5 Desk-Perfect Plant Pals

Ease your separation anxiety (from your houseplants) and make your boring office feel more like home with some perfectly styled buddies to keep you company at your desk.

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If you’ve already grown a few houseplants at home and are feeling confident in your ability to keep them alive, now try adding a few at your desk. Your work well-being will be greatly improved. Megan George, owner of The Zen Succulent in Durham, North Carolina, and author of “Modern Terrarium Studio,” can vouch for this idea: “Having pretty potted plants in your environment inspires and comforts, allowing you to concentrate and be more productive and creative while lowering blood pressure and providing fresh air — such a ‘win-win’ for your overall happiness!” 

Megan’s own work space is lush with plants. After all, she does own a plant store. (Credit: Allie Mullin Photography)

Megan’s own work space is lush with plants. After all, she does own a plant store. (Credit: Allie Mullin Photography)

Another indoor plant lover, Annie Dornan-Smith is the illustrator and author of “House Jungle: Turn Your Home Into a Plant-Filled Paradise,” a pretty and practical guide to choosing and caring for houseplants. “Personally, I find that plants give me joy because they are growing, living things," Annie says. “It's a ritual to water them and tend to them and rewarding to see them happy, growing and thriving. The presence of something fresh and green in an otherwise quite manmade environment definitely lifts my mood.” 

And as Annie writes in her book intro: “Keeping a plant alive gives you pride in your newfound ability to share your living space with living things.” Carry that sense of pride over into your workspace, and who knows what will happen? Maybe your plant prowess will lead to a promotion! (Results not guaranteed.)

Below, Megan and Annie offer a few top picks for your new desk pal. Be sure to think about your desk’s growing conditions when choosing the right plant. “When picking out the perfect houseplant to be your desk buddy, always consider the plant's lighting requirements,” Megan warns. “A majority of houseplants love bright, indirect light, so in an office environment, that means being closer to a natural light source like a window or skylight, or close to fluorescent light; either an office overhead light or a lamp will do the trick. If you are in a darker office or space with low light, make sure to aim for plants that thrive in that type of condition.” 

All of these plant selections are easy to find at your local garden center, but in case you’d rather just have the plant come to you, I’ve also gathered some buy-online options that will make your office-mates think you’re either a botanical goddess or have a secret admirer.   

For Low Light: Snake Plant

Does your desk sometimes feel like a cave? Try Snake Plant, also known as Mother in Law’s Tongue. Unlike your needy ex-boyfriend, it can handle neglect and low light. “I love the structure of this plant, with sword-like leaves, often patterned,” says Megan. “With hundreds of different species, all ranging in various colors, sizes and textures, you’re bound to find the perfect fit for a desktop and floor space."

For Clean Freaks: Air Plant

If you’re one of those people who like the idea of nature but don’t want to touch dirt, this is your answer. Air plants — there are actually hundreds of options from the species Tillandsia — are known for living without soil, which makes them a good option for adding a little green life without getting your desktop dingy. “They don't need soil so there's no danger of a wet soil spillage,” says Annie, and “they just need a good soak in water once a week. Then you can prop, balance or hang them anywhere!”

For Design Junkies: ZZ Plant

Another option for the cave-desk dweller, ZZ, also known as Zanzibar Gem, comes in full-size or dwarf varieties. Megan is partial to the latter, which grows no more than 18 inches tall. “I can’t get enough of the dark green foliage of the pint-sized Dwarf ZZ plant,” Megan says. “With naturally shiny leaves giving it the perfect polished look, this plant thrives in low light and infrequent watering, and it can provide some structured height to any desk landscape without blocking precious screen space."

For Boho Style: Pothos

If you could use a little more validation throughout your work day, try pothos — its heart-shaped leaves will remind you that you’re loved and appreciated. And the pretty vining habit will soften up a hard-lined cubicle. “Vine plants are in, and this heart-shaped plant, coming in a variety of stunning colors and patterns, is the queen of them all,” Megan says. “Pothos adapts well to a variety of office conditions from low light levels to bright. Place on a desk and when the leaves start to grow longer, move to a book shelf and watch it cascade.”

For Looking Cool: Jade Succulent

Maintain your status as the hippest one in the office with a succulent. Easy-care is a major bonus. “For desk plants, I'd definitely suggest something low maintenance as you don't want to be repotting at your desk,” says Annie. “Succulents are great for this because they don't need a huge amount of watering and have been known to survive quite well under fluorescent lights. Please make sure you give it a bit of water now and again though, not just the dregs from your coffee cup!” Megan recommends jade succulent specifically: “Don’t hesitate to group it together with other succulent varieties in a glass container to make a terrarium or pot them up in your favorite container for an easy tabletop garden.”

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