Best Plants for Air-Conditioned Offices


In the summertime especially, you rely on your office’s air conditioning to stay cool at work while the sun rages outside. Don’t worry you don’t have to sacrifice the ice cold air to bring your plants into the office. But not all houseplants can handle a freezing corporate or home office constantly running the A.C.. Which plants are best for air-conditioned offices?

Best Plants for Ice Cold Offices:

  • Peace lily
  • Spider plant
  • ZZ plant
  • Boston fern
  • Snake plant
  • Pothos
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Dracaena

Ahead, I’ll talk more about why these 8 hardy plant species are so adept at handling the rumble and chill of the air conditioner. I’ll also discuss other facets of indoor plant care you can’t forget about, especially when growing your plants in a chilly room! You’re not going to want to miss it.

8 Indoor Plants That Don’t Mind AC at the Office

Peace Lily

If you read my post titled, “Which Indoor Plants Like Humidity?”, then you’ll recall that the peace lily was on that list as well. How can it be a heat & humidity lover yet withstand the air conditioner too? The peace lily is just awesome like that.

To be clear, few plants love with being in an air-conditioned room or environment, but some are better at handling it than others. If you blast your AC in the office all day because it’s 90 degrees outside, you shouldn’t have to worry about distress from your peace lily.

Even low-lighting, which is sometimes out of your control at the office, won’t stress out this beautiful and durable houseplant.

Do make sure when growing the peace lily that you don’t have any animals in the office. Since most of us work from home these days, curious cats or dogs that munch on the peace lily would quickly find it’s a plant that’s toxic to animals.

For an article on houseplants that are actually safe for your cat, I suggest: 20 Indoor Plants That Are Safe for Your Cat to Eat

Spider Plant

A spider plant in a hanging basket on your office wall or ceiling shouldn’t get in the way of the air conditioner. This dangly plant’s width is 2 ½ feet and its length 3 feet, so make sure it has a nice spacious corner to grow and it will be okay.

If you’d rather put your spider plant in a pot instead of a hanging basket, that’s fine too. Just keep the plant directly off the air conditioning unit or too close to the cold air and your spider plant will continue right on growing.

ZZ Plant

If you have even a passing familiarity with the ZZ plant, then you shouldn’t be surprised to see it on this list. The Zanzibar gem or Zamioculcas is a favorite among beginner indoor gardeners due to its reputation of being such a hard to kill plant.

The perfect temperature for the ZZ plant is 65 to 90 degrees, but any warmer than that and the plant may suffer heat stress.

Thus, keeping the air conditioning on in your office can actually help this houseplant, as the AC temps are more to its liking. You can’t say that about practically any other indoor plant. The ZZ plant truly is a gem!

Boston Fern

The Boston fern also prefers cooler temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees, so if your AC runs in your office all day, you won’t freeze this plant species out.

Even if the temps happen to decrease to around 50 degrees, the appealing Boston fern won’t begin shedding its leaves or browning. Just don’t go any colder than that.

Another reason to grow a Boston fern where you work is that they’re natural air purifiers. If your office is at least 100 square feet and you have one Boston fern in there, it will clear benzene and formaldehyde from the room so you can breathe and work easier.

The Boston fern even made the list of recommended air-purifying plants from NASA, so you know it’s a good one to have.

Snake Plant

A statement-maker in any cubicle or office, the snake plant is a natural accompaniment at work for so many reasons.

It can live without light and even without water for a while, and if your air conditioner kicks on during the day and even after you go home, you won’t come in the next day to see your snake plant is wilted and sad.

That said, you do have to make sure you have a rather spacious office or the snake plant can feel a little overwhelming to keep in there.

Its average leaf length is 2 feet, and it’s not unheard of for some snake plants to grow 8 to 12 feet tall when grown outside!

For more information on the snake plant, I suggest reading: Snake Plant Care 101: Everything You Need to Know

Pothos

You have your pick of pothos varieties for your cold office. The golden pothos or devil’s ivy is always a preferable choice, with its lovely green leaves and long, dangling vines.

The neon pothos will certainly attract conversations with your coworkers at your desk since this plant is a bright, neon green.

The pothos is a smaller houseplant too, so it should be quite simple for you to avoid putting in directly in front of the path of cool air coming from your air conditioner. If you do that, the golden pothos and neon pothos alike will do just fine.

Chinese Evergreen

The Chinese evergreen is another humidity-loving houseplant that can handle low temperature offices and also likes the shade. Like the peace lily, the Aglaonema can handle shifts in temperature well enough to earn it a spot on this list.

When you find a plant that likes the shade, humidity and can handle the cold air, you know you’ve found a fantastic office companion.

That said, do make sure your temps don’t dip below 50 degrees in the office, or the Chinese evergreen will begin letting you know how unhappy it is. When the office temp drops below 50 degrees, the Chinese evergreen may begin losing leaves, also known as “leaf drop“.

Dracaena

The last indoor plant I’d suggest for air-conditioned offices is the dracaena, a succulent shrub genus with roughly 120 different species. The corn plant specifically can handle being watered about once a week, left in mid-light, and exposed to some air conditioning.

If your AC runs excessively, then maybe reconsider the corn plant though. You should only put the air conditioner on when you’re in the office and then turn it off overnight, as that period of warmth will be good for the dracaena.

Office Plants and Humidity

It’s no secret that a lot of houseplants on this list not only like the humidity, but need it as a facet of their care. The peace lily prefers humidity over 50 percent, and for the spider plant, moderate humidity is best.

  • The relative humidity for the ZZ plant should be around 40 percent to maintain moisture.
  • For the Boston fern and the Chinese evergreen, increase the humidity to 50 percent.
  • You can even go as high as 60-percent humidity for the Chinese evergreen.
  • If you’re growing a pothos, the more humidity you can create, the better.

The only two plant species I talked about today that don’t care as much about humidity are the snake plant and some varieties of the dracaena.

For both plant species, the natural humidity that’s generated by being in a room should suffice. In the case of your office, this heat can come from the fluorescent lights and even your computer.

You can’t forget about inducing humidity for your houseplants even if you are growing them in an air-conditioned office. I would recommend turning the AC off throughout the day if you can stand it.

For instance, if you take a lunch hour and you always eat outside of the office, power down the air conditioner until you’re back.

If you have no control over your office’s air conditioning and when it runs, then you can use a humidifier where the AC doesn’t blow. Try to turn down the air conditioning if possible so part of your office can get a little warmer. Most of the houseplants on this list will be very happy with that.

Caring for Office Plants

You will have to be especially attentive to houseplants that are exposed to air conditioning all the time, and that’s doubly true if you can’t turn your office’s AC on and off. Here are some areas of care to focus on.

Smaller Office Plants

Bigger plant species aren’t as likely to be strongly affected by the gusts of the air conditioner as smaller office plants might be. The peace lily, Boston fern, and pothos are somewhat smaller plants that may need extra protection from the chill.

What some indoor gardeners do is put these smaller, more sensitive houseplants in a small terrarium or another glass enclosure. Your plants can still enjoy the sunlight and you can run the air conditioner as much as you need it without the risk of damaging the tender plants.

Definitely make sure you get the greenlight from your boss about adding a terrarium or another glass enclosure before you drag one into the office!

Humidity in the Office

If your office has an air conditioner in one corner and a humidifier in another, the room may be colder than hotter. There are a few reasons for this. For one, cold air is thicker than hot air, and heat rises, so you won’t feel it as much where you’re sitting and working.

This might have you concerned that your plants aren’t getting enough of the humidity they need, and rightfully so. You can quickly do a humidity test in your office without any complicated equipment. You need only a glass, water, and some ice.

Take your glass and add up to three ice cubes. Pour water into the glass and put the glass somewhere in your office. After a few minutes, what happens? Has the glass begun condensing? If not, then the room is lacking moisture, so it’s time to give the air conditioner a break and run your humidifier a little more often.

Office Plant Placement

I want to reiterate that while many species of plants can live in an air-conditioned environment, they don’t necessarily prefer it.

You want to do whatever you can then to give your houseplant an optimal spot in your office.

As a reminder, never put the plant directly on the air conditioning unit, including window units. Although these units blow air outward, some cold air can travel up.

Further, AC units like these give off heat, and the two temperature extremes at once can be very stressful on your plants. Also, some air conditioning units can rattle as they blow out cold air.

All that shaking can make your indoor plant prematurely wilt and stress it out.

You also don’t want your houseplant in the direct line of fire of the air conditioner. To determine if you’ve positioned your plant correctly, stand where you put it.

Can you feel the air conditioner blowing from there? If so, then keep moving the plant until you can’t. 

Office Plants Lighting and Watering

Don’t forget about the basics of houseplant care either, such as proper lighting and regular watering. For many houseplants, if the first inch of soil is mostly dry or completely dry, then it’s time to water the plant.

Light from the sun is always ideal, but artificial lighting can also work if your office doesn’t have a window.

The good news about growing the plants on this list is they can go a long time without the proper water and lighting, but don’t ignore your poor plant either!

Conclusion

If your office is an icebox because the air conditioner is always running, you may wonder if it’s safe to grow any indoor plants. Indeed, you can choose from a great variety of houseplants, such as the ZZ plant, the peace lily, the Chinese evergreen, and the snake plant.

Do make sure you’re watering your plant, giving it light, and–above all–ensuring the plant gets the right humidity especially in a cooler environment.

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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