Reducing Office Noise with Sound Absorbing Indoor Plants

Have you ever been on the phone with a call center where you can hear a dozen other conversations going on in the background?  I had a client like that. When I walked in the giant open room with over thirty people sitting side-by-side carrying on phone conversations, I couldn’t imagine how they were able to concentrate or even complete any sales with all the noise. Perhaps the sterile environment was meant to create focus on the client conversation, but for me personally, it would feel like I was working inside a white-walled prison. With bare walls and row after row of tables with computer stations, it was my job to use sound absorbing indoor plants to create a plant sound barrier along the two half walls that divided the room.  Using over sixty long rectangular planters, I filled each one with the thickest, low-light foliage possible since there were no windows and only overhead fluorescent lights to sustain them. 

At least after the foliage was installed, the first thing you noticed were two giant rows of mixed dracaenas, spathiphyllum and bromeliads for some desperately needed color. The room was much more inviting, the noise level was reduced and the manager reported improved morale as well as productivity.  Whenever I serviced, I noticed less noise and that the most desired desks were the ones beside the plants. 

Lucky for me, this client already understood the value of adding plants to their call center so I didn’t have to explain how sound absorbing indoor plants could improve the noise levels and improve productivity.

Recently, I had the opportunity to propose a plant scape for a new IT business with several cubicle areas.  Using what I knew from the call center, I made sure to point out in my design that the cubicle planters would enhance the beauty of their cool modern office, but would also act as a natural noise barrier and create more privacy for their techs to work. I’ve found anytime you can provide a service that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional, it makes it much easier for the client to justify spending money on your services.  

In my experience for the best sound reduction, you want to choose plants that have thicker stems, and heavy foliage to absorb the most noise. The more mass a plant has, the more sound waves will reflect off the leaves instead of hard surfaces. For example, bare walls can create more of an echo effect inside a room.  Besides the plant itself, the other organic parts such as the roots, soil, top dressings also help to absorb sound waves.

One of my preferred sound absorbing indoor plants to use would be a Ficus, since their woody trunks and thick leaves are great sound barriers and can grow to massive size. However, that’s only if the space has lots of good natural light to keep them happy.

Another good option would be Song-of-India since they can grow well in medium light, are very disease tolerant and grow in clusters of beautiful curvy wooden stems topped with bright yellow and green striped foliage.

Sansevieria/Snake plants are another good sound absorbing indoor plant option with their dense waxy leaves. They are drought and disease resistant and have the ability to grow tightly together to create a three to four foot tall barrier.  

Another tip to optimize noise reduction is to spread plant groups throughout the space instead of clustered in one area.  Noise comes from all directions, so the more plant obstacles a space has, the better to capture and deter sound.

Since most office spaces tend to be mostly hard surfaces, softening these areas we spend so much time in with natural foliage is the perfect way to reduce noise levels and create a much more inviting atmosphere.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

Fiberglass Planters

Join the Community