The 10 Best Plants for Your Office or Desk

Philodendron

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Arriving at the office before the sun rises and leaving at dusk can cause a real sense of deprivation for those who love the outdoors. Using a light therapy lamp or light box can help, but adding plants may be the missing nature link needed to improve productivity and satisfaction on the job. Office plants can increase the humidity around the desk, remove toxins from the air, and add a touch of style to your workspace

  • 01 of 10

    Snake Plant

    Sansevieria

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    The tough nature of the Sansevieria, also known as snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue, means that it might continue to grow into its owner's retirement. Not all snake plants are created equal when it comes to size. Read the plant label carefully to avoid choosing a specimen that grows several feet high. Instead, look for a dwarf selection like 'Futura Superba' or 'Whitney.' Perfect for houseplant newbies, snake plants require little special attention—simply dump your water bottle on it on your way out the door on Friday and enjoy this slow-growing desk plant. 

  • 02 of 10

    African Violet

    African Violet
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    The fuzzy-leafed plant popular in the 1970s still has a cult following and for good reason: modern African violet hybrids thrive in the same conditions as humans do, with average humidity and temperatures. Although sufficient light is necessary for blooms, African violets aren't picky about the source of that light, and a fluorescent lamp aimed at the plant will help them flourish. Miniature violets, less than six inches in diameter, mean that even the smallest spaces can accommodate a flowering office plant. 

  • 03 of 10

    English Ivy

    Potted English ivy

     

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    Soften the hard lines of a desk with a trailing plant like English ivy. It requires only medium light and average water to thrive indoors. If the trailing nature of ivy gets too exuberant, wrap your ivy tendrils around a trellis or wire obelisk for a living piece of art. 

    Although you can't go wrong with any variety of the classic Hedera helix, many new cultivars expanded the look of this office plant. 'Silver Dollar' and 'Yellow Ripple' feature grey or gold variegation. Small spaces benefit from dwarf varieties like 'Pixie Dixie.' For those who crave fancy foliage, try the ruffled leaves of 'Curly Locks' or 'Manda's Crested.' 

  • 04 of 10

    ZZ Plant

    ZZ Plants
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    The ZZ plant is a succulent with two characteristics that have helped it rocket in popularity as a houseplant: tolerance to low light and the ability to grow with little water. The Zamioculus zamifolia is native to Africa and will do just fine with fluorescent bulbs as its only light source. The laddered leaves of the common ZZ plant are a pleasing addition to the office setting, but the new nearly black leaves of the latest 'Raven' cultivar look stunning against a white desktop. 

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  • 05 of 10

    Aloe

    Aloe Vera Plant
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    Aloe plants are easy to grow, as long as they are supplied with one essential ingredient: lots of bright light. If a desk is near a sunny window, plant it, and forget about it, as these succulents only need watering every couple of weeks. The standard Aloe barbadensis is attractive enough for any modern desk space, or you can explore the merits of the dwarf 'Minibelle' or the speckled 'Tiger Tooth' cultivars. Grow the plants in a sandy cactus mix to ensure the excellent drainage these plants require. 

  • 06 of 10

    Philodendron

    A potted philodendron in a green planter

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    Whether an office is flooded with natural light or tucked in a cozy corner, the carefree philodendron will add cheer with its glossy green leaves and trailing habit. Although the philodendron is often used for hanging baskets, it works just as well growing up a small trellis or totem pole. The philodendron does need regular moisture to keep its lush look, so a self-watering pot will be a lifesaver to those specimens that don't have a consistent caregiver. For a handsome container combination, grow the silvery mottled 'Brandi' cultivar with a standard green type. 

  • 07 of 10

    Tillandsia

    Air Plants
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    In order to grow the Tillandsia or any plants without soil, i.e. air plants, it's necessary to think outside the pot. You can affix air plants to a piece of driftwood with some fishing line. Also try filling a miniature terrarium with air plant varieties or arranging some air plants in a shell, teacup, or other unconventional container. 

    The Tillandsia genus includes several hundred species in the bromeliad family, all with green, silver, or rosy spiked foliage. As epiphytes used to growing among shady tree branches, air plants don't need much light, but those on sunnier desks are more likely to grow a flower spike. Mist the entire plant weekly, as modified scales on the leaves will take up the moisture the plant needs. 

  • 08 of 10

    Oxalis

    Oxalis house plant

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    Oxalis, or wood sorrels, are fun houseplants that add a splash of office color whether or not the plant decides to bloom. The plants are decidedly shamrock-like in appearance, which makes them popular at the garden center around St. Patrick's Day. Ironically, some types of oxalis are treated as lawn weeds, but the cultivated types are a bit more mannerly. Look for volcanic sorrel 'Zinfandel,' with deep purple leaves and yellow flowers. These plants do well in low humidity but need bright light for best color. 

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  • 09 of 10

    Rex Begonia

    Rex Begonia
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    Don't overlook the many jewel-like cultivars of the Rex begonia for an office desk. It's all about the foliage with these plants, with dozens of cultivars that feature speckles, veining, and even swirling patterns in shades of silver, purple, red, and green. A variety of available leaf textures add interest with ruffles, puckers, and colorful hairs lending distinction to varieties like 'Stained Glass,' 'Marmaduke,' and 'Escargot.' Rex begonias do fine in low light but need good humidity to thrive. 

  • 10 of 10

    Lucky Bamboo

    Potted lucky bamboo sitting on a wooden table

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    The common name lucky bamboo isn't actually one of the more than one hundred genera of true bamboo; rather, the Dracaena sanderiana is related to the corn plant, another easy-to-grow houseplant. Growers sometimes shape lucky bamboo stems into fun shapes like spirals, weaves, or even hearts. Left to their own devices, the stems of lucky bamboo will eventually outgrow their trained shapes, but plants grow slowly. Lucky bamboo requires little light and can grow without soil when the stems are submerged in water, but make sure the water level doesn't sink below the stems or the plant may not recover from this desiccation.