The Wall Street Journal

Biophilia Expert Explains How to Pick the Right Office Plants


Research shows that exposure to nature, even indoors, can help reduce stress. Biophilia expert Rebecca Bullene shows you how to pick the perfect plants (like the ZZ and the sansevieria) for your office and the best ways to take care of them.

Photo: Natalia Osipova/The Wall Street Journal

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- [Narrator] This is your sad, lifeless desk.
And this is Rebecca Bullene.
- Hi there.
- [Narrator] She's an expert in bring the outdoors, indoors.
And an expert in biophilia.
- It sounds scary, right?
- [Narrator] It's basically just interior design
using plants.
Research shows that exposure to nature, even indoors,
helps reduce stress and promote wellbeing.
Rebecca is gonna explain how to choose and care
for your office plants for sustainable good morale.
(playful music)
(bells ding)
- The first thing you need to do
when you decide you wanna bring plants into the office
is to assess your light conditions.
I'm a big fan of the Light Meter app.
You can use it on any iPhone or Android
and be able to assess how much light you have in your space.
Oh, we've got about medium light here.
One of the best ways to measure light is footcandles,
and it's one of the easiest to understand.
Low-light plants are plants
that usually get about 30 footcandles.
Medium plants are plants that need
about 50 to 100 footcandles.
And high-light plants are usually plants
that need 150 footcandles and up.
- [Narrator] What if my office has more light than that?
- Well, you might need to put some sunscreen on yourself,
not on the plants.
(bell dings)
Once you've determined how much light
you have in your space,
you should really start to think about the care needs
of the plants you're interested in.
You don't wanna choose plants
that are gonna need a ton of care
if you know you're going to be out of work
or taking weekends off.
So it's good to focus on plants
that have low-maintenance needs.
The ZZ in particular is a really great plant
because it's so versatile.
It can take high-light and low-light,
and it really survives in drought conditions.
The sansevieria is also a really great plant
for the office space.
It can also be in high-light and low-light
and it's also one of the best air-purifying plants.
So if you're in an open office plan,
it might be a great plant to keep on your desk.
When you're thinking about where
to actually place your plants,
be sure you're thinking through
how you're going to take care of them.
Hanging something over a lot of electronics
where you're gonna have to get on a ladder and water
probably isn't a good idea.
(bell dings)
Choosing the right vessel for your plant
is equally as important as the plant itself.
You can choose a plant that has a drainage hole
on the bottom and it usually comes with a saucer
to make sure you don't spill water on your desk
or you can choose a planter
that doesn't have drainage on the bottom,
but it's really important if you're choosing a planter
that doesn't have drainage, you need to include
some kind of drainage material, like aeration stone.
One of the best planters you can use for your plant
is actually one that's subirrigated.
By that, I mean that instead of watering
at the top of the planter,
you're actually gonna fill the bottom with water
and so the plant can drink from the root system down below.
(bell dings)
The single biggest issue for office plants
is how to take care of them longterm.
If you've chosen the right plant
for the light conditions that you have,
then it's really all about the watering.
What you wanna avoid is what we call blind watering.
That's when you look at a plant and you say,
"Hmm, it kinda looks thirsty," and you just water it.
That's not really the way to water.
You need to use more of your senses to figure it out.
You really need to get comfortable touching your soil.
It's also how you're gonna get some
of the best benefits of biophilia.
You really need to engage with your plants
and their environment.
- [Narrator] So when can I expect
the stress reduction effect to kick in?
- As soon as you start appreciating your plants.
(playful music)

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