Hoteliers explain the benefits of incorporating live plants in their hotels and what their teams do to keep the greenery looking fresh.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hoteliers are livening up their public spaces by adding live plants indoors, which requires quite a bit of maintenance to keep indoor greens looking fresh.
The 1 Hotel Central Park in New York City features many green displays and natural elements throughout the hotel. Bringing nature into properties is one of 1 Hotel’s overarching concepts, Hans Schaepman, GM at 1 Hotel Central Park, said, and his hotel specifically incorporates elements similar to those found in Central Park.
“Because of our proximity to Central Park, it was only natural we would create a similar lush, green environment inside of the hotel – not only in our public spaces but also in the guest room corridors and inside our rooms and suites,” he said.
The hotel has such an overwhelming number of plants that its teamworks with an on-staff horticulturist who educates them on which plants are suited best in certain areas, he said.
“After two-and-a-half years of operating, we have found a good rhythm of maintaining all the plants both inside and outside of the hotel and we receive numerous positive comments about what it does to the overall guest experience,” Schaepman said.
Having a team of experts on location isn’t unique to 1 Hotel Central Park or the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, which has a team of 16 horticulturists with two supervisors who work at the hotel to maintain its 9.5 acres of gardens, said Megan McDugald, manager of horticulture at The Gaylord Opryland.
The Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, has 9.5 acres of plants and other natural elements under glass in the atrium portion of the hotel. (Photo: Dan Ham Photography)
Each horticulturist has an area of the gardens that they look after and maintain, she said, and maintenance requires “a lot of washing manually and scouting.”
Bugs and other pests are naturally attracted to plants, but the Gaylord Opryland keeps pests out of its atrium gardens by having an in-house pest team that sprays the plants with safe pesticides, McDugald said. Drenching also takes place to keep plants in top condition.
The Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center in Denton, Texas, features a living plant wall next to a large waterfall in the lobby of the hotel, GM Jeff Pritts said.
The hotel doesn’t have plant experts onsite at all times, but it does partner with a company who installed the plants and replaces the plants on the wall every two weeks or so to keep them looking fresh, Pritts said.
Schaepman said it takes a green thumb or two to keep plants looking their best at 1 Hotel Central Park, and like the Embassy Suites Denton Convention Center, the hotel also works with a company who provides plants for the hotel.
“Our plant provider is on property twice a week for (plant maintenance),” he said. “And not only for the interior plants, but also for our massive wall of English Ivy which adorns the outside of our building. We have even created a ‘green room’ in the heart of house area, which is used to refresh and replace the plants. It’s almost like a small plant store/workshop!”
Design elements, health benefits
A lot of hard work is put into keeping living plants inside of a hotel, but it’s all done for a reason.
Schaepman said having healthy and lush plants inside and around his hotel is definitely a perk for 1 Hotel Central Park.
“We are all very proud of how special it makes the hotel feel,” he said. “The effect of it on our guests is quite impressive based on the amount of complimentary feedback we receive.”
Living walls and other plants are great focal points for hotels from a design perspective, but they also add a few extra benefits to guests, said Reggi Nichols, founding principal and president at Waldrop + Nichols Studio.
“A vertical living wall adds to the overall well-being of guests by reducing stress, enhancing indoor air quality and improving mental health,” she said. “From an aesthetic point of view, living walls add softness, texture and warmth to public spaces. They also create an ideal layering effect and divide spaces without having to add hard surfaces.”
McDugald shared Nichols’ sentiments by adding that the plants in the Gaylord Opryland improve the air quality of the hotel, and having an attractive space in the hotel that incorporates elements of nature has led to a positive work environment and less employee turnover at the hotel, she said.
Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Hospitality Management, which operates the Embassy Suites Denton, said the plant wall and waterfall combination livens up the space at the hotel and “spoke to our company and family dedication to the natural environment and nature,” he said via email, adding that people should be more exposed to nature “than they are in today’s world” to benefit their health.
O’Reilly added that the property’s green wall “signifies (O’Reilly Hospitality Management’s) commitment to sustainability, LEED practices, and natural ecosystems.”
Vertical plant walls and other natural elements fall under the category of biophilic design, according to Nichols, which is becoming more popular in the hospitality space.
“We designed The Westin at The Woodlands in Woodlands, Texas, which opened in 2016 and incorporated biophilic design elements inspired by the neighboring northern bank of the Woodlands Waterway, a tree-lined canal and path system that winds through downtown’s attractions,” she said. “Biophilic design addresses human’s affinity for nature, thus translating into a desire to interact with natural elements.”
For hotels interested in incorporating natural elements into their interiors, Nichols said she recommends using real plants for the aesthetic benefits as well as the benefit to the wellbeing of guests.
“Living walls can take on a dynamic look with soft or ambient lighting to create a relaxing environment for guests,” she said. “And Introducing local flora and fauna gives guests an authentic taste of the surrounding landscape.”