Optimum Office Plants

Optimum Office Plants

Office plants are the perfect way to breathe life into what can otherwise be a rather sterile environment, offering not only beauty, but a host of benefits to our wellbeing. But not all houseplants are equally suited to office life. That's why we've put together a list of some of our favorite houseplants for the job, plus care tips and more.

Some of our favorite desktop plants are pictured above, including Heartleaf Philodendron, Aglaonemas, and Spider Plants.

What Makes an Ideal Office Plant?

When we think of the perfect plant to keep us company at work, the first criterion that comes to mind is that it needs to be something low maintenance. After all, the workplace doesn't exactly need any more work, does it? An office plant needs to look good without a lot of fuss, because when there's a job to get done, no one has time to spend pampering a plant diva. Second, we think an office plant should be resilient. Chances are it won't get watered on weekends or when you're away on a business trip, and in a hectic week of meetings and project deadlines, you might forget to care for it at all, so it needs to be able to take a little neglect from time-to-time. And finally, while a corner office might receive a good bit of natural light, the average cubicle doesn't necessarily have a window view, so a sure bet for an office plant is one that will tolerate low-light conditions.

The following table includes some of our favorite plants that fit the bill, with marks in each column for which a plant has a certain desirable trait for the office environemnt. Plants listed as growing under fluorescent lights are your best bet if you don't have a window, and drought-tolerant options are best for forgetful waterers. We've also indicated plants that are available in smaller sizes suitable for sitting on a desk versus those that get much larger for placing on the floor.

Our Favorite Office Plants

Plant Name & Notable Cultivars

Will Grow Under Fluorescents

Drought Tolerant

Floor Sized

Desk Sized

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra eliator)

  • 'Milky Way' — leaves dotted with white "stars"

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema cvs.)

  • 'Lady Butterfly' — leaves splashed with pink variegation
  • 'Spring Snow' — leaves splashed with white variegation

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Leopard Lily (Dieffenbachia cvs.)

  • 'Camoflauge' — Gray-green leaves with flecks of darker green
  • 'Reflector' — Gold and lime patterned variegation that looks almost reptilian

Dracaena (Dracaena cvs.)

  • D. deremensis 'Hawaiian Sunshine' — Wide, dark green leaves with lighter green linear variegation along leaf centers
  • D. fragrans 'White Jewel' — Wide green leaves white lines in leaf interiors
  • D. marginata 'Magenta' — Thin leaves with red-pink marginal variegation

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

  • 'Njoy' — Bold, white variegation with larger splotches

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

  • 'Laurentii' — Classic yellow marginal variegation

Moonlight Scindapsus (Scindapsus treubii 'Moonlight')

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum cvs.)

  • 'Domino' — Splashes of white variegation

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

  • 'Raven' — Near black foliage that emerges electric lime

Some of our favorite larger plants for office spaces include mature ZZ Plants, Dracaenas, Dieffenbachias, and Cast Iron Plants.

A Word of Caution

While we aren't in the business of telling people not to bring home a certain plant, we do want to set you up for success. As such, there are a few types of plants we would encurage the average office-dweller to think twice before bringing back to their cubicle.

  • Cacti and succulents require the kind of bright, direct light that is simply lacking from most office spaces. Anything less is a recipe for sad-looking, short-lived plants.
  • Monstera deliciosa not only wants bright light, but it gets huge — too big for most office spaces to accommodate.
  • Ficuses, similarly, want bright light. Plus, they are large specimens that resent being moved.
  • Calatheas are gorgeous plants, but they need high humidity, and the average office space isn't going to cut it.
  • Polka Dot Plants want bright light and lots of water, making them higher maintenance than we think a desk plant should be.

Why Keep Office Plants?

We are huge believers in the value of keeping plants in the spaces where we live and work. (After all, we've made it so that we're surrounded by plants all the time here at the Farm!) For one, we just feel better when plants are around. The mere presence of greenery in our surroundings has been linked to all sorts of positive outcomes related to mental and physical health. Studies have shown that employees who have access to some form of nature, like houseplants, experience lower levels of stress and higher levels of job satisfaction, and may even take fewer sick days! Findings such as these are easily couched within the framework of biophilia — the idea that humans have an innate affinity for the natural world and experience positive feelings as a result of our interactions with nature — and we certainly find that to be a compelling thesis!

Another oft-cited benefit to having houseplants in an office is their ability to improve indoor air quality. Recent studies suggest that plants can have a marked impact on the levels of dust, mold spores, and bacteria found in a room by increasing the humidity in their surroundings, as well as directly releasing negative ions and allelopathic chemicals into the air that keep these airborne particles at bay. They can also reduce noise pollution in a given space by absorbing and diffracting sound waves.

Eagle-eyed readers have no doubt spotted that — in spite of the fact that our theme for Houseplant Month 2024 is outer space — we haven't mentioned that famous clean air study conducted by NASA in the late 80s that you often see referenced in articles like this one. While that research does indicate that plants have the ability to remove volatile organic compounds from the air, it's important to contextualize these findings before jumping to conclusions about houseplants' effectiveness as air purifiers in our homes and offices. Namely, we don't live and work in hermetically sealed chambers like the ones NASA used in their experiments! Under real world conditions, plants' ability to filter volatile compounds from the air is far less dramatic, which isn't to say plants don't help to filter air, merely that this study doesn't support that argument in the way it is often presented.

General Office Plant Care

Caring for any of the plants we've identified in this article will be virtually the same in an office as it would be anywhere else, and doing a bit of research on the specific plants you have in mind is always a good idea before bringing them home — or, in this case, to the office!

In general, a bit of natural light is better than relying on overhead fluorescent lighting alone. Even if you adopt a plant that can tolerate low light conditions, a location that receives bright, indirect light from a window is preferable. With that said, some plants like Aglaonemas, Dieffenbachias, and ZZs are sensitive to cold temperatures and would benefit from being moved further away from windows during the wintertime. If natural light is limited, consider using artificial grow lights to supplement what they're getting. While it may not be strictly necessary, it will help your plants perform their best!

Most plants prefer to dry out slightly between waterings, and that's certainly true of the plants we've identified in this article. (If you're often gone for longer stretches or know you frequently forget to water, look for one of our corresponding picks in the list above!) As you're getting accustomed to the water needs of your particular plants, keep in mind that it's better to err on the side of under rather than over-watering. Once a month, you can also feed your office plants with a balanced, organic liquid fertilizer during the spring and summer.

By simply choosing the right houseplants for your office and giving them a little care, you can create a healthier and more vibrant workspace and enjoy the benefits of bringing nature indoors!

In addition to all of the plants mentioned above, we have a a huge selection of houseplants right now at the Farm just waiting to be explored. As always, feel free to ask any of our team members for help in picking out or caring for your plants — regardless of whether they're destined for life in an office, house, apartment, dorm, or anywhere else!