Offices can often be dull, gray, stuffy environments where uniformity and mundanity can make the working day feel like an eternity. Incorporating desk plants into your workspace won’t just add a bit of colour, but can lower stress levels and improve both your mental and physical wellbeing. Even the smallest plant can improve both air quality and productivity.
Before rushing out and filling your desk with greenery there are a few things that you should take into consideration. For example, how much light will the plant need? Will it take up too mich space? Do you have the time to care for a high maintenance plant? You will also need to consider company policy and your colleagues, some people may be allergic to certain plants so be kind and ask before you decorate your desk.
Over the course of this article we will look at 18 desk plants of all shapes and sizes, some that flower and some that produce heaps of fascinating foliage. The majority of our selections will require minimal care and, despite their delicate appearance, are incredibley resilient. This means that whether you are a green fingered enthusiast or a complete novice we will find the perfect plant for you.
Also known as Wood Sorrel, Oxalis is a colourful little plant that will liven up even the dreariest of spaces. In the wild, it’s commonly viewed as a weed. Cultivated varieties, sometimes referred to as “false shamrock”, fill garden centres in the run up to St. Particks Day.
Oxalis comes in many varieties. Particularly eyecatching is the “Zinfandel” variety, which has deep purple leaves and yellow flowers. In contrast “Pink Sorrel” produces delicate pink leaves. This plant does well in conditions with low humidity, but will need bright light for the richest colours.
2. Snake Plant
Commonly referred to as “mother-in-law’s tongue”, the snake plant (Sansevieria) is a resilient plant that can thrive with little attention. They can last for up to a month without water, in poor light, and dry air, as long as it’s planted in well-draining soil. This hardiness means that these desk plants will probably still be going strong long after you retire.
An evergreen perennial, Sansevieria produces elegant, glossy spikes that reach up to the sky. This means that it won’t try to spread out over your desk. Unless you have a large space to fill make sure that you choose a dwarf variety such as “Whitney” or “Futura Superba”.
As well as taking pride of place on your desk, use several snake plants in a line to make a living divider in an open-plan office.
A distinctive option that will add interest to your workspace, Tillandsia, aka “Air Plant”, is able to grow without soil. Instead, these little plants will happily grow on driftwood, in shells, tea cups, mini terrariums, or any other unusual container you care to dream up.
There are several hundred types of Tillandsia available, all boasting distinctive silver, green, and rosy spiked leaves. This means that you will almost certainly find one to suit your taste.
This species doesn’t need much light to grow, but will produce a flower spice if they sit in a sunny location. You should also mist these desk plants once a week.
Trailing Philodendrons are commonly used in hanging baskets, but can be trained to grow up a small trellis or stake. These are low-maintenance desk plants—just remember to water them regularly to maintain their glossy greenery.
Philodendrons do well in both bright and indirect light. They also like to grow in low humidity and cooler temperatures. The “Brandi” variety grows distinctive leaves that boast an interesting silvery pattern, and deep–green-leaved “Imperial Green” will happily grow in shady locations.
5. Jade Plant
Jade plants (Crassula ovata) are commonly referred to as “money trees”, because they’re believed to attract money and prosperity. These interesting succulents are native to Mozambique and South Africa.
These small plants won’t take up much room on your desk. They also fare well in harsh conditions and don’t require as much light as other plants. In fact, they don’t appreciate regular watering. Instead, wait until the soil is dry. You should fertilize your jade plants with a general-purpose liquid houseplant feed every 6 months.
6. African Violet
An old favourite, the fuzzy-leaved African violet (Saintpaulia) thrives in average temperatures and humidity levels. This makes them ideal house or office desk plants.
Happy to grow in shaded areas, African violets need light—either natural or from a lamp—in order to flower. If you only have a small space, aim for miniature varieties, which are less than 6 inches in diameter. They won’t take up too much room, but will still add colour to your workspace.
Note: I’ve found that watering African violets with cold, black tea encourages growth and flowering.
7. Rex Begonia
Often overlooked, the Rex begonia is a distinctive jewel-like plant. Unlike some desk plants that are grown for their flowers, this begonia is all about the foliage.
These are colorful plants that come in a wide range of varieties. The stunning “Stained Glass” variety produces ruby-red leaves with a pewter rim and dark red veins. In contrast, “Marmaduke Rex” is noted for its chocolate speckled golden leaves. “Escargot” is so named because of the distinctive silvery snail like pattern on its olive green leaves.
The diverse range of Rex Begonias available means that you’ll certainly find something to suit your space. Note that they do well in low light, but need good humidity levels in order to thrive.
8. Aloe Vera
Aloes are ideal choices for low-maintenance desk plants. These evergreen succulents only need to be watered every couple of weeks, and will perch happily on your desk, as long as they get plenty of indirect light.
The most common variant is Aloe barbadensis, but the dwarf “Minibelle” with its white-spiked leaves, and cream-dappled “Tiger Tooth” are both interesting varieties.
Plant your aloe in a well draining, sandy soil—a cactus mix is ideal. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering.
Ivy may seem an odd choice for a desk plant, as it’s usually seen climbing up old buildings, but its many variants can add interest to even the blandest spaces.
It will grow happily in low light, but make sure that the soil is damp. Ivy also filters out formaldehyde (as well as other airborne particles) making your desk a far nicer place to sit.
This plant comes in a range of varieties. Alongside the classic Hedera helix variety, there’s the grey and gold Yellow Ripple combination, the ruffled leaves of “Curly Locks” or, the increasingly popular “Golden Pothos”.
Sometimes known as Golden Devil’s Ivy, Pothos is a variety that requires little regular attention. It can also grow up to 20 meters in length so, like the other variants, you may want to consider some form of trellis. What better way to break up the hard lines of a dull office space than with a living piece of art? Alternatively, allow the plant to drape over the edges of your desk.
If you do choose a Golden Pothos, be careful if you have any pets around. The plants’ leaves contain compounds that are toxic to cats and dogs.
10. Wandering Jew
Wandering Jew (Tradescantia) is one of the easiest plants to grow. It’s ideal for busy people who may forget to care for more delicate plants.
There are 3 distinct Tradescantia varieties: Tradescantia zebrina (silver inch plant) has distinctive white, green, and purple striped leaves. It also produces delicate pink or white flowers. Secondly, Tradescantia pallida (purple heart), proudly boasts light purple to pink flowers against its stunning purple leaves.
Finally the classic variety: Tradescantia fluminensis. Sometimes called “Quicksilver”, this white-flowered variety was grown by almost everyone’s grandmother. All three varieties are easy to care for and will flower a couple of times throughout the year. Just make sure to keep their soil moist.
11. Chinese Evergreen
Originating in Asia, the ornamental Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) is traditionally seen as a lucky plant. It’s also said to symbolize a long life. Its deep green leaves can contain striking splashes of red or silver, making it an attractive plant to have around.
Sometimes simply referred to as “aglos” these plants tolerate many conditions but they prefer their environment to be slightly warmer: ideally above 53°F. Chinese evergreen is perfectly happy in indirect light, and can also remove toxins from the air.
12. Peace Lily
The Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) originated in the tropical Americas and southeastern Asia. Despite their delicate appearance, these tough little plants requires neither huge amounts of light, nor daily watering to survive. This makes them ideal desk plants for busy professionals.
Since they’re on the larger side, peace lilies are probably best avoided if you only have a small workspace. Their main requirements are well-draining soil, and indirect light. If your lily fails to flower, try moving it to a darker spot.
You may associate ferns with hillsides or ornamental rockeries, but they can also add interest to an office space.
The asparagus fern (Asparagus desniflorus) is an evergreen perennial, and its delicate white flowers produce bright red berries. As the name suggests, this particular fern is a close relative of the asparagus.
Ferns prefer to be watered regularly and to sit in rich soil, but will grow perfectly well in conditions that aren’t great. In the right conditions, your fern can grow to 3ft in height. As such, they might be better in an office corner than on a desk.
A smaller option is the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata). These are popular indoor plants, most commonly used in hanging baskets. Boston ferns like rich, damp soil and humid conditions. It also prefers to sit in indirect light. If your workspace is pet friendly the Boston Fern is safe for cats to eat.
Exotic orchids prefer indirect light to direct sunlight. They also require little water: once a fortnight will be plenty unless it’s uncommonly hot. These desk plants don’t spread outwards, so they’re ideal for even the smallest workspaces.
The most common variety is the Moth orchid (Phalaenopsis). If you’re prepared to seek out a more unusual variety, you’ll be rewarded with a striking desk companion.
Bonsai trees can be trained to grow in any shape you want. As an added bonus, tending one of these desk plants can provide a calming distraction from stressful environments.
While there are many varieties available, the Ficus is a small, compact member of the Bonsai family that can give a tropical vibe to your workspace. Slightly larger, at just over 1ft tall, the Money Bonsai is supposed to bring good financial fortune to its grower. A striking floral option is the Azalea Bonsai.
16. Venus Fly Trap
A tiny little plant that will do well in poor light, the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula) is a distinctive addition to any workspace.
Venus fly traps are well-known carnivorous plants that take up hardly any space, and will take care of any flying pests in the area. They like damp soil, and are best watered from the bottom up. Just be sure to use distilled water. If you’re away for a few days, you can leave your fly trap sitting quite happily in a saucer of water.
Palms add a ton of interest to a bland office. Easy to care for, these striking plants may be a better choice for people with a bit more room to play with.
Potted Bamboo palms (Chamaedorea seifrizii) aren’t too particular about positioning: standard room temperature is fine. They do, however, grow better in brighter spots. These low-maintenance plants only need a bit of filtered water when their soil feels dry to the touch.
If the bamboo palm is too large the Parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans) is a smaller alternative. It will eventually reach 6ft in height, but growth is very slow. Finally, the Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) excels in both bright and indirect light, and also helps to purify the air.
Cacti have long been a popular choice for offices. Normally found in arid, harsh deserts, cacti are extremely durable desk plants. Even the smallest varieties are able to store a surprising amount of water, so they’re ideal for even the most forgetful of workers.
Cacti are easy to keep alive as long as they get a lot of light. A windowsill is an ideal location.
These little plants also come in a host of colors, shapes, and sizes, meaning that they can quickly brighten up a dull office. Even better, a wider range of different cacti can create an-eye catching display.
Any of these 18 plants could be the ideal addition to your desk. Maybe you’ll get creative and add two or three different plants to really liven up your workspace.