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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

Ideal Office Plants: Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonshine’

Let’s be honest, office plants have to withstand a lot of abuse and neglect. Offices are designed for people, not for plants. So any plant in an office will have to deal with air conditioning, cold evenings, low light, and inconsistent care.

A friend of mine is starting a company and has a new office space. She asked me to help her find good plants for it. I’m going to make three containers of various sizes for her. This is the first.

Sansevieria trifasciata MoonshineThe plant is Sansevieria trifasciata, which is often known as “Snake Plant” or, I kid you not, “Mother-in-Law’s Tongue.” It’s flexible – it can sit in a window or a dark corner. And it’s a succulent, so it requires very little water. (Very little, as in, I watered it today so won’t need more water until March.) And it’s tough – the only way to kill it is too much water. This is a plant that defines “thrives on neglect.”

It’s also beautiful. You may be more familiar with the yellow and green variety that looks, to my eye, entirely too ’70s. This is a newer cultivar called “Moonshine” that’s almost white with green edges and intermittent lines. I love it.

And it’s healthful! According to Wikipedia, “a study by NASA found that it is one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality by passively absorbing toxins such as nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde.”

The plant is in a small plastic pot, which I’ve placed on some styrofoam blocks, inside a simple, matte white, cylindrical, ceramic container. (Don’t get me started on how hard it is to find ceramic pots that aren’t ugly hippy crap. Ugh.) The styrofoam is there to raise the plant visually, but also to keep it off the bottom of the container, so if it leaks some water, the plant won’t sit in it (which leads to rot). The pot is watertight, so if the plant is over-watered, it won’t leak (leaky saucers on desks is bad). It’s easy to pull the plant out and dump out any extra water.

So there you go! A tough, beautiful, healthful plant that requires no care and can go anywhere. If this guy won’t live in your office, nothing will.

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6 Responses

PERFECT. That is just what we need! (Yes, I am the unnamed person Derek is helping with office plants!!!)

Posted by Caterina Fake on 6 October 2011 @ 10am

You should still think about placing the plant on the blocks inside a plastic liner. Sometimes those glazed pots will still leak and destroy the floor below. I have seen it often caring for plants in corporate offices for over ten years. Always line a ceramic pot or any pot for that matter.

Posted by tyler davenport on 6 October 2011 @ 9pm

I picked up one of these a few months ago. It was a super-quick and easy conversion to hydoculture, and it keeps growing. I have it split into 5 pots now and can easily keep going. One of them made it to my office recently.

In hydroculture, I keep water in all the time. In general, I’ve found that succulents in hydroculture don’t need to dry out between waterings.

Posted by Daniel Morrison on 7 October 2011 @ 7am

Don’t get you started on finding decent ceramic pots? Drat. I was hoping you’re share your secret sources. It’s a potting wasteland out there, at least down here on the Peninsula.

Posted by Dave Smith on 7 October 2011 @ 9pm

I like the white containers from IKEA, they also have other colors of course. But the white ones are so clean and tidy looking. Having white walls in my townhouse the white works great. You see the plant not a hippy pot. There is an inexpensive Japanese wares store here, also the dollar stores. Get a theme or color, or white or grey or… that goes with your decor. Some plants will start to put roots down into the pots to reach the water and can be sort of wick watered that way.

Posted by Your Stimulus Package (Seattle) on 10 October 2011 @ 2pm

I’ve got an asparagus fern, an oyster plant cutting, chinese evergreens, pothos, boston fern, ficus pumila, ardisia elliptica (a gift), warnecki, oxalis, a couple of saintpaula’s, jade, dracaena marginata, peace lily (reg and dwarf), schefflera, and, my pride and joy, 3 coffee plants that are just booming! Needless to say, they call me the Plant Lady and I’ve had to “rent” other people’s desks and windows just to make room! :-)

Posted by Anna de la Cruz, TORONTO, CANADA on 11 October 2011 @ 9am


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Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.