buildings. This is happening around the country in countless office buildings. Soon, some employees will return to many of these offices and will appreciate the plants and the greenery that they bring.

The motion-sensing lights sense nothing. The swivel chairs do not swivel. Only one sign of life remains in the abandoned corporate floor plan: potted plants.

Intended as a note of vibrancy amid bland surroundings, workplace greenery now seems an eerie symbol of the suddenness with which workers abandoned their routines.

Yet the cactuses and philodendrons we left behind have not been forgotten. During the pandemic, some have had their own essential workers keeping them alive. So-called interior horticulturalists water – and occasionally pet – the plants every few weeks, tending to a patch of the American economy.

Crawling Under Desks with a Water Can


Healthy in the office

The ONE thing that can prevent sick days and keep you healthy in the office (it’ll help with your stress levels too)

  • Filling your workspace with greenery can keep illnesses, like colds, at bay
  • Synthetic office furnishings shown to release chemicals that can irritate
  • NASA study shows common indoor plants have the ability to filter air pollutants
  • FEMAIL reveals which plants are the best to add to an office environment

Working in a closed office space can mean if there’s a flu or a bug going around, everyone gets it.

While the problem is usually associated with poor air ventilation, other health issues can arise such as those that are caused by certain chemicals used in office furniture.

According to researchers Eddie van Etten and Pierre Horwitz for The Conversation, adding some greenery to your workspace offers a whole range of benefits, including preventing sick days and reducing stress.

The researchers explained most people are used to working in an office that comes decked out with synthetic furnishings, including partitions made of particle board, vinyl carpet, a particle board desk and a plastic or synthetic office chair.

And while adding indoor plants can help brighten up a dull workspace, they can also help purify the air of toxic chemicals.

Nasty substances, such as formaldehyde, are one of the many compounds released by these sorts of furnishings which have been shown to cause health problems, the article states.

Those exposed to the compound say their eyes, nose and throat feel more irritated, and they often experience more headaches, and in some cases skin irritations. 

Other harmful chemicals in the office may include benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene, and even ammonia from cleaning products, the researchers continue.

A NASA clean air study has shown adding plants to an office environment can help purify the air of pollutants and remove a number of harmful compounds, including formaldehyde. 

According to the research, plants that have larger leaves do the best job at removing pollutants. For optimal spacing place one medium-sized plant per 2.2 square metres.

Offices are also a known breeding ground for bacteria – with people bringing a whole host of viruses, germs and microbes into the environment.

Because these spaces are closed, and reliant on ventilation, new habitats for microbial communities can spring up, some of which may not be good for your health.  

‘Beneficial bacteria on indoor plants and in their soil are an important addition to the office, stabilising the ecology of the built synthetic environment,’ the researchers state.

The article continues: ‘Plant-associated bacteria could also help to avoid outbreaks of pathogens by and balancing the complex network of the ecosystem. 

‘A wholesome balance may reduce the incidence of viral illness and the number of sick days among staff.’ 

Keep in mind that larger potted plants offer greater root mass and soil surface, for helpful bacteria and root microbes.

A roomful of people breathing out carbon dioxide can also add to that ‘stuffy’ office feeling, especially if air conditioning is a problem.

Though adding more plants to the environment can help purify the air by increasing oxygen, green spaces have also been shown to significantly help with beating stress.

Studies have proven that seeing greenery and nature can help promote greater feelings of relaxation and calmness, which can, in turn, benefit your everyday mood.

If you’re considering introducing plants into the office, consider those varieties that that are easy to maintain, non-flowering (for colleagues with potential allergy issues) and will survive for a few days without water.

Options such as Bromeliads, Peace Lilies, Devil’s Ivy and Bamboo Palm are all great choices.

Article from the daily mail.com

Aglaoneme Chinese Evergreen

Costa Farms Shares Tips on How Houseplants Make You More Mindful

Being mindful or present in the moment seems easy. But it’s not. There are many distractions, for example stress at work, in our relationships, in the news and so on. Studies show practicing mindfulness produces a variety of physical, psychological and social benefits.

“In today’s fast-paced world, taking time to center yourself, quiet your thoughts and live in the moment should be something we regularly make time for,” says Justin Hancock, garden expert at Costa Farms, the largest producer of ornamental plants in the world. “Thinking about something as simple as caring for a houseplant calms your mind.”

Keeping indoor plants in the home and office connects us to nature. Plus, there are multiple scientific studies that prove proximity to plants reduces stress, increases productivity, and even helps you heal and sleep better.

Costa Farms’ Hancock offers five ways houseplants help with mindfulness:

Aglaoneme Chinese Evergreen

1. Take in the “Now” of a Houseplant
Learn something from how a plant lives. What is more “in-the-moment” than an indoor plant? It reacts calmly to its surroundings — light, water, temperature — and uses those surroundings to flourish.

2. Celebrate New Growth
What is more encouraging than the physical manifestation of growth? Fresh leaves emerge, flowers burst forth and the plant expands. Be mindful of the plant and find joy in the little changes and grow together.

3. Take a Deep Breath
Houseplants purify the air. Being around houseplants allows you to benefit from their air-cleansing talents. A NASA study found houseplants remove indoor pollutants, such as benzene, formaldehyde, and ammonia, from the air. These substances can make us sick. Different houseplants work well in all settings, from the office, to the kitchen, bedroom, etc. There are houseplants for every room.

4. Engage with Nature
Sharing living spaces with houseplants brings inside the richness of the outside world. Engage with nature in every room of the home. Plants can remind us of different ecosystems, and their adaptability makes it a cinch to recreate such environments like deserts, forests or even jungles within the home.

5. Be a Plant Parent
Mindfulness means engaging with other life. Plants are living things that need to be taken care of — and that help people connect with nature. Plus, a plant isn’t as demanding as a pet. All a plant needs is to have its basic needs (enough light and moisture) fulfilled. Take a moment every day to slow down and enjoy the moment with a plant.

For more information on the benefits of adding plants to your home, visit http://www.costafarms.com.

Chelsea Flower Show

Office plants boost well-being at work…

Chelsea Flower Show

Visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show were challenged to take part in the office design study.

Office plants can assist in boosting staff well-being by up to 47% according to workplace research carried out at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show were challenged to take part in the study which measured their creativity, happiness and productivity as they experienced a range of different workspace designs.

The study, designed by the Identity Realisation research group at the University of Exeter, in association with Indoor Garden Design, compared people’s effective output across different types of business space. Ninety experiments took place across the week and involved a total of 350 participants.

The results showed that allowing staff to make design decisions in a workspace enhanced with office plants can increase well-being by 47%, increase creativity by 45% and increase productivity by 38%.

The findings, which would be expected to translate to a significant increase in business profitability, confront the popular belief that plants and art are an unnecessary or even wasteful element of the business environment. Results from this and related scientific investigations stubbornly indicate that across all measures of psychological comfort and business performance, the managerially popular flexible, controlled, lean office, is consistently inferior to a space enriched by the design decisions of people who work there.

Psychologist Dr Craig Knight from the University of Exeter said: “We have previously shown that designing your own workspace improves health, happiness and productivity. It was time to go a step further and see whether the principle can also be applied to creativity and indeed whether the very act of designing the workspace can be used effectively. Results at the show demonstrated how creativity can be increased by 45% through improving the psychological well-being and design of a working environment.

“The results from the Chelsea Flower Show experiment indicate that plants, in a well designed and personalised office environment can boost business effectiveness through improved staff productivity and creativity. This gives company managers a real incentive to share control of office space with their staff and create meaningful, les didactic and more grown-up space.”

The Chelsea experiment allowed the public to experience one of four typical office designs. Visitors were invited to undertake tasks to measure their productivity, wellbeing and creativity. The measures were collated for each office design and differences between the designs were assessed as part of the results data.

Ian Drummond, Creative Director of Indoor Garden Design said: “I was delighted to be a part of this very important experiment. So much of what we do is about putting living nature into offices – the health benefit of plants is so important in the workspace. I felt it was important to release the results during National Plants at Work Week to raise the awareness of our need for plants at work.”

The experiment builds on Knight’s research with colleagues from the University of Exeter’s Psychology Department. Previous work has revealed the potential for remarkable improvements in job satisfaction and performance by allowing workers to personalise their office space. The research showed that employees who have control over the layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier but are also more productive to the tune of 38% when compared to a lean space.

Through quantifying workspace creativity and by examining the psychological application of design, the Chelsea experiment has furthered Knight’s leading edge work. This high profile study will precede a two part longitudinal workplace investigation with large office based organizations.


Office with plants

Dream of being a botanist….

Office with plants

At 9 years old, I dreamed of being a botanist.

My bedroom was filled with plants. Long tendrils of glossy-leafed pothos vines snaked across my dresser, and a 5-foot-tall yucca tree bent over the foot of my bed toward the window. When my grandparents visited, they took my two younger siblings to Toys R Us to each pick out a toy. Afterward, we went to Home Depot, where I got to pick out a new ficus tree or an asparagus fern, maybe even a succulent. Until about the time I turned into an angsty, pubescent teenager, I delighted in gardening with my mother.

Plants in Office

A spider plant & a little potted cactus.

I wound up becoming a journalist instead. Still, I am happiest — and, I’ve found, I do my best writing — when surrounded by greenery. As I type this now, my desk is fringed with a little Peruvian apple cactus, a spider plant, a milk cactus and a big, hardy jade plant.

My little workstation garden might actually make me a more fruitful employee (or so I tell my editors). And now there’s research that seems to back that up.

A study, led by Cardiff University’s School of Psychology and published last week, found that adding plants to an otherwise Spartan desk boosted a worker’s productivity by 15 percent.

The results challenged the trendy belief that desktop minimalism, sometimes called lean management, breeds productivity.

“This conclusion is at odds with the present economic and political zeitgeist as well as with modern ‘lean’ management techniques,” Marlon Nieuwenhuis, the lead researcher, said in a statement. “Yet it nevertheless identifies a pathway to a more enjoyable, more comfortable and a more profitable form of office-based working.”

The researchers surveyed workers and monitored productivity at two large commercial office spaces — each with some offices stripped clean of office decor, others greened with plants — in the U.K. and the Netherlands for several months.

I often shift my gaze to my potted milk cactus throughout the day. That, or the photo of my girlfriend, Charlotte, hung in the background.

Cactus on office desk

I often shift my gaze to my potted milk cactus throughout the day. That, or the photo of my girlfriend, Charlotte, hung in the background.

Nieuwenhuis concluded that landscaping an office with plants would be a worthwhile investment for companies, as it increases the quality of life and productivity for workers.

Laboratory tests have yielded similar results. In a study published in 2011, a team of researchers in Norway tested a group of 34 student attention spans when reading. Half of the participants performed the task at bare, wooden desks. The others were tested at desks with flowers and foliage. On a second round of tests shortly after, scores improved for the students with plants. Those for students without plants stayed the same.

A study published last year by the University of Exeter offered the most dramatic argument for keeping plants around. After running 90 tests on 350 participants, researchers found that office plants increased workers’ well-being by 47 percent, boosted creativity 45 percent and jolted productivity by 38 percent.

So, what is it about plants that sharpens the mind?

In the 1980s, Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, a pair of environmental psychology professors at the University of Michigan, developed the Attention Restoration Theory. The concept describes the way that being in nature, and focusing on the calming sway of leaves or flow of a brook, can remedy mental fatigue.

No doubt, the daily barrage of digital distractions can be taxing. Constant blips on Gchat, the ever-flowing streams of TweetDeck, email after email — it gets to me sometimes. And while I’m a good multitasker, it’s hard to write when I’m playing a game of e-messaging Whac-A-Mole. But then I look up and trace the variegated patterns on a cactus or the browning lines of the jade plant as its stalk grows into wood, and I’m at peace.