Indoor Plants for Your Home Office: What You Need to Know

The setup of your home office is crucially important to your productivity during the day. While being only a few steps away from the fridge might seem like a nice change, small things like an ergonomic chair, a comfortable desk and a touch of nature can have a significant impact on your mood. While Valiant can help you with your furniture needs, our green thumbs are lacking!

To find out everything you need to know about why having plants in your home office is so important, we spoke to horticulturist Steve Falcioni. A self-confessed plant addict, he gave us all his tips on picking the right plant and advice on how to keep them healthy.

What are the benefits of having plants in your home office?

I think there are two main benefits. Firstly adding plants to your office really enhances the space. They make it visually appealing and literally help bring it to life. You’re more likely to want to spend time in an office which has been jazzed up with a few plants.

Secondly there are numerous studies which have shown indoor plants improve our health. Many of the things inside our homes, like paints, plastics and synthetic furnishings, give off tiny amounts of harmful gases. The really cool thing about plants, and the microbes which live in the potting mix, is they’re able to absorb these gases and improve air quality.

Other studies have shown that when around plants our bodies relax (emotionally and physiological), we become happier, less stressed and more productive with fewer sick days. Pretty amazing outcomes from just having a few plants around you.

What makes a plant suitable for the indoors/a home office?

Usually our indoor spaces have low light levels and low humidity so for a plant to succeed it needs to be adaptable to those conditions. If in the wild a plant originally grew in similar conditions then there’s a good chance it’ll be happy as an indoor plant.

At nurseries plants which enjoy these conditions are grouped together as the indoor plant section. So for people new to plants it takes the guess work out of it.

What are some good plants for “beginners”?

It’s incredibly hard to create a short list because there are so many great plants about but here’s a start:

  • Pothos or Devils Ivy (Epipremnum)– lovely trailing plant, impossible to kill and available in a few different colours
  • Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) – small growing palm that will easily fit on a desk and look great for years
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum) – go for the classic 70s version with narrow hanging leaves that are striped white and green or try the less common one with broader green leaves that are orange at the base
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)– extra points for this plant because you get to enjoy its lush green foliage and long lasting white flowers
  • Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) – with its broad green leaves this plant can handle it all – low light, cold temperatures and being left unwatered
  • Zanzibar Gem (Zamioculcas) – this fleshy plant can also handle low light and neglect
  • Snake Plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria) – another indestructible plant with tough leathery leaves that come in a range of colours

How often do you need to water indoor plants?/How do I know if I am underwatering or overwatering them?

Most people tend to overwater their indoor plants which leads to yellowing leaves and rotting stems, foliage and roots. Continual overwatering will often cause plant death.

If a plant is under watered, it may wilt or lose its lush greenness and the tips or edges of the leaves can turn brown. This may also be due to low humidity levels as some of the fancy indoor plants need additional humidity.

Frequency depends on the plant and time of year but as a general guide water once a week as things warm up in spring and carry right through into autumn. Most plants will be actively growing and appreciate the regular watering. Reduce to once every 2-4 weeks as things cool down and we head into winter. Indoor plants are less active in winter and don’t need much water.

If you’re unsure then stick your finger into the potting mix to the depth of your first knuckle. If the soil is dry then water. If it’s moist then leave it longer before watering.

Exceptions - Some plants have zero tolerance for drying out (like a maiden hair fern) while others can last for weeks with nothing (like a Zanzibar Gem plant). Plants with juicy fleshy foliage and stems need less frequent watering compared to those with thin, delicate foliage.

How much will I have to pay to get a good plant for my desk/home office?

It will vary according the size and type of plant you choose but you’ll easily get a beautiful plant for under $50. That’s including the plant and a nice cover pot (to hide the original plastic pot and prevent water leaking onto your desk or floor).

How much light do indoor plants need? How do I know if my plant needs more or less light?

Plants which are promoted for indoor use are generally tolerant of lower light conditions. Having said that those plants sometimes find themselves in room where the light is just too low for them to thrive. Signs to look out for include:

  • Elongated growth
  • Thin spindly plants
  • Loss of lower leaves
  • Darkened leaves (compared to how the plant originally was)
  • Lack of growth

Occasionally a plant may get too much light particularly if close to a window or when the angle of the sun changes throughout the year. Signs to look for are:

  • Pale, washed out looking foliage
  • Scorched, sunburnt foliage

Do I need to use a certain kind of potting mix?

Always choose a premium quality potting mix (look for the red ticks on the bag to confirm it meets the Australian Standards). These are more expensive but your plants will be happier long term. Cheap potting mixes should be avoided as they will only lead to tears.

There are specialty potting mixes for some groups of plants which have special requirements. For indoor plants the two which spring to mind are cacti and succulent mixes as well as orchid mixes. Growing these groups of plants indoors is not always easy but having the right potting mix is a good start.

Do you have any other tips to help keep them healthy?

Absolutely! Indoor plants will benefit from being fertilised. Use anything that’s organic but make sure you follow the application rates on the label. I give my plants a dose of eco-seaweed every couple of weeks to stimulate health and vigour in them.

Also watch out for pests like mites, mealybug and scale which weaken growth and can cause major damage. Spray thoroughly with eco-oil (it’s organic).

If you notice lots of very tiny black flies crawling on the surface of the potting mix or flitting about the room then you’ve got fungus gnats. Drench the potting mix with a solution of eco-neem (yep it’s organic too) to kill the juvenile stages and break the life cycle. Empty out any water sitting inside the cover pot and try to keep the plant on the dry side for a while as fungus gnats love moisture.

Steve Falcioni is a professional horticulturist and self-confessed plant addict. He created his first garden before starting school and has since gone on to work in the UK, Canada and Australia in many different roles including: gardener, landscaper, nurseryman, writer, photographer, community gardener, public speaker and radio guest. You can follow his gardening passion on Facebook (ThePlantAddict) and Instagram (@the_plant_addict).

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