When it comes to office personalization, there’s no better way to add whimsy, beauty and useful air-purifying properties than to find yourself a potted plant to keep on your desk. However, for those of us with less-than-green thumbs, a leafy green officemate can prove a daunting possibility.
That’s why we scoured the web in search of low-maintenance ferns, succulents, flowers and ivies, all capable of thriving indoors and guaranteed to bring some outdoorsy charm to your workspace.
A picturesque and easy-to-maintain viney plant, the English ivy requires only medium light, potting soil and a pot with drainage, and moderate watering (once the top of the soil feels dry, it’s time to water again).
If your desk gets direct sunlight throughout the day, the aloe vera plant will do very well there. It’s a beautiful option with the added bonus of leaves that contain moisturizing gel (perfect for your hands if the office AC/heat dries them out). Aloe is a succulent, so dry, sunny conditions are ideal; plant in a pot with drainage holes to remove standing water, and you’ll be good to go.
A member of the lily family (so not actually a bamboo tree!), the lucky bamboo brightens even the dullest of spaces with its vibrant green hue and delicate leaves. And it’s about as easy to manage as plants get. It does equally well with artificial and natural light, and it doesn’t even need potting soil; just stick it in a vase of clean water!
Cacti are famously difficult to kill, so they’re pretty perfect plants for busy office atmospheres. The ruby ball cactus bring extra aesthetic value, thanks to their bright red, orange, or yellow tops. These cacti handle shade with aplomb, and they only need occasional waterings (in fact, their soil should fully dry out between hydration sessions).
For an office succulent with plenty of stage presence, try the ionantha air plant. The long leaves of this plant feature a soothing cool-green color, and when the ionantha blooms, the flowers appear in a vibrant shade of violet. You don’t need to fully water the ionantha; just keep a misting bottle on your desk and give the succulent a spritz a few times a week. Also, the ionantha needs indirect sunlight, so don’t prop it on your windowsill.
If you want cheerful and bright flowers that aren’t too difficult to grow, the Gerbera daisy is the office plant for you. With the Gerbera daisy, you’ll get large blossoms in bold hues like red, pink, orange and yellow. Keep the plant in a sunny spot, and be sure to water regularly when the flowers are in bloom.
For offices with some extra floor space, the peace lily makes a stunning accent, thanks to its large white blossoms and glossy green leaves. The plants can grow to be over 3 feet tall, so they excel when planted in larger pots...but if you really want to stick with desk plants, you can get “Power Petite” peace lilies that only reach about 12 inches in height. Prime conditions for peace lilies include indirect light and evenly-distributed moisture.
The ZZ plant is particularly amenable to low light, so it’s a great pick for employees who work in cubicles. It’s an easy-to-handle botanical option that mainly grows vertically, giving you ample view of its glossy green leaves. In terms of watering, the ZZ plant only needs this task done once every 3-4 weeks.
A classic succulent with pretty oval-shaped leaves and a soothing sage-green hue, the jade plant likes bright light (in fact, if your office allows hanging window planters, the jade plant would be very into that situation).
Palm trees might seem like overly-large plants to keep in an office, but the parlor palm has adapted to smaller indoor spaces, meaning that it can easily fit on a desktop or in a sunny corner. It’s sensitive to overwatering, so only add moisture when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch.
A long-time favorite office plant (and for good reason), the hardy Chinese evergreen features gorgeous tonal leaves and the ability to withstand low-light conditions. The darker the leaves, the less light the Chinese evergreen requires.
Looking for an office plant that can multitask? Go for an herb like rosemary, which can grow successfully indoors. Put the plant in your office’s sunniest window, only water when the soil feels dry, and ensure good air circulation to avoid mildew, and you’ll have fresh-grown, flavorful rosemary at the ready.
Another excellent indoor herb, parsley thrives with abundant sunlight, regular waterings, and a home inside a pot with plenty of drainage holes.
With its long, thin, frond-like leaves, the spider plant does especially well on bookshelves or ledges with plenty of height, giving the leaves plenty of room to grow. These low-maintenance houseplants also have strong air-purification properties, which can remove pollutants and allergens from the atmosphere of your workspace.
The small and richly-colored African violet comes in several shades of purple, and its compact nature makes it ideal for petite desktops or shared desks. African violets are a bit trickier to grow than some other choices on this list, but if you keep them in moderate temperatures, provide them with indirect or filtered sunlight, avoid overwatering, and give them some fertilizer on occasion, you’ll be all set.
Also known as the “weeping fig”, the ficus benjamina is a gorgeous mini-tree with narrow branches and large leaves in a dark-green hue. It’s well-known for improving air quality, and it needs indirect light, moderate watering, and regular pruning to successfully grow.
Okay, full disclosure: a properly-grown rubber tree can reach heights upwards of 3 feet, so it’s more of a floor plant than a desk plant. Still, it’s great for offices: only needs a medium amount of light, can be watered just once a week, and looks wonderful in a pot in the corner of your office.
Simple and adaptable, the pothos plant lends itself well to workplaces that leave employees with little time to fuss over office greenery. Bright, indirect light and waterings when the soil gets dry keep the pothos in top condition, along with regular prunings to keep it from growing too large.
Philodendrons have large, striking leaves with matte finishes and multiple shades of green, and these aesthetic triumphs grow perfectly with indirect sunlight and soil that’s allowed to fully dry between waterings.
Dramatic (and awesome) plant name aside, the monstera deliciosa- also known as the “Swiss cheese plant”- includes flat and round leaves with splits throughout, giving it a distinctly tropical look. Keep this plant in medium light and keep its soil consistently moistened.
Most ferns need bright light and regular waterings, and the charming Boston fern is no exception. Keep up this regimen, and you’ll be rewarded with an elegant and graceful desk plant.
When it comes to air purification, dracaena plants are true MVPs; they reduce gases, compounds, and pollutants that corrupt indoor air, so keeping one in your office will likely improve your breathing. Plus, they’ve got plenty of visual appeal, thanks to their glossy green leaves and tree-like shape.
A shiny-leafed fern that’s the ideal size and shape for a not-quite-executive-sized desk, the bird’s nest grows especially well in slightly-humid air and moderate light. If your office tends to dry out, keep a misting bottle on-hand.
Named in honor of its durability, the thick leaves and tough constitution of the cast iron plant can’t be vanquished by a few missed waterings or overly-dim conditions. It will survive and thrive no matter what.
If a DIY “plant” with plenty of hipster cred sounds like your thing, try a moss terrarium. Find a glass container and add layers of gravel, dried moss, and soil. That, along with an occasional misting, is all it takes.