Confessions of a Plant Killer

“Buy an office plant”, they said

“It will be fun”, they said


From over-watering to under watering and too much sunlight to not enough sunlight, there’s no denying that an office space is a challenging environment to raise a plant. If you’ve attempted to introduce greenery into your workplace with a 0% success rate, guess what? You’re not alone!

In light of the multiple near death experiences of my favourite work plant, Kiki, it seemed only fitting to pass on a few words of wisdom from one failed amateur office gardener, to another. Kiki, the vibrant young Gerbera that sat ever so prominently on my desk (for 0.5 of a second), had everything a spoilt plant deserved – occasional sunlight, a consistent water supply and most importantly, love.  “So, where did things go wrong?,”  You may ask.

Believe it or not – TLC and the occasional touch of sunshine are apparently not enough for plants in a closed office environment. In fact, too much or too little of anything can be the difference between a thriving plant and, well…Kiki. So, here’s a few simple tips for ensuring the longevity of your office greenery:

Simple Office Plant Survival Tips

By: Self-Proclaimed Plant Whisperer Murderer

1. Research

You’re most likely rolling your eyes while simultaneously saying, “duhhh”, right? Believe it or not, most people jump straight in without knowing so much as the plant species, let alone the food requirements and living conditions (guilty). When in doubt, don’t forget that Google holds all of the information required to foster a healthy office plant.

Did you know – The top five rated low-maintenance office plants are:

  • Lemon Balm
  • Philodendron
  • Peace Lily
  • Golden Pothos
  • Spider Plant?

Why? These plants require minimal sunlight and water, making them ideal for office cubicles and artificial light.

On the contrary, it is recommended that you stay from the following plants:

  • Succulents
  • Tropical Flowers
  • Wax Plant
  • Dwarf Palms

Why? While these plants require minimal water, they need plenty of sunlight, and unless you’ve got an office with a view, you’re going to have one sad looking plant.

 2. Water

If there’s anything that’s capable of being killed with kindness, it’s definitely your office plant. When it comes to watering indoor plants, just remember, less is always more. Did you know – over-watering is the most common cause of death for plants? As most office plants are lacking natural and consistent exposure to sunlight, they will absorb water at a much slower rate and will generally only require water once every 2-3 days (be sure to check the care tag on your plant first).

Is your plant thirsty? A quick and simple tip for determining whether your plant is receiving too much or not enough water is by observing its leaf colour – if the leaves are brown, the plant needs more water and if the leaves are yellow, the plant needs less water.

Fun factAdding a few drops of ammonia to your watering can will improve foliage colour and encourage growth.

 3. Light

Full sun, partial sun or shade – make sure you do your research to ensure your plant is situated in an ideal spot for maximum growth and health. It’s a given that plants thrive on two core ingredients – water and sunlight, so be sure your plant is receiving a healthy balance.

Don’t forget – Your plants leaves act as its mouthpiece and are generally a clear indication of its health and happiness. If your plant is turning brown with shrivelling leaves, it’s receiving too much intense sunlight. On the flip side, if your plant is spindly and appears to be growing in a direction towards the light, it’s lacking sunlight.

Quick Tip If your office plant appears to be lacking in nutrients, sprinkle two tablespoons of Epsom salt around the soil for an effective and inexpensive magnesium and sulphate boost.

Incorporating greenery into your workplace goes far beyond enhancing the visual aesthetic of the space or having something to distract you when your mind collapses at 9:01am on a Monday morning. Believe it or not, introducing plants into the office space has been linked to improvements in mental and physical health and well-being.

From improving creativity and focus and reducing blood levels, anxiety and stress, studies have found that workplaces with indoor greenery are 15% more productive than those without.

As offices are a combination of harmful toxins emitted by computers, printers, clothing and even carpet, indoor plants make a great air purifier as they’re proven to remove toxins from the air (through photosynthesis).

Need more convincing? Even NASA recommends placing a potted plant per 100 square feet to improve indoor air quality.

If the death of an office plant has left you with a bruised ego and an empty heart, it’s time to dust off the gardening gloves and give it another shot.