Down in the Garden: Plants to Work With

Indoor plants can make us healthy, happy, calm, more focused and breathe a little easier – science has proved it – but can you just plonk any old plant anywhere?

Interest has returned to sharing our living spaces with potted plants and it’s not so hard once we know where that fun fern or juicy succulent came from.

Then it’s just a matter of matching their homeland environment with our own.

The secret is, there is no such thing as an ‘indoor’ plant, just ones that usually live in the understories of forests and jungles, the shadier side of life on rocky outcrops and ones who are simply really good at adaptation.

While it’s relatively easy to care for our green friends in our loungerooms and patios, it can be a different situation for the plants in our workspaces.

Weekends away, busy work commitments, no time to water and feed yourself let alone the plants, sets up most workplace plant collections for a slow and sad death.

This can also be the case for home office plants as they can become unnoticed in super busy times.

Eateries and retail spaces can also benefit from a greening-up – not only are plants an instant décor items that are ‘on trend’, they will purify the air and help relax and delight your customers.

While you must ensure that your indoor environment matches your plant’s needs, there are also meanings and energies that many cultures across the world attribute to plants which may just help us face whatever 2021 has in store for us.


Maybe it’s your preferred office décor or situation, or maybe you are selling medieval video games or clothing – that cool, but not so much for most plants.

You will need to find plants that can survive and hopefully thrive in these low light conditions or place a few strategic grow lights over them.

This will not only help them live but also should provide a bit of dramatic spotlighting to feature your new green friends.

Low light plant suggestions:

Devil’s Ivy: (Epipremnum aureum) will grow in filtered light to shade and can handle the top few centimetres drying out – in the Language of Plants, they are thought to build prosperity and block unwanted visitors.

Lady Palm: (Rhapis excelsa) is a shady lady as well and only needs watering once a week and thought to help stimulate new ideas and encourage communication.


Are you just forgetful or do you really have to go away on work trips still?

Ok, no judging, let me share a few tips. There are self-watering pots and devices available to do the work for you and slow-release fertilisers to feed your plant buddies as well.

Just don’t forget to use them!

Also, stick a ‘plant meeting’ in your diary once a week to check in on each of your plants, give them a review and make sure they are doing ok.

Low maintenance plant suggestions:

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) is almost indestructible – it adapts, half dies and revives but if you treat it nicely this plant will love you back and it is said that this plant brings good work ethics and increases productivity.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) can handle just about whatever you can dish up and still look amazing – low light is also no problem for this stunner either, which is said to increase security and smooth negotiations.


It’s not just that a workspace is too hot, because I’m going to assume you are not going to torture yourself all day.

The problem for your plants is that if it’s really hot you are going to flick on the air-con, the fans, open up the doors and probably have more important things to do, like self-survival than noticing the wilting palm in the corner.

All of the ways you try to cool yourself will not be taken as well by the plants.

Most do not like dry cold air blasted at them.

Heat tolerant plants:

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) prefers things on the warmer and humid side so make some mist, mist mist! In winter they can survive with a drink every few weeks. They boost interest and help those learning.

Succulents and Cacti are both warmth lovers and enjoy light so don’t keep these babies in the corner and don’t overwater as this is the usual cause of death. Most will bring longevity and ingenuity.


Do you work in a greenhouse or a space with similar lighting?

You need to be honest here because there is a big difference between ‘full sun’ and ‘streaming, light-filtered rooms’ in the plant kingdom.

If your amazing light is because your walls are basically glass, then you have to be super careful with plant placement.

A plant sitting next to a full sun window all day is like sticking it in your oven.

The reflected heat and magnified light aren’t good for most.

Light loving plants:

Swiss Cheese Vine (Monstera obliqua) likes to be in the light and makes a lovely desk plant on a trellis or even left to run along surfaces. It can help boost opportunities and helps others see your point of view.

Wax Plant (Hoya spp.) can be trained to climb up or along a support or left to cascade over an edge and do not need much water preferring things on the dry side. This plant brings with it protection and prosperity.


Seriously, a lot of food stores are cold for a reason, to keep the produce fresh.

This can be wonderful for some plants but not for those that can trace their family tree back to the jungle! Chilled environments also usually have dry air.

If your workspace is just a touch on the cooler side, then you can try standing pots on trays filled with pebbles that are kept moist.

Another trick is to group plants together to recreate a little microclimate that naturally increases the humidity and air temperature or to create a light misting.

Cooler area plant suggestions:

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata) does need bright light, but it can live happily in cooler temperatures and the added bonus it that it can stay alive for weeks without watering. Jade Plant brings luck and financial gains.

Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginate) is a ‘false palm’ meaning it looks like a palm but is not one and this leaves us with the palm feel but a plant that can tolerate cooler spaces. This plant will help heal relationships.


All of the above will of course suit your homework space but you also have the additional benefit of being able to move your plants more easily at home.

Don’t be afraid of giving them a new position in other parts of your place if things just don’t seem to be working out.

This is an oldie but a goodie: when it is raining, take them on a field trip!

Sit them outside to enjoy a refreshing shower of pure rainwater.

It will clean the foliage, give them a boost in natural goodness and make them happy.

Lots of plants are toxic to both humans and pets so my suggestions for home offices are of the more people and pet-friendly kind.

Safer home office plants:

Radiator Plant (Peperomia spp.) suits a desk but will tolerate a bit of shade – they are very easy to grow with a huge number of beautiful varieties available. This plant brings with it the ability to see the facts and truth.

Spider Plants (Chlorophytum colosum) are enjoying a big comeback from their 1970s heyday and why not? They are also very easy to propagate from their ‘jumping spiders’ and are said they boost mindfulness.


I’ve noticed that most plants live (and quickly die) on work desks and reception counters.

Sure, that orchid in flower is divine, but it’s not going to like the fluctuating temperatures of a hairdressing salon doorway or your softly lit consulting room desk.

Other considerations are the size you can comfortably work with as no one wants to be hidden in a fernery looking for their pen, or maybe you do!

Water needs and an area to water should be thought through as some plants love a big, long regular immersion so you will need a sink or area to do that as no one wants seeping water next to computers and papers.

If you work with others, take care that your plants are low on the allergy scale and a good rule of thumb is to not have flowering plants as the pollen is usually what causes these problems for some people.

Desk and countertop suggestions:

Painted-leaf Begonia (Begonia rex) are great substitutes for flowers with their pretty colours, but they will need to be watered with rain or distilled water. These plants boost creative thinking and set a firm boundary.

Air Plants (Tillandsia spp.) are the perfect desk mates because there are no pots of dirt or saucers of water to tip onto your electronics. They do need good airflow, just like you, and bring calm and peacefulness.


Woy Woy Produce Swap 10 – 11am Woy Woy Community Garden, 85 – 87 Moana Street Woy Woy. Home gardeners bring your excess food to share with other growers.

Grace Springs Farm – Morning Chores Tours, cuddle chicks, collect eggs, sit on a tractor, pat cows and experience life on a beautiful chemical free working farm on the NSW Central Coast 0425258699 to book.


beans (dwarf and running), beetroot, burdock, carrot, chives, cucumber, marrow, salsify, turnip, boronia, cineraria, cleome, cyclamen, forget-me-not, lobelia, lupin, marigold, pansy, primula, stock, verbena, zinnia.

Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 – 10am every Saturday on CoastFM96.3 a live home and gardening lifestyle radio show:

Send your gardening questions, events and news to: