The best desk plants – 8 easy to care for plants to liven up your office

Because a desk is hardly the most thrilling of spaces to spend time, so add some literal life with the best desk plants

A home office with bookshelf and fluffy rug
(Image credit: Natalia Miyar)

Whether you work from home or head into an office every day, arriving at your desk is usually not the most joyous of experiences. Sure, you can buck yourself up with an iced coffee and a cute notepad filled with neatly written to-do lists, but you know the deal with a desk – it's where you are going to sit and work all day and come back the next day to the same spot and do exactly the same thing. 

But of course, there are ways to make your office desk a nicer environment to be in, and houseplants are a sure-fire way to lift your mood, motivate you, add some style, and even purify the air around you. 

'Adding plants to your workspace will instantly bring the space to life, creating a much more enticing area to spend time. Having plants around you is the perfect way to spend a much-needed 5 minutes away from the screen, you can do small mindful plant care tasks in this time, for example, watering, looking for new growth or dusting the leaves.' explains Jemma Charman of Green Rooms Market.

And there are loads of easy-to-care-for houseplants for beginners out there that will survive and thrive just as you do in your workplace (most of the time)...

The best desk plants to add life to your home office

'Adding plants to your home office can help to filter the air of harmful toxins and increase humidity, which in turn can reduce congestion and illness. Their decorative greenery helps to elevate the atmosphere and mood - improving your wellbeing, creativity, and productivity, dampening background noise and reducing stress levels.' explains Mark McCance founder of Hortology.
'Unlike in a shared workspace, in the home office, you don't need to go for big and bold to make a huge difference to your working environment. Small, desk and window sill decorating foliage can bring huge benefits without taking up too much of your personal space' 

1. Syngonium pink splash

Pink splash house plant

(Image credit: Green Rooms)

Houseplants of course add greenery to your desk space, but pink!? Yes please. The Syngonium pink splash is an ideal desk plant as it's pretty low maintenance, it usually only needs a weekly water and it can cope in a shady spot, or one that's out of direct sunlight. 

'If your desk is in a light area without direct bright sunlight on it, then you could consider adding a pop of color with a Syngonium (we love the pink splash!), or for lovely shaped leaves how about the ever-giving Pilea peperomioides, a great plant for those wanting to turn your friends into plant lovers, as it makes babies very readily which you can simply divide off and plant up to give to friends.' suggests Jemma Charman of Green Rooms Market.

Buy your very own Syngonium pink splash at Etsy.

2. Boston Fern

Boston fern

(Image credit: Patch)

'With so much choice, selecting the right plant for your home office is key. First, think about your space. Decide whether you are after a desk-side dweller, or something to accessorize the background of your endless zoom meetings. For the former, I would suggest our Boston Fern – a great absorber of air pollution and easy to care for with non-drop leaves.' suggests Bromberg Hawkins of Flowerbx.

The Boston fern is perfect for giving your home office some exotic, glamorous vibes, without totally overtaking all your desk space. We like to pop them on the edge or on a shelf above even, as they cascade so nicely off surfaces.

In terms of fern care, the Boston is a little high-maintenance. As its home is normally a tropical rainforest, it likes it warm and humid so will need misting regularly and watering weekly. It is one of the best houseplants for low light, so ideal if your office doesn't benefit from lots of natural light. Pop it in a shady corner of your desk, keep it moist and it will thrive. 

Check out this gorgeous Boston Fern plant from Home Depot.

3. Cast Iron plant

Cast Iron Plant

(Image credit: Patch)

'Happily neglected plants are a smart choice for the office, as you’re not always there and can’t always trust your neighbor to keep them going. The ultimate unkillable is the cast iron plant, virtually indestructible, and a naturally small growing plant.' Dom Butler, founder of Plant Drop.

It's called the Cast Iron plant for a reason. So if you aren't the most green-fingered, or as Dom says, want to be able to leave your plant to thrive for itself on your office desk a couple of days a week, this one is a good shout. It kind of loves neglect and doesn't need watering too often and can cope in any light conditions. Just leave this one to get on with it. 

Want your own? We've found a gorgeous (and affordable) Cast Iron Plant at Amazon.

4. Peperomia hope

Trailing houseplants on shelves

(Image credit: Green Rooms Market)

'Houseplants that don’t require too much humidity would be a safe bet, something like a Pilea peperomioides can stand on a desk or shelf, or the lovely trailing leaves of a Peperomia hope would be a great addition for a shelf above a desk.' suggests Jemma.

Incredibly cute to look at and super easy to maintain, the Peperomia hope makes for a lovely desk (or above desk) addition. It's a trailing plant but is pretty slow growing so you won't find it starts to overtake your shelving or grow to quickly to the floor if you hang it over your desk. It likes bright, indirect sunlight so ideal if your desk is in a sunny spot, and it likes to be kept moist in the warmer months so will need a weekly water in the summer. 

Buy your very own peperomia hope from Amazon, for less than $20.

5. Chinese money plant

Chinese money plant

(Image credit: Patch)

We love the luscious green fleshy leaves of a Money Plant, they ae so satisfying aesthetic and are the perfect size for a desk plant. In terms of Chinese Money Plant care, you will just need to water it when the soil feels dry and keep it in a sunny spot that's not in direct sunlight. 

Something you should consider about the Money Plant is that it produces lots of mini Money Plants. If you keep your plant happy you will quickly see lot of smaller plants appearing at the base. But don't worry, it's a really easy plant to propagate, just cut the stem of the new plants around 3cm under the soil, pop them in a smaller pot with new soil and give it a water.

Now, unless you have colleagues that are happy to adopt all your Money Plant babies, this species might be best to keep on a desk at home rather than in the office.

Buy your own pet-safe Chinese Money Plant from Lively Root, along with a gorgeous pot, now.

6. ZZ plant

ZZ plant

(Image credit: Patch Plants)

'If you shave a shady nook as your home office, then a Sanseviera, a ZZ plant or an Aspidistra (Cast iron plant) would all be great options.' suggests Jemma. 'They are very easy-going plants, all tolerant of low light levels. Start small if you are short on space with young versions of these plants, or if you have the space a Sanseviera, ZZ and Cast iron plant can all grow into medium size plants, perfect in floor-standing planters to add life to shadier corners of the home.' 

What we love about the ZZ plant is how it's almost impossible to kill, it's the most low-maintenance houseplant out there. It is like low light and can go for long periods without water so if you are looking for a desk plant to take into the office that will survive while you are OOO for a couple of weeks, this is the one. 

Visit 1800Flowers to buy their gorgeous ZZ plant, which comes in a range of sizes.

7. Snake plant

A snake plant in a white pot

(Image credit: Alamy)

'Air-purifier plants are a great choice for offices, and plenty are compact enough to sit on a desk. Our favorite is the Sansevieria, the snake plant, as it needs little water, can handle most light conditions, and comes in a variety of patterns.' suggests Dom Butler, founder of Plant Drop.

'Top of our list for office plants is the super-hardy, gorgeous Snake Plant.' agrees Jo Lambell, founder of Beards & Daisies. 'It’s known far and wide for its incredible air-purifying properties, so will improve the quality of the air in your office space by removing toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia, and carbon monoxide.'

Buy this snake plant from Amazon, which comes complete with an acacia wood stand.

8. Succulents

Aloe Vera plant

(Image credit: Patch)

'For those blessed with a sunny desk, a cactus or succulent brings a bit of fun and exoticism - whisking you away from the day job to summer holidays. They also need very little watering and care. Also, spiky ones can keep wandering hands from pinching your stapler.' suggests Dom.

Jemma adds, 'If you have a naturally light-filled area to work in, then a whole variety of houseplants, succulents or cacti would be happy there. Just be careful to keep most houseplants out of direct sun, cacti, and succulents on the other hand will be happy to be bathed in direct sunlight.'

We personally love the look of Aloe Vera. Cool and deserty they add a vibe to even the more boring of office desks and they don't need too much maintenance, as far as succulent care goes, just a little water when the soil feels dry. 

You can find a decent range of succulents at Amazon, so get browsing.

Why should you have plants on your desk?

'Well, research shows that having at least 3 plants in your space can lead towards better mental health.' says Richard Cheshire, Plant Doctor at Patch. 'Having more interesting features in your workspace can save your eyes by helping you refocus during screen breaks. Our eyes are naturally attuned to irregular patterns that occur in nature. Taking a few seconds to look at a plant in the near distance can prevent eye strain.'

'Adding plants to your workspace will instantly bring the space to life, creating a much more enticing area to spend time. Having plants around you is the perfect way to spend a much-needed 5 minutes away from the screen, you can do small mindful plant care tasks in this time, for example, watering, looking for new growth or dusting the leaves.' adds Jemma.

How do you care for a houseplant in an office?

'As your plant is sitting next to you, don’t be tempted to water it more than you would a plant that is located elsewhere in the house.' suggests Jemma. 'The biggest killer of plants is overwatering, so err on the side of caution, for most houseplants wait until the soil feels dry a couple of inches down into the soil and water at the sink rather than in situ, to stop water pooling in the bottom of your decorative pot leading to root rot. Cacti and Succulents will need even less water and should only be watered when the soil is really dry.'

Hebe Hatton

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.