In the dark corner sits a pretty plant
January 12, 2010 3:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a plant for my office. Details inside.

Plant must:
- survive the care of a nongardener (my houseplants all die, the patio ones do okay but not great)
- grow with very low lighting, as my office has no windows, and I rarely turn the overhead lights on - just have a dim background light
- be self-contained (no viney climbers!)
- have little to no scent
- be bright and cheery
- be nonpoisonous to cats, in case I have to take it home instead of leaving it at work

Please let me know if such a plant really does exist!
posted by dorey_oh to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I would suggest Jade. It does have a slight scent (to me, at least), but it's easy to take care of and (as far as I know) not poisonous to cats.
posted by LittleKnitting at 3:52 PM on January 12, 2010

I have a cat who has an insatiable appetite for any plant; he's even chomped on my aloe, which I had expected to deter him with its little spikes.

I have an impossible-to-kill pothos that, while a 'viney climber', grows slowly. I received cuttings from a coworker who forgets to water them and has a dark office.

I'd also recommend the Snake Plant (aka 'mother-in-law's tongue'). It's rated as a good air-cleaner by NASA, along with the Dracaena I keep at work (but can't find a similar picture to).

I just went to a hardware store and found their small plant section. You pay more for larger specimens, so I bought the $1.77 4" pots in a couple different things so I wouldn't feel too bad if I killed them.

Spider plants are popular (although their babies can kind of go everywhere), but mine really REALLY disliked low-light.
posted by bookdragoness at 4:00 PM on January 12, 2010

Try a stalk or arrangement of Lucky Bamboo? Very easy to keep. Usually found in some sort of glass container usually with rocks and water. Just keep it full of water. very tolerant of low lighting conditions. non toxic. no smell.
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 4:19 PM on January 12, 2010

Very few good houseplants are nontoxic to source I know of recommends growing something alternate that cats can eat (like catnip, or barley, or some type of grass) to keep them away.

As far as lowlight area I can recommend Chinese Evergreen, but can't tell you it's nontoxic. Our plant supplier claims they'd grow in a closet. All the other plants we have in our shop require at least some type of nondirect light.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:27 PM on January 12, 2010

I have a peace lily on my desk named Danny Butterman. Wiki reports that they are mildly toxic to animals. I have no idea what mildly is defined as, but none of my cats have ever munched on a peace lily, and if they have, none of them have died. :)

(I also have a ficus named Monroe, but ficus can be difficult sometimes.)
posted by elsietheeel at 4:39 PM on January 12, 2010

An aerogarden. Specifically, a three-pod aerogarden with flowers. It provides its own light---no need to worry about the dark. it provides its own food and water---no need to remember (as much) to water stuff. You get to watch stuff sprout.

(My mother got me a larger herb one for christmas, and so far it's working like a charm and is pretty cool.)
posted by leahwrenn at 4:50 PM on January 12, 2010

I'd also recommend the Snake Plant (aka 'mother-in-law's tongue'). It's rated as a good air-cleaner by NASA, along with the Dracaena I keep at work (but can't find a similar picture to).

Snake plants are great about being ignored (I've got a few), but everything I've read says that they are poisonous to pets.
posted by meowzilla at 4:52 PM on January 12, 2010

Peace lilies are NOT safe for cats. One of my customers asked about that and when I did the research what I found is that they can be deadly. I seem to recall another customer telling me a story about her cat's encounter with one-foaming at the mouth, etc. I wouldn't risk it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:56 PM on January 12, 2010

Here to second pothos (get one of the darker-leaved varieties, they need less light than the lighter-leaved types) and especially mother-in-law tongue. The latter can practically live in the dark, and the former almost as much.
Most plant toxicities (cats) cause GI upset like vomiting/diarrhea, not usually something too serious. Cats seem to like "leafy" type plants, especially grass. I'd be surprised to hear of one munching on a mother-in law-tongue, it has sort of thick, stiff leaves like a spear.
posted by bebrave! at 4:57 PM on January 12, 2010

Here is the Cat Fancier's list of plants toxic to cats.

And yes, that's a pretty freaking long list.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:58 PM on January 12, 2010

Back to say that mother-in-law tongue may not meet your "bright and cheery" requirement (the "common name" says it all!)
It is nifty and cool in it's way, but "bright and cheery" I guess is in the eye of the beholder.
posted by bebrave! at 5:04 PM on January 12, 2010

Great suggestions here. Airplane plant, jade, pothos, dracaenas (of which "lucky bamboo" is a variety). The snake plant (Sanseveria) is probably less ideal but still a good plant. There's also the castiron plant (Aspidistra spp.) and my fave, the slow-growing, ultra-low-light, water-once-a-month Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or ZZ plant. More "cool" than "cheery," again, but the absolute lowest maintenance plant I know. I might suggest something in the Tradescantia family (e.g. wandering jew, bridal veil, etc.) though they can grow significantly more quickly.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:50 PM on January 12, 2010

There aren't many plants that will flower in low light, and there also aren't many that have colourful foliage that will tolerate dark conditions.

I've grown Cast Iron Plants (the name is a clue to how hardy these things are) for years. They were extremely popular with the Victorians, as they could tolerate low light and the fumes from the gas that was burned to provide light.

You can get just a standard green one, but there are also other cultivars too. They're cheaply bought from ebay and will last for years. My mother used to have on in a pot on the windowsill that was only ever watered with tea, and it stayed in that same pot for over thirty years. They're practically indestructible. According to this site, they're also non-toxic.
posted by Solomon at 3:17 AM on January 13, 2010

I'd suggest a spiderplant. I've had one on my desk for a year and a half and at various stages it's suffered despite neglect, abuse, "watering" with coffee, drought, drowning, direct sunlight and lack of any light at all... and is still alive :)
posted by grintoul at 3:44 AM on January 13, 2010

So many good suggestions! I'd forgotten about jade plants - saw one once, and thought it was quite nice. Hadn't heard of most of the others suggested - will have to study on this a bit, then see what I can find around here. bebrave! - actually, nifty and cool works as well for me as bright and cheery - you had the better word choice. Thanks everyone!
posted by dorey_oh at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2010

« Older Help me publish an academic journal.   |   Nothing like fresh balls on my forehead to put me... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.