Roses are red, assholes are me
February 4, 2016 8:40 AM   Subscribe

At work, I sit in the middle of a densely packed row of cubicles. There are 7 other people sitting within 6 feet of me. I want to beautify my dull, grey, small cubicle space with fresh cut flowers, ideally replenishing them every 3 weeks or so. Would this be rude to my cubicle mates?

Think a smallish vase of 6-12 roses, or daisies, for example. I would avoid intensely fragrant flowers such as lilies—I don't want to stink up the place, just make it a little prettier.
posted by a strong female character to Work & Money (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd ask them each one-on-one, so that there won't be group pressure, whether they have any allergies or scent sensitivities that would make this a concern for them.

Apart from that, I think this would be lovely. Your coworkers will probably follow the flower rotation as eagerly as you do.
posted by ostro at 8:43 AM on February 4, 2016 [19 favorites]

As long as you avoid super fragrant ones, I see no problem with you just going ahead and doing this. If someone complains, that's the time to stop.
posted by 256 at 8:43 AM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

You'd have to ask them about allergies/sensitivities, and then if that's ok make sure to keep the water changed/not have bits dropping.
posted by runincircles at 8:44 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've never had fresh cut flowers that can go 3 weeks looking decent. One week, maybe, if I'm lucky. In any case, if you throw them out as soon as they start dropping and avoid lilies, I can't imagine how this is a problem. If anyone complains, of course, you stop. It's not a big investment.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:48 AM on February 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

No, you don't wait until someone complains. I have allergies, and I'd be plotting your death by stapler every day.

Thing is, it's not just the people in the immediate area. It's also everyone who walks by. Find non-allergenic ways to brighten up your workspace.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:48 AM on February 4, 2016 [20 favorites]

Response by poster: (To clarify, I'd probably throw them out after one week. No need to keep dead flowers around. Just not sure I want to spend the money to get new flowers every single week).
posted by a strong female character at 8:53 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're not interested in scent, fake flowers would give the same aesthetic impact without allergy complications. It would also save you money, since you don't have to replace them when they die.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:56 AM on February 4, 2016 [12 favorites]

No, you don't wait until someone complains. I have allergies, and I'd be plotting your death by stapler every day.

This. It would kill me to sit right by flowers every day. I appreciate the smell of nature and like being outdoors, but in a small office, flower arrangements trigger some horrible things in my head area.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:03 AM on February 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

Agreed that you must find a different solution. Try planted succulents instead of flowers. Decorative tree branches from the flower shop instead of flowers. Flowers just kick up allergies for folks who don't usually have allergies, the water gets gross if it is not changed every other day, and the dropped petals are super messy.
posted by jbenben at 9:05 AM on February 4, 2016 [18 favorites]

Allergies to cut flowers certainly exist, but they're not as common as other forms of hay fever, so I disagree that you need to assume your office-mates will take issue with it without asking them. Pollen-free flowers also are available.
posted by metasarah at 9:08 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

If your coworkers are fine with it but you want to be considerate to occasional bystanders, there are a lot of lists out there of the flowers with the highest and lowest pollen levels. Low pollen: hydrangeas. High pollen: daisies (sorry).
posted by ostro at 9:08 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would probably dislike this and I would not want to complain because I wouldn't know if you were going to make it a pattern, so I wouldn't make a fuss the first time. Then the second time I would be kind of irritated but again, not want to make a big deal if it were temporary. The third time, I'd be irritated, and have to talk to you about something you've been doing for quite a while, which might embarrass you...

If you're going to do this, ask in advance!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:11 AM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

African violets are a solid option for constant flowers at your desk. They bloom continuously with enough light, they're cheap ($3-5 per plant), they don't smell, and they're fairly robust - missing a watering won't kill it.

The secret is they like bright indirect light to keep blooming, which is easily achieved with a desk lamp. I have an LED lamp in my cubicle and park the violets under it, watering weekly. If you forget to water it (or it's been overwatered and is sitting in water), you'll notice it's gone limp.
posted by lizbunny at 9:14 AM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Here's a little help selecting flowers with low allergy potential. May I also suggest a potted fern? Maidenhair ferns will be fine in a low-light situation and still grow quickly enough to be interesting to look at every day.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:24 AM on February 4, 2016

What about air plants? No flowers, but again, low maintenance and no fragrance or irritants.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:24 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seems like the state of the art in fake flowers may be better now than the last time I looked... might be worth a shot? Something like this or this?
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:27 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's rude as long as you don't have stinky water or fragrant flowers. Another risk to consider is that spiders and other bugs do sometimes live hidden amongst the stems and leaves - only to emerge later and wreak havoc. If you do end up getting flowers, maybe give them a careful once-over for creepy crawlies.
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:41 AM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd object because of all the pesticides (and fungicides) cut flowers are typically doused in.
posted by jamjam at 9:47 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Decorative tree branches can be a problem for those of us with tree pollen allergies.

I mean, this is simple. "can I bring something into work that is likely to trigger allergies?" No.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:54 AM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

There are a lot of very beautiful paper flowers, which I think generally look nicer than silk or plastic fake flowers. Doing a search on Etsy brought up a ton of really cool examples from very naturalistic to more abstract.
posted by smirkette at 9:58 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try planted succulents instead of flowers.

Only if you are cool with killing them. Mind you they can last for months without water.

Because you are in the middle of a row of people you clearly are not in direct light from a window so you cannot grow succulents. You can have succulents - just don't water them at all (they will just grow all stretched and ugly if you do this and will eventually rot and turn to mush). Expect to replace them every couple of months as they get desiccated and the leaves fall off.

An exception to this is Sansevieria which can handle really low light. There are the common mother-in-laws-tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) that you see in windows everywhere but there are also cool looking dwarf varieties which have interesting shapes such as Sansevieria rorida or Sansevieria boncel. If you want a more leafy plant Sansevieria hahnii is common and easy. They are also allergen free (until they bloom which is rare and you can just cut the flower bracts off) and are listed as top air-cleaning plants by NASA.

trifasciate and hahnii are usually at your box stores (Home Depot and such). The others are rarer and you probably have to buy online (ebay is an easy source).
posted by srboisvert at 9:59 AM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

Wow, I wouldn't have thought twice about putting out fresh flowers... but these days you can get some really beautiful fake bouquets that are a cut above the Michaels/AC Moore/Hobby Lobby variety. Google Real Touch flowers.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:16 AM on February 4, 2016

Response by poster: To address jamjam's point for anyone reading this question:

The link you provided is dated 2000. I did some googling and it looks like any florist that is "veriflora" certified should meet environmental and ethical standards. Info:
posted by a strong female character at 10:19 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

My first manager at my first job out of school bought me flowers for my first day. It was a sweet gesture and they lasted about fifteen minutes before I had to toss them because my eyes had swollen shut. I felt so bad. Most cut flowers aren't a problem for me, but boy, he picked a winner.
posted by town of cats at 10:48 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think you're taking adequate precautions: go for it.
Be sure to use a transparent vase, and clean it and change the water daily.
When you dispose of your flowers, do so by taking them home, not by trashing them in your office.

Be gracious if someone complains, and use your best judgement.
Be reasonable, even if other people aren't.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:32 AM on February 4, 2016

I had a coworker who did this, always bringing in fresh flowers. Made my life miserable for years. Every day my eyes would itch and I would sneeze. Once she said to me, "I hope it's not my flowers." "It is," I said. "I'm sorry, but I'm very allergic." From then on, she would apologize when my allergies were clearly bad, but she never got rid of the damn flowers! Don't put somebody in this position. Nobody wants to have to complain about a coworker or be miserable every day. Air plants are great.
posted by thetortoise at 11:54 AM on February 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

Depending on the species of plant, I might be sneezing all day if I sat next to you. Some plants have little or no scent. Please choose those.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:40 PM on February 4, 2016

You might also want to check that there aren't any company rules on having a vase of flowers on your desk, because of the risk of it getting knocked over and damaging equipment. I know there's also a risk of that with a cup of coffee, but where I work we aren't allowed to have any liquids other than drinks on our desks.
posted by essexjan at 1:54 PM on February 4, 2016

Dried flowers are another option that will last longer. Just make sure they don't have a fake scent applied to them.
posted by soelo at 2:39 PM on February 4, 2016

Everybody is allergic or asthmatic these days. Do not get any real plants. Fake all the way.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:47 PM on February 4, 2016

I don't think this is a good idea. I know people this would make really sick. Avoiding flowers with a scent won't necessarily mean there won't be a problem.
posted by limeonaire at 6:41 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had a person in my office do this and as much as I thought it was a lovely gesture, being sick from allergies was affecting my work performance.

I felt uncomfortable approaching my co-worker directly so I had to treat it as an HR issue and get my supervisor involved, which put my supervisor in the uncomfortable position of having to tell the co-worker to cease and desist. Which sucked, big time. I felt guilty for putting my supervisor in that position, and I felt guilty for being a kill-joy for my co-worker.

You can rotate silk flowers every month for a fresh look, or you can buy a lovely garden-themed calendar maybe. Sorry, but you never know just how sensitive a person's allergies can be, and not everyone can "just take a zyrtec".
posted by vignettist at 11:35 AM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, and even if everyone could just take allergy medication, it seems inconsiderate to potentially be forcing your colleagues to take medication so you can have something pretty in your line of sight. Find other ways to brighten the space.
posted by limeonaire at 4:28 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

You never know what flowers are going to set someone off. Even the person who has a reaction often doesn't know what flowers will set them off.

I don't enjoy cut flowers, so I'm very seldom exposed to them; sometimes a reaction to them will take me by surprise. I already know that strong scents like lilies or narcissus will give me an immediate headache, but when I left my last job, someone new decided on her own to get me a vase full of roses. (If she'd consulted with a single person who'd worked with me for years, they would have told her, "Oh, God, NO!" Instead, she just hinted coyly that she "got me a going-away gift" but wouldn't tell anyone what it was.) What a surprise that within 10 minutes of being near a half-dozen plain old roses, I was dizzy, had a massive headache, and was thisclose to vomiting.

(And of course, when it's something a person loves, they can get really nasty if you don't love it too. I'd passed the roses on to a coworker who was a few cubicles away; the rose-giver was terribly upset and yelled at me that "IT WAS A KIND GESTURE," then refused to speak to me for the rest of my last day.)
posted by themissy at 8:33 AM on February 10, 2016

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