Can ANY plant with green foliage survive in a sealed office environment with fluorescent lighting from 8am to 5:30pm and air conditioning set at 20 C (for the remaining time, there is basically zero light and limited air flow)?

We have a very sterile office which has been designed to effectively be a Faraday cage and we'd love to introduce some real, living greenery to make it less bleak.

In case it is not already clear, there are no windows and there is definitely no natural light.

My question is a bit similar to the three following but more inclusive. In our case we're really not fussed at the absence of flowers or fruit, but it must be able to survive on fluoroescent light alone.

  1. What are some low maintenance plant choices for apartment (indoor) living?
  2. Is there a fruiting plant that can grow in an office environment?
  3. What flowering bulbs grow well in an air conditioned office environment?

If there are any suitable candidates, please rank in order of indoor-toughness.

  • 1
    Are you allowed to bring in some daylight lamps? Or at least incandescent lamps to add more of a spectrum to the fluorescents?
    – Steven
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:34
  • With a couple full-spectrum CFL spotlights, a lot is possible :-) Distance is the key, CFL should be 6" to 2' from plant.
    – WienerDog
    Apr 12, 2012 at 16:20
  • We are probably allowed to bring in the lamps but it would be the taxpayer paying for the electricity in this case so a bit of an extravagance. Also, a hassle. If some plants can survive without additional light and with perhaps just a biannual excursion outdoors then we'd rather choose those than hassle about with grow lamps.
    – Lisa
    Apr 13, 2012 at 5:06

5 Answers 5


For many indoor tropical plants life in the office is slow death. You may feel that way yourself after a bad day! With minimal light levels and good watering practices most tropicals will live for a while. The ones that require high light will draw on their stored resources in the roots and gradually go downhill. Tropicals that tolerate low light levels for a long time are

If you don't mind some extra work most palms (date palm, canary palm, bella palm) will tolerate low light levels for many months before needing a refresher session in higher light. Ficus have an undeserved reputation for being finicky about light levels. Most new plants are inadequately conditioned for low light and drop many leaves with a change to lower light. An older plant grown in lower light will thin out but look quite acceptable. Particularly if it's height allows the foliage to be closer to the lights.

A faraday cage has no influence on plants that I know of but too much water will. Water thoroughly and let dry out. Constantly wet soil means root rot: the number one killer of tropical plants. If you don't mind a little extra work the self watering pots or making your own with a capillary wick are an excellent way of providing a good water cycle. I use strips from self watering mats rather than the acrylic string indicated in the link.

  • 2
    Did you mean to link to this for Pothos? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epipremnum_aureum I have one of these, and they are indeed low-maintenance, and I suspect immortal.
    – Steven
    Apr 12, 2012 at 14:37
  • Based on the information in the links, only Philodendrons and Aspidistras could happily survive such low light. Certainly, I know from sad experience that peace lillies (spathiphyllum) will go yellow and wither.
    – Lisa
    Apr 13, 2012 at 5:13
  • Marking as answer for the most suggestions with extra advice, but all the proposed answers add something. Thanks.
    – Lisa
    Apr 18, 2012 at 7:06

You could get multiple plants and rotate which one is in your office every few weeks, bringing one home on a Friday night and then the next one in on a Monday morning.

Honestly I had no idea what kind of stress these changes would put on a plant compared to staying in the office full-time, but I suspect it would work.

  • Thanks it's a good point if we choose several of the above suggestions.
    – Lisa
    Apr 16, 2012 at 5:04
  • There are businesses that offer exactly this. They 'rest' the plants in a greenhouse and keep them in good condition so that they can handle a couple of weeks in a less than ideal office. It also means you get different plants coming and going. Find someone in your office with space for a mini-greenhouse (you won't want the plants getting too much light when out of the office).
    – Ed'
    Mar 1, 2016 at 10:16

IMO,You can keep Dracaena sanderiana (we call them Bamboo in Iran, and some people believe they bring their owners luck and some call them lucky Bamboos). They can survive in many indoor conditions, they don't need high light level or sunlight.


Resurrection Plant,, a small low-maintenance moss, has the odd characteristic that it can stand long periods of adverse conditions (dessication) without weakening. I don't know how available they are in your area, but I see them here and there around here. I know someone who keeps theirs in a box in the attic all year, and takes it out, waters it, and puts it on a windowsill for Christmas week.

  • While, it appears that Selaginella lepidophylla is good at surviving in low light, it sounds like it won't come out of its "plant hibernation" state without serious light and some water, making it an unlikely candidate for success in any office because we want to see and enjoy foliage.
    – Lisa
    Apr 13, 2012 at 5:15

I don't see this mentioned before, but an orchid might be suitable.


Phalaenopsis should tolerate indoor lighting fine, and is okay with being unwatered over weekends and public holidays. They get filtered light through the canopy in the wild, and as an epiphyte draws some moisture from the air.

If the humidity levels are not high enough, you could keep it inside a Wardian Case or a terrarium.


I've potted mine in leca removing all the organics, and let capillary action draw up water as required from the tray it sits in.

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