Decorate With Plants This Christmas

twig WreathThere’s nothing like the nostalgic fragrance of evergreens at Christmas to stir the senses and conjure sweet memories of holidays past. For many, decorating both outdoor and indoors is a holiday tradition. Decorating with cedar, pine, holly, ivy and herbs is both simple and inexpensive, especially if you can cut the greenery from your yard.

Twigs of different textures and lengths are ideal, either natural or spray painted. Wire a few pine cones to twig for a festive and often dramatic look on front doors, fireplace mantels, or almost any flat or vertical surface.

If you cut your greenery yourself, you’ll want to follow a few rules or use alternative ideas to help the greenery retain it aroma and freshness.

Evergreen boughs are typical for Christmas wreaths, but look around your property for ivy, pine boughs and pine cones, magnolia balls and leaves, and ornamental grasses. Indian corn, corn husks, gourds, ferns, rose hips and air plants can add fanciful shapes, textures and colors.

If you have garden herbs, gather rosemary, thyme, lavender, mint, apples or crabapples. Use them in dried flower arrangements, bouquets and potpourri.

Soak greenery overnight in a wheelbarrow, ice chest, or bathtub filled with water so they can absorb as much water as possible. Gather more than you need and use the extra later for replacement plants. Did you know that if you recut the ends and pound them with a hammer they will absorb more water?

If you’re having an event, decorate just before the event for the best freshness and aroma. Another way to prolong freshness is to keep arrangements away from warm air flows and sunny windows, and mist daily if possible. Mist with water or with a wilt-proof product from any nursery or hardware store. As parts of your display dry, wilt, or discolor, simply replace those parts with your replacements plants as needed.

Tip: Take indoor wreaths or displays outdoors overnight to keep them fresher longer.

If you have small children or pets, be sure to use only plants that are safe. Check The List from University of Florida.

For ideas, we recommend Pinterest. Search term: christmas in florida decorations.

The Mighty Pumpkin

Nothing says October and Halloween more than the mighty pumpkin. Basically a squash from the Cucurbita family, its cousins are all types and shapes of squash as well as the cucumber.

pumpkin standPumpkins are prolific here in October—you’d think they had their roots in American Indian culture, but six of the seven continents grow pumpkins. Antarctica can’t grown them, but Alaska can!

Morton, Illinois is the self-proclaimed “pumpkin capital”—no doubt because Libby, a division of Carnation Company, grows their pie pumpkins on 4,000 acres in five counties in Illinois. They are grown by private farmers, then Libby sends in their own crews and equipment at harvest time during which they process 500,000 pumpkins a day from October to January. Conservatively, that’s over 42 million pumpkins!

Carving pumpkins is actually an Irish tradition! The great Irish immigration of the 1840s brought over 500,000 potato farmers to America after their crops were wiped out from a devastating fungus. With the Irish came their tradition of carving scary faces onto turnips or potatoes and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away “Stingy Jack”, a wandering evil spirit.

The Legend of Stingy Jack

Jack invited the devil to have a drink with him, but didn’t want to pay for his drink. He convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy the drink. But Stingy Jack put the coin in his pocket, preventing the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack and Devil then cut a deal: if Jack freed the Devil, the Devil wouldn’t bother Jack for a year, and should Jack die, he wouldn’t claim his soul. The next year, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While the Devil was high in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the tree’s bark to prevent the Devil from climbing down without first promising Jack that he wouldn’t bother him for ten more years. Not long afterwards, Jack died. God wouldn’t allow him to go to heaven, and the Devil had agreed not to send him to Hell. So Jack wandered into the night, lighting his way with a coal placed in a carved-out turnip — and has been roaming the world ever since.

In America, the Irish found pumpkins more plentiful and easier to carve than turnips, so their Jack-of-the-Lantern (or Jack O’Lanterns) simply became pumpkins.

Pumpkins are 90% water, fairly easy to grow, and are rich in potassium and Vitamin A. Their flowers are edible. It is believed that pumpkins originated in Mexico and Central America and explorers brought them back to their native country.

During the autumn season, the pumpkin is creatively used in interior landscaping, as well as on porches and gardens everywhere.

Effect of Hurricanes on Plants, Birds, and Bees

Just as birds provide a great service to plants by dispersing their seeds over a wide area, so too does a hurricane. The power of wind scatters seeds and fruits great distances. Winds that blow at hurricane force for hours and hours at a time in one direction disperse seeds to new locations. The new locations may favor germination, while other locations may not.

ficus in hurricaneBecause hurricanes are usually a late-summer/early-autumn event, the season is treacherous for the journey of migratory birds flying south from northern breeding grounds to their winter homes in the South. Two of the most powerful storms ever recorded, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, have impacted the birds’ eastern flyway to Florida and central flyway through the gulf states. In some instances, birds get “caught up” in the eye of the hurricane where they are carried along for hundreds of miles off course.

When so many trees and plants are stripped of their leaves, birds may find fewer food resources. Fruiting fall flowers may fail to bloom. Flooding can drown plants, and high winds rip their roots out of the ground. Insect populations may become decimated.

It’s been documented that birds find refuge in the eye of hurricanes and are carried off course by the storms. In survival mode, the birds often return to their starting point in migration.

Bees do surprisingly well in high winds, but when fruit, flowers and leaves are stripped from trees and plants, there is less food available for ants. Consequently, where plant-friendly bee colonies exist, ants may move into the hives forcing the bees out.

Hurricanes, like most natural forces, produce winners and losers.


  • Orchids use strong winds to spread their seeds.
  • Spadefoot toads breed during heavy rainfall.
  • Ground birds find ground shelter beneath downed trees and brush.


  • Migrating birds are blown off course and the weaker are separated from the flock.
  • Squirrels toss their young ones out of the nests when nuts become scarce on the trees.
  • Sea turtle nests on beaches can be washed out to sea before hatchlings arrive.

While researching for this article, we ran across a very interesting paper written in September, 1945, entitled Hurricane Damage to Tropical Plants. We believe this 1945 hurricane (they had no names then) has had a lasting impact on which tropical plants are used and not used in south Florida in the decades since.

Living Walls of the World

When it comes to using plants on the vertical spaces of buildings to help clean the air, Taipei leads the way. One of the first green wall concepts in Asia was built by companies that specialized in sustainable waste disposal and green energy and their vertical garden helped to camouflage a landfill site. Since then, the architecture has soared! The smog-eating Tao Zhu Tower, a twisting double helix of 40 luxury condos is the latest. Its 23,000 trees and shrubs will absorb 130 tons of carbon dioxide per year.Tao Zhu Tower

Bogota has embraced the green wall concept throughout their airport, restaurants, hotels and offices. It’s said that the 8-story Santalaia in Bogota could be the second largest green wall project in the world. read more »Santalaia

Designed by a French botanist, Patrick Blanc, the Musée du Quai Branly is a must-see museum for American tourists who visit the nearby Eiffel Tower. The living wall is 650 ft. by 40 ft. and covers the entire north side of the facade. learn more »Branly Museum

In Italy, the residents living in 63 unique living spaces in the Treehouse Apartments in Turin are protected from smog and noise pollution with multiple terraces containing over 150 trees. There are 50 more trees in the court garden to help create the “perfect microclimate” inside the building. read more »HT italy urban treehouse

The living wall at the University Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico City is one of our favorites. Beautifully designed free-form art pairs with a touch of whimsy—a bicycle defying gravity. learn more »Mexico City

Whether referred to as green walls or living walls, the plants and flowers that thrive in the wall systems provide benefits beyond the aesthetics:

  • Overall wellbeing and happiness
  • Natural air filtration in their walls
  • Removal of harmful volatile organic compounds
  • Air and noise pollution filters
  • Thermal regulation

Studies indicate that hospitals with living walls have faster patient recovery rates, office spaces have fewer employee complaints and fewer sick days, and homes are more peaceful and wall hospital

Living wall by Pat For ideas for your home or office, or to view more spectacular walls around the world, visit Pinterest, search term: living walls

Finally, here’s the living wall we have in our reception area at Plantique. Come visit!

Who Let the Dogs In?

Studies. We seem to have a love/hate relationship with studies. From paleo diet studies to sunscreen ratings, on TV and the Internet we are bombarded with studies. Still, one study caught our eye: “Studies show how pets lower stress hormones, and some show that workplaces that allow pets see higher morale and productivity.”

doggieSound familiar? It’s very similar to what they say about having plants in the workplace! “Plants help purify the air and have a calming effect on workers making them more productive and less likely to make mistakes.” Combining plants with pets in the office is an intriguing cocktail.

In today’s hi-tech entrepreneurial office environment, more and more business owners are bringing their dogs to work and allowing employees to do the same. In fact, about 5 years ago a Greensboro, N.C. office allowed people to bring their dogs to work during a self-reported test on stress levels. While the dog owners mellowed out and breezed through their day, the stress levels of the non-pet workers increased. The study was published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.

Before we let the dogs in, office managers beware! Some plants are toxic to pets.

Plants Toxic to Pets

The list of toxic plants is long (see below for a complete list), but these are popular office plants in South Florida.

Azalea—causes vomiting, diarrhea and excessive drooling. Possible death.
Lilies—the Peace and Calla lilies may cause minor drooling, but the Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies are highly toxic to cats.
Dieffenbachia—causes intense oral irritation, drooling, nausea, vomiting and difficulty swallowing if ingested.
Sago Palm—If ingested, the leaves and seeds can cause vomiting, bloody stools, damage to the stomach lining, sever liver failure and in some cases, death.

For a complete list of plants toxic to pets, visit the ASPCA.

Plants Make Workers More Productive

officePlants-1839436Office spaces with plants have happier, more productive workers. In fact, a 2014 University of Exeter field study found that green plants increase worker productivity by 15%. In today’s competitive space, that could translate to thousands, even millions of dollars added to the bottom line, especially when you consider lower employee turnover, fewer sick days, and staff that are more focused on the tasks at hand.

The study looked at two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands over a sustained period of time. This study concluded that offices with green plants increased workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, and a perception of better air quality than offices designed for simply “clean and organized work spaces.”

In the United States, 10 high-performing buildings in 5 cities were included in a Harvard University study that found that green-certified office spaces not only play a huge role in our professional life, but can also impact on our well-being at home in three important ways:

  • 26% boost in the ability to learn and understand,
  • 30% fewer sickness related absences and malaise during office hours,
  • 6% improvement in sleep quality at day’s end.

If adding plants to the office can increase performance of workers compared to those who work in conventional office spaces, it could be surmised that adding plants alone would “pay for” the capital costs and maintenance of green improvements.

Another Harvard survey of over 200,000 employees worldwide reported that 77% of workers reported that natural light and air quality are important to them, yet only 58% and 38% are satisfied. Could your office benefit from “humanizing” the workplace by bringing in elements of the outdoors indoors?

Please share this article with someone you think could benefit from a greener workplace, or call us to arrange a visit with one of our Interior Plantscape Specialists. (800) 749-0124.

Plants and Feng Shui in the Office

meditation frogWe’ve known for some time that keeping indoor plants in our living and working spaces improves our mental and physical health.

Plants improve our concentration and make us more productive. They generate happiness and make us smile. They reduce stress and improve relationships, and give us more energy so we can perform our daily tasks better. They help us retain information, heal faster, and lower our heart rate and blood pressure.

When combined with the benefits of feng shui, plants shine!

Feng shui is the ancient practice of using shapes and forms to influence our sense of well-being. Based on the eight cardinal directions that represent different aspects of life, we can use the living energy of plants to achieve certain goals around the office:

Boost Energy. Because plants are living, breathing beings they bring life to an otherwise still environment.

Balance Energy Levels. In feng shui there are areas associated water, metal, earth, fire, and wood. Plants boost the energy level associated with wood (e.g. office desks) and can weaken an area associated with water (less wasted time around the water fountain perhaps?).

Improve Relationships. In an office environment, we can’t always choose with whom we spend the majority of day. The feng shui of office flowers and flowering plants can boost the good energy in relationships to produce a more harmonious environment.

Learn Faster. Science has proven that plants increase learning. Feng shui suggests that the “lucky bamboo” when placed four at a time in an area can increase learning abilities that help workers perform better.

To learn more about increasing your office success with plants and Feng Shui, we suggest reading more from The Spruce or talk with one of our plant experts here at Plantique.

The Spectacular Bromeliad

Bromeliads are similar to a beautiful woman—stunning in a red dress, perfectly formed, graceful to behold… then gone. The bromeliad is stunning while in bloom, but with the exception of few types, bloom once and then it’s over.

Bromeliads in the wild are hardy and adaptable to a variety of climates from rainforests to deserts. Pineapples are bromeliads as are Spanish moss and air plants. To successfully cultivate, grow and bloom these stunning plants year after year requires a certain human-plant relationship and knowledge about the species. However, enjoying bromeliads is easy with a Plantique plant rental program because replacement after the bloom is guaranteed.

Here are a few of our favorites:

scarlet Star

Scarlet Star (Guzmania lingulata) is one of the most popular. The Scarlet Star’s forest green foliage, bright red bracts and small white flowers is a spectacular centerpiece in any space. It’s the only plant that when its “urn” (the natural cavity in the middle of the plant) is filled with water all the time it will not rot.

blushing Bromeliad

Blushing Bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae) show off a vivid pinkish red “blush” at its center point in season while shiny green foliage keep the interest going all year with white stripes along the edges of each leaf. Some varieties show off lavender, violet and white flowers, but once they bloom, re-flowering is unlikely.

pink QuillPink Quill Bromeliads (Tillandsia cyanea) are show stoppers with their spiky green leaves and stemless “rosettes” that are actually curvy, paddle-shaped spikes or bracts. Small purple flowers pair with pink bracts to produce an exotic, tropical look. The Pink Quill blooms disappear after about 3 months, making this plant a sensible choice for Plantique’s rental program.

Aechmea fasciataPrimera Bromeliads (Aechmea Fasciata) have wide, greenish silver variegated leaves with back curling spines and long-lasting flowering bracts in all hues of pink with smaller purple flowers following. They are easy to grow and fun to propagate. The little “plantlets” produced by the Primera can be cut off and replanted in small pots singularly or in clusters.

The bromeliad family is wide and varied. From needle-thin to broad and flat leaves, symmetrical to irregular, spiky to soft, vivid to subtle, the choices are plentiful. Interested in adding bromeliads to your plantscape? Call us to arrange an onsite visit to assess your humidity, light and soil conditions. If you have questions about bromeliads, please call us at (561) 641-0124.

The Story of Interior Plants

Horticulturist Joelle Steele wrote a very extensive article on the history of interior plants. It’s an interesting history and we’ve gathered a synopsis of the article for our readers. To read the original article and learn more about the people that built the industry, please read the entire article here.

According to the article, people have been using plants and flowers to decorate their homes and their bodies since prehistoric times. In the tombs of Egyptians and other early civilizations dated back to over 3,000 years ago, images of potted plants were carved on the walls. Terra cotta pots were found in the ruins of Pompeii. These are first recorded proof that humans created green spaces to decorate their surroundings and make them pleasant to enjoy.

medieval gardenIn Medieval times, gardens were grown to produce fruits, vegetables and herbs for medicinal and culinary purposes. House plants didn’t see their revival until the 1600s when greenhouses appeared on the scene in the homes of the wealthy. The Palace of Versailles had an orangery with over 1,200 citrus trees and hundreds of plants. In the 1700s, the first hothouse for tropical plants was build in the U.S. and quickly became big business. By the mid-1800s foliage was used indoors of the homes of the wealthy, and (as Joelle says), “even the lowliest parlor had at least one big splashy plant.”

An early pioneer in the floral industry was Julius Roehrs who came from Germany to settle in New Jersey, leading to its nickname as the Garden State. After a ban was placed on the importation of plants grown in soil, tissue culture would become widely used in farm crops and became the future of interior landscaping.

In the 20th century, the electric light and central heating made growing plants indoors more difficult and plant use declined. But during the Great Depression of the 1930s houseplants experienced a revival in the form of dish gardens. Interior landscaping got a second wind in the 1940s when New York City downtown buildings and restaurants added potted plants and flowers to their interiors.

indoor gardensIn the 1970s, the interior landscaping industry took off. The theory that humans are genetically programmed to connect with plants was accepted. Everyone wanted plants in their homes and offices. Macramé plant hangars were everywhere! It was also when the EPA revealed construction materials could be carcinogenic, and when NASA scientists proved that plants can control environmental pollution.

By the 1980s we knew that indoor spaces with plants had higher comfort ratings. Enter: irrigation and self-watering plantscapes. The recession of the mid-1900s shrunk the industry as small companies closed or merged with others. But the science of plants and their relationship with humans had been established, and by the end of the 20th century the industry entered a new era.

living buildingIn the 21st century, green walls (also known as living walls) are bringing urban gardens to homes, offices, malls, and restaurants. With today’s technology, entire high-rises can become vertical gardens. Water systems are designed to reuse and/or recirculate water. Green materials are being used for potting and fibrous material instead of soil surround roots. The possibilities for pollution-fighting, human friendly plants is endless and the future bright for the interior landscape industry.

Plants For A Better Life

The triangle within the borders of Palm Beach, westward to Naples and north to Tampa have experienced a very dry winter. Outdoor gardeners collectively have their fingers crossed that some rain will soon provide needed relief. At Plantique, we’ve paid special attention to keeping our outdoor potted and patio plants moist and healthy, while our indoor plantscapes are oblivious to the near-drought conditions.

waterscapeRegardless of the weather, we encourage the use of plants throughout each season in order to lift our spirits and improve our environment. Here in south Florida there are more than a few reasons to add more plants to the spaces where live and work. Here’s a few of our favorites…

Drought Tolerant Eco-Plants

For outdoor plantscapes, we look for a mindful mix of plants that are tolerant of our usual wet summers and dry winters. This time of year the Aloe, Bird of Paradise, Bismarck Palm, and Bromeliads are happily providing brilliant colors and greenery to outdoor and indoor spaces while cleaning and purifying the surrounding environment.

Green Walls

For green walls, we look to blended gardens of edibles or ornamentals with annuals, perennials, succulents, and tropicals. These cooling and air-cleaning walls of green cut down on air conditioning costs and can provide an endless supply of greens for restaurateurs, hospital and hotel kitchens, or for simple salad greens at home.

Water Features

Nothing is more relaxing than the sound of water in the garden. Garden fountains are beneficial for stress relief and relaxation in commercial building lobbies and entrances, office gardens, and patio spaces. Small fountains provide a natural humidifier for plants, drown out annoying sounds, and release negative ions to further purify the air in indoor spaces.