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23 Best Office Plants to Boost Workplace Productivity

Illustration of workers and office plants

Office plants matter, just like team building games and other staff morale strategies. According to a study from 2014, plants boost productivity and help companies retain employees

In the study, people in workplaces with plant densities of one per square meter also performed better on memory tests and other basic skills assessments. According to another study from 2011, “indoor plants in an office can prevent fatigue during attention demanding work.”

Whether you work from a home office or in a shared office space, looking at greenery can have a restorative effect, according to science.

However, a dead plant can have the opposite effect.

Keep your office environment alive and thriving by selecting the best low light plants and giving them proper care. Not all of us were born with green thumbs, however. Because we can’t all be plantfluencers, and because many plants do not thrive in office environments, take a moment to peruse this list before heading down to the greenhouse.

Plants that require low maintenance, can handle low light, and thrive in warm environments make good options in the workplace. 

1. Bonsai, the diva that’s worth it 

Small, attractive plants like bonsai can admittedly be difficult to keep alive. Unlike most of the office plants in this article, bonsai are finicky. But don’t be discouraged; If you don’t succeed on the first go, just try again.

These iconic and fascinating little wonders don’t reach maturity until they’re at least ten years old, but you can start them from simple seed kits.

Bonsai aren’t simply beautiful additions to conference room tables and workspaces; they can become a life-long hobby!

2. Neon pothos, down to hang and hardy

Indoor hanging plants can green up small offices or studios without using up valuable floor space.

office-plants hanging

You can install hanging office plants in low-traffic areas like corners and especially above medium-height furniture like filing cabinets, or by the window.

Strictly speaking, any plant that you hang up in a basket can be called a hanging plant. But the neon pothos is among the best types of plants for hanging baskets, bringing a pop of bright green into the bleakest of spaces.

pothos-office-plants

It’s also resilient: It only requires weekly watering and can handle medium to low light levels. These dangling plants don’t just look great hanging out in hanging baskets; they also brighten up desks and conference rooms!

3. Snake plants, strong in low light

All indoor plants for the office should be low-light plants, able to survive without strong sunlight. However, some especially dim workplaces call for very special indoor plants.

Low-light office plants can boost morale for teams that work in dark, enclosed spaces. However, only the hardiest of office plants can survive in these conditions. The plants that grow naturally in densely-canopied forests where little light filters to the ground are also the plants that can handle these extreme environments. 

One of the best indoor low-light plants is the snake plant (Sansevieria), also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, which can easily handle low light and infrequent watering.

snake-office-plants

You only have to remember to water one of these beauties once a month. If you’re looking for something that will brighten up your IT team’s dimly-lit office without croaking, this could be it.

In fact, because these plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen overnight, you might want one for your bedroom, as well.

Just remember, the snake plant’s long, flat leaves can grow to great lengths over time, just like their namesakes. Provide them with large, sturdy pots and plenty of room to grow upward.

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4. Rubber plants and air plants, stately and showy 

If you have a decently-lit workplace and a good maintenance regimen, you may want to consider some more impressive office plants.

For example, the rubber tree plant brings bold greens and purples to the table (you can even find it in variegated varieties). This office plant can grow quite tall and features broad, flat leaves.

rubber-tree-office-plants

Rubber plants need weekly watering and do well near bright windows (with curtains between them and any direct sunlight). They’re also relatively low-maintenance, according to Apartment Therapy—at least compared to hyped-up status plants like the fiddle leaf fig. 

If you want a cool-looking office plant that doesn’t take up much space, you might also consider Tillandsia and other air plants. Air plants don’t need any soil, though you should spray water on them a few times a month.

air-plants-office-plants

You’ll know they need more water when the leaves curl up more than usual. Because air plants don’t need soil, you can adhere them to all kinds of surfaces to create strikingly attractive office plant displays.

5. Peace lilies and ZZ plants, good indoor plants for for busy people

The peace lily is another excellent low-maintenance option, and features large white blossoms in addition to a splash of greenery. This workplace plant can handle low to medium light levels and only needs monthly watering.

Although few plants do well when you crank up the air conditioning, peace lilies are better than most at enduring cold, dry environments.

Because they love cool weather, keep peace lilies away from direct sunlight and safely in the shade. Just be careful with these popular office plants when your four-legged friends visit the office–or if you have any pets in your home office. Dogs and cats can get sick if they ingest these beauties.

Another option is the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), which can take a huge amount of abuse and still provide office greenery. This hardy office plant needs very little water and can endure long periods of neglect–which isn’t to endorse these things, of course. Still, for hard-working but forgetful employees, this plant may be your best bet.

6. Aglaonema, the communicative office plant

Some people love to interact with their plants and attend to their needs. One lovely option for these people is the Aglaonema, which boasts attractive, variegated leaves with green and white speckles.

These eye-catching office plants droop when they need watering (once a week) but perk up quickly with proper maintenance.

aglaonema-office-plants

If you want a plant that lets you know how it’s feeling, this could be your new desktop companion!

7. Aloe, good office plants for itinerant employees

If you spend a lot of time out of the office but enjoy a sunny workspace, the aloe plant may be your best bet. These favorites live in the desert, so they can handle infrequent watering–as long as they have lots of light.

aloe-office-plants

Aloe plants also famously heal damaged and irritated skin and the gel of the aloe plant has been used for hundreds of years to treat various skin conditions

8. Four plants for office cheer and clean air (or not)

These four plants, according to internet urban legend, are supposedly NASA-endorsed, and can filter dangerous chemicals from the air we breathe. It’s an appealing idea–unfortunately, it’s not one that’s backed by science

Atlantic writer Robinson Meyer interviewed various scientists who cast doubt on the idea that office plants can clean our air, and traced the origins of the NASA myth to a list of 50 plants from 1996

According to this list, the English ivy plant can even soak up dangerous formaldehyde (found in wallpaper, cosmetics, varnishes, paint, floor finishes, and chimney smoke). While this part may not be true, ivy is still fairly easy to maintain and looks great in hanging baskets and on pedestals. It requires moderate levels of sunlight and warmth–but don’t we all?

ivy-office-plants

The striking red and green red-edged dracaena makes another great office plant.

This slow-growing but potentially large (8’ tall) creature is said to remove benzene (found in synthetic fibers, plastic, detergents, and some dyes) from the air. With one plant competing against a ton of synthetic fibers, this part is also probably not true. 

Regardless, in a large room with moderate sunlight, this eye-catching office plant can make a big impression!

The lady palm (Rhapis exelsa) is a great option for the office bathroom, as these vibrant and radiant palms love humidity and low light. They might not meaningfully soak up the ammonia found in cleaning products, as they’re reputed to, but they look stunning. 

Weeping figs (part of the Ficus family) are another attractive plant that may or may not absorb harmful chemicals but definitely are attractive. They do not do well in drafty environments, however, so think interior spaces (like conference rooms) and keep a close eye on your air conditioning levels.

9. Spider plant, a plant for tough environments

The sturdy and popular spider plant makes an excellent hanging and pedestal office plant. Because spider plants can endure (if not absorb) the formaldehyde and carbon monoxide found in vehicle exhaust, workers in garages and warehouses can also enjoy these rugged and beautiful plants.

Known for the way their offspring hand down from shoots (giving them that arachnid look), these popular plants for office and other work spaces can also thrive in bedrooms and home offices.

10. Bromeliads, violets, orchids, and other flowering office plants

Bromeliads and African violets can bring much-needed color to gray and boring office environments. These fuzzy little favorites blossom in the middle of winter, just when your employees really need a pick-me-up.

And contrary to what phrases like “shrinking violet” or “delicate flower” suggest, a great number of bromeliads and dracaena combine color with hardiness.

Also, consider the lady slipper orchid, relatively easier to care for than the other members of its notoriously finicky plant family.

Because it grows on the ground (not in trees), it doesn’t need as much special care. What’s more, it rewards its owners with large, appealing blossoms!

11. Water lettuce, apple cactus, milk tree, jade plant and other unique office plants

Air plants aren’t the only good office plants for creative installations. Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) grows without soil and floats in open jars, vases, and dishes. Use this little wonder to design miniature (or extensive) Zen water gardens.

Cacti and succulents can thrive very well in office spaces, provided they have enough sunlight.

cactus-office-plants

If you have access to a south-facing window, consider the huge variety of desert plants available as office plants (including the Peruvian apple cactus and the African milk tree).

The jade plant (Crassula ovata) is one of the best plants for office displays, as it can survive on less light than other succulents. Its dark green leaves are extremely efficient at using sunlight, making this low-maintenance plant a great choice for your workspace.

12. Pines and philodendron, to create a forest of office plants

office-plants

Indoor gardeners love Norfolk Island pines, which can survive (and thrive) indoors throughout the year. If you want something a little wilder than a houseplant, consider one (or a forest) of these beauties.

Norfolk Island pines don’t grow very quickly so you can decorate an office corner without having to prune back your office trees very often (or at all).

You can also enjoy the spreading vines of the heart-shaped philodendron, which can spread out densely across office environments.

heart-leaf-office-plants

This plant needs moderate sunlight and water and can last many years with proper care. 

13. Plants under glass

Tiny terrariums make excellent desktop plants and fascinating conversation pieces.

These charming and often unobtrusive little worlds give employees welcome respite from the work environment. With a little care, these tiny wonders can fit into even the most Spartan workplaces.

desk-office-plants

Quality time in the office with plants

You may have very little light in your office (or only a small window). Take care of your low-light indoor plants by rotating them into and out of what little natural light you have.

And no matter what office plants you pick, give your employees a little flexibility in caring for (and staring at) these little workplace companions. 

You might track your team members’ time with the aim of squeezing the greatest possible productivity out of the workday. But the benefits of plants in the office extend far beyond quantifiable productivity–although they’re good for that too.

Office plants provide a welcome respite from the busy workplace environment but don’t ask a lot in return. 

By taking a little time to care for their plants, your employees are also caring for themselves.

November 25, 2020