Being cooped up inside all day can weigh on one’s mood, and finding a balance between keeping things productive and professional and avoiding the sterility of a doctor’s office can be tough. Posters, photographs, calendars, coffee mugs, all are great ways to personalize your cube or desk, and a few assorted desk toys make sure your down time isn’t mind numbing. But our hands-down favorite desk décor has to be plants. Aside from bringing your work space to life (literally), plants help purify the air, relieve stress, boost productivity, and make work a little happier. And the best kinds of desk plants are low maintenance, since you don’t want to add “Groundskeeper” to your list of responsibilities.
Jades are about as solid a desk plant as they come. These succulents have big, soft, and vibrantly green leaves, and if maintained (they do like their water), they’ll last for actual years. It’s not uncommon for people to receive these plants as young professionals, and bring them with them throughout their career. Also called money trees, jade plants are thought to bring good luck, positive energy, and harmonious Feng Shui to your desk or office.
If you’re looking to create some kind of partition between your desk and a colleague’s, or you want a plant that grows up instead of out, a snake plant is ideal. It thrives in low light, seldom needs watering, and acts as an excellent filter for carbon dioxide and formaldehyde, which means an oxygen boost for as long as it’s alive. Also called the mother-in-law’s tongue, the leaves are sharp but beautiful, with a green base color and striped yellow highlights. Just be careful not to over water these plants, as they’re prone to plant rot.
Cacti come in all shapes and sizes, which means you won’t struggle to find one that’s just the right size for your workspace. They survive in the desert with little to no rain, which means they’re damn near impossible to kill and require little to no upkeep. Seriously, if you kill a cactus, you’d be best to stay away from anything with a pulse, because you’re a goddamn murderer. And yeah, we know cacti don’t have pulses, but you found a way to kill one of the simplest living things on the planet, so we don’t want to see what you’d do to something with a heart.
One of the most common office plants, the spider plant is often displayed in hangers or standard clay pots. They look similar to snake plants, with green and light yellow stripes, but they are thinner and grow a little more wildly. They’re also one of the best plants for removing in-air pollutants, increasing humidity levels, and decreasing dust. If you have harsh allergies, these plants come highly recommended.
These plants take in a lot of water, so you’ll need to be mindful of that, but they’re also excellent for a workspace because they can survive in any kind of light—obscenely sunny to dark and dreary. What we love them most for is their lemon citrusy fragrance, and the fact that you can actually use them to spruce up tea or water. When rubbed or brushed, they release notes of lemon and even light mint, and should they ever start to brown or wilt, a quick trim will liven them right up. They’re not hands-free desk plants, but they’ll never be a pain in your ass, either.
Golden pothos plants are superb air purifiers. Although they’re technically vines, they’re popular because they will grow anywhere with little to no light and in less-than-ideal temperatures. The only potential drawback is that they need constant watering. But we’re constantly between our desk and the water cooler, so what’s one extra cup of water every now and then?
We’d be remiss not to include the classic bonsai in a roundup of the best desk plants because, well, not only is it the most popular selection among office plants, it’s a favorite for excellent reasons. Bonsais need light watering and moderate sunlight, so some can be on the high end of office plant effort, but the options more than make up for that. There are dozens of bonsais that that come in all different shapes and sizes, feature different types of leaves or flowers, and require different kinds of upkeep. Bonsais can be laid back and carefree or exceptionally hands on, and it all really depends on the kind of experience you’re looking for.
These plants belong to a special genre called “air plants.” Basically, air plants require no soil or water, and just kind of grow anywhere and everywhere. They’re very popular in homes and offices because they can be “planted” anywhere, are super decorative, and are practically maintenance free. People keep them in jars, boxes, fishbowls, trinkets, and honestly anywhere they can be stored because they literally thrive anywhere. Hell, some of them can even live underwater, so maybe these are your first stop on the way to a desktop aquarium.