Help me find a fancy office plant
August 7, 2006 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I'd like a showy plant for my desk at work. Something that really turns heads, and is like no other plant in the office.

It can be high-maintenance, since I am generally pretty good with plants. I have a cool fluorescent light two feet off my workspace, with room for plants underneath. I am willing to mail-order from specialty nurseries if necessary.
posted by antimony to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Venus flytrap. A big one.
posted by internet!Hannah at 9:11 AM on August 7, 2006

I get nice complements on my kalanchoe.
posted by boo_radley at 9:13 AM on August 7, 2006

Elephant ears. They get big.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:16 AM on August 7, 2006

Bird of Paradise? Grow at home and bring blossoms in? (apparently they last a long time once cut)
posted by kookoobirdz at 9:20 AM on August 7, 2006

Think psychoactive.
posted by box at 9:25 AM on August 7, 2006

Lithops, although with an active imagination it might be considered sexual harassment.
posted by 517 at 9:33 AM on August 7, 2006

Also, Staghorn fern.
posted by 517 at 9:37 AM on August 7, 2006

How about one of these obscenely phallic philodendron.
posted by scratch at 9:38 AM on August 7, 2006

A sensitive plant (M. pudica). It's not that it's gorgeous, just fascinating. People won't come running the minute you put it on your desk . . . but once word gets around, it'll be a big draw.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:40 AM on August 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

Certain species of Hibiscus look alarmingly like marijuana, if you want to go the 'edgy' route.
posted by The Confessor at 9:42 AM on August 7, 2006

I was at an event this weekend with a summer feel (sponser by Budweiser so take it for what it is worth) but in the corners of the tent, they had individual pineapple plants. They were very cool and attracted a lot of attention by the drunkards wondering if they were real. They were.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:32 AM on August 7, 2006

Marijuana is a very attractive plant, if you want to go the 'authentic' route.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:35 AM on August 7, 2006

What about a solitary orchid? I've seen some beautiful ones.
posted by willmize at 10:57 AM on August 7, 2006

I can see I wasn't explicit enough in my original request ;)

I am looking for something that gets attention because it is "showy", not because it is, or appears to be illegal. Like something with unusual (though not too oversized - I need to still be able to use my desk) foliage and/or distinctive flowers. I'm looking for the anti-pothos.
posted by antimony at 10:58 AM on August 7, 2006

Bonsai? Then prune it to the company logo.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 11:40 AM on August 7, 2006

How to Grow a Pineapple Top Indoors.

I have a big potted clump of Equisetum (horsetail) that looks pretty fabulous.

Or you could build a terrarium and grow pitcher plants and Venus fly traps.
posted by naomi at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2006

Darn. Cause I was going to suggest Aralia Elegantissima.
posted by baylink at 12:00 PM on August 7, 2006

Here's a purple passion plant. It has purple fuzz all over and roots easily in water.
posted by auntbunny at 12:06 PM on August 7, 2006

From the purple passion plant link:
"The orange flowers are 1 inch across and have an unpleasant odor"
Probably not something you want on your desk.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:34 PM on August 7, 2006

Purple Passion - Don't worry about the odor. They don't blossom often and I've never been able to smell anything unless I put my nose right up to it. This is a great plant. You can replant cuttings. Most of my friends have a little piece of my plant. Just be warned that they do get long.
posted by Constant Reader at 12:46 PM on August 7, 2006

I have a number of fancy-leaved rex begonias in my house and they do very well. They even bloom, sporadically.

I think the Purple Passion plant is sort of variable. I had one that bloomed all the time and definitely smelled bad, though my Mom's never bloomed.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:19 PM on August 7, 2006

oneirodynia, what kind of pots do you keep your rex begonias in? I have heard about people keeping begonias in self-watering african violet pots, but since there are so many different kinds of begonias, they can't all thrive on the same kind of care.
posted by antimony at 2:26 PM on August 7, 2006

Mine are planted in clay pots with a slightly deeper than normal saucer. They're right next to an east facing, open window. I've had one lose all it's leaves once when I failed to water it in a timely fashion, but it bounced back quicky. I'm sure the self watering planters would work, but I personally do better with pots and saucers for everything- they're easier to flush to avoid salt buildup, and prevent me from getting lazy with watering.

I spray them with water in the wintertime, but as we've got radiators instead of forced air there doesn't seem to be too much of a problem with low humidity in our apartment. The biggest problem I have is with our evil bunny getting up on the side table and eating them.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:33 PM on August 7, 2006

Perhaps a Tillandsia cyanea [Pics: 1,2] would do? Rather striking plants that seem to occasionally turn up in sci-fi whenever they need a little alien plant life.
posted by BishopsLoveScifi at 3:55 PM on August 7, 2006

I'll second the orchid. I was given one by friends for my new office when I moved in (I like plants). They got it at Trader Joe's, and it already had several buds on it. They opened soon enough, and then I had eighteen pale yellow blossoms on it, with the whole thing potted in an attractive glass container sitting on my filing cabinet. It looked great, and it added some life to the office. It was the envy of everyone in there -- well, I assume so, since nobody talks much in there...

The blossoms lasted more than six months. South facing window, no direct sunlight on the plant itself, watering as needed (about once a week).

I'm also a huge fan of succulents. There are some really funky-looking ones out there. Bonus: they don't need much water. Your standard aloe might be ho-hum, but what about an Aloe tree (aloe dichotoma)? Browse around and maybe you'll find something you like.
posted by whatnotever at 3:56 PM on August 7, 2006

Also, another vote for the kalanchoe mentioned earlier - I'm not that taken on the looks, but I am awestruck by their ruggedness - these things are impossible to kill.
posted by BishopsLoveScifi at 4:04 PM on August 7, 2006

I've had a tamarind plant for 10 years now. It looks like a large Sensitive Plant. I sprouted it from seed. My little tree is about 2 feet wide and a foot high, and you can even eat the leaves, a fact that has been confirmed by small children and cats on earlier versions.

To get the seeds, buy some tamarind pods from your local asian/latin-american grocery store. Peel the pods, pull out the fibers, eat the flesh (yummy! tastes like lemon-flavored dates), save the seeds and wash and dry them. Use a nail file or rough sandpaper to scuff the seed shell a bit on one or both sides. You want it to feel somewhat rough -- this improves water absorbancy. Soak the seeds in 1 cup of water mixed with 1/4 cup bleach for about 20 minutes, then rinse. This softens the pre-scuffed areas on the seed shell even further and also kills any germs that might cause the sprout to rot. Soak in plain water for another 24 hours, and then plant in a peat pot or some other sprouting medium.

When it's about 2-3 inches high, put it in a bigger pot. It will grow about as large as the pot it's in, and will take about 3-6 months to grow into the next size pot.
posted by Araucaria at 4:17 PM on August 7, 2006

Thanks everybody! So many great suggestions!
posted by antimony at 7:55 PM on August 7, 2006

If it's not too late, antimony, I just got a multi-colored Croton (Codiaeum variegatum) at Target in their Clearance section for $13.
Sorry, no HTML skills, but you can probably Google image search for "Croton"
Or, cut and paste:
posted by UnclePlayground at 9:16 AM on August 8, 2006

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