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So you want an indoor plant for your office or desk. But which is best?

Just because your desk and office are organized, doesn't mean they have to be boring. The best indoor plants are a low-maintenance, affordable way to brighten your workspace and day. Plus, ZDNET's top choice purifies the air you breathe.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer and  Sean Jackson, Contributor
Reviewed by Emery Wright
Pothos plant | Best indoor plant for purifying air
pothos
Pothos plant
Best indoor plant for purifying air
View now View at Home Depot
Snake plant | Best indoor plant for any light condition
snake-plant
Snake plant
Best indoor plant for any light condition
View now View at Home Depot
Money tree | Best indoor plant for easy watering
money-tree
Money tree
Best indoor plant for easy watering
View now View at Amazon
Aloe vera | Best medicinal indoor plant
aloe-vera
Aloe vera
Best medicinal indoor plant
View now View at Walmart
Succulents | Best low-maintenance indoor plant
succulents
Succulents
Best low-maintenance indoor plant
View now View at Walmart

Your office space should be a comfortable, organized sanctuary. Whether you work from home or in an office, having a desk plant can bring you joy during long days.

Research shows that having plants around the home and office significantly improves people's moods and reduces the likelihood of stress-related depression. You don't need a green thumb to keep a plant alive, because many indoor plants are low-maintenance.

We've rounded up the best indoor plants for your office, whether you need one that's easy to water, non-toxic to pets, or bright enough to boost your mood during lulls in the work day.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Comes pre-potted
  • Tolerates a missed watering
  • Different leaf varieties
Cons
  • Prone to root rot
  • Mildly toxic to pets
More Details

Features:

  • Purifies air
  • Increases humidity 
  • Comes pre-potted

Botanically known as Epipremnum aureum, a pothos plant is a great, low-maintenance indoor plant option. It grows best in medium-high light spots but can also adapt to low light if your office space isn't very sunny.

You can benefit from having a pothos plant because it functions as an air purifier that increases humidity levels in your home. Having one on hand during dry winter months can make your workspace more comfortable.

Be sure to watch out for yellowing leaves, an indication the plant's environmental conditions are not ideal. Pothos plants prefer moist (not wet or saturated) soil, so add water when you notice it's dry.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Can withstand full sun and low light
  • Limited water needed
Cons
  • Grows at a slower rate indoors
  • Toxic to small children and pets
More Details

Features:

  • Drought-tolerant
  • Thrives in many light conditions
  • Releases oxygen 

Another great air-purifying plant for your desk is a snake plant, also known as Sansevieria trifasciata, or Mother-in-Law's Tongue. The snake plant requires little maintenance since it is drought-tolerant. Plus, it thrives in a wide range of light conditions, so it can grow whether your office is dark or sunny. 

Just be sure to keep this indoor plant in the temperature range of 55-80 degrees Fahrenheit so it can properly grow. Since the snake plant is a desert plant, only water it when the soil is 100% dry.

And, a bonus: snake plants perform a different type of photosynthesis at night to release more oxygen. So if you keep it in your bedroom, you'll benefit while you sleep.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Pre-potted
  • Non-toxic to pets
  • Doubles as a good luck charm
Cons
  • Sensitive to overwatering
  • Requires regular pruning
More Details

Features:

  • Easy to water with ice cubes
  • Symbolizes good luck
  • Adapts to different light conditions 

The money tree (or Pachira aquatica) is known as a plant that brings good luck in many cultures. In Feng Shui practices, money trees are thought to bring money and good fortune. What better plant to have on your work desk?

Money trees are extremely easy to water, making them the perfect indoor plant for those lacking a green thumb. Once a week, just put two ice cubes (or three tablespoons of water) on the soil, and the plant should thrive. Money trees prefer bright, indirect light, but they can adapt to low and fluorescent light. So, even a windowless office can be a decent environment for a money tree.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Easy maintenance
  • No fertilization required
  • Gel soothes irritated skin (receive doctor's approval first)
Cons
  • Toxic to pets
  • Doesn't tolerate standing water
More Details

Features:

  • Gel soothes skin irritations
  • Drought-tolerant 
  • Easy to maintain 

Maybe you want your office plant to be more than simply decor. In that case, the aloe vera plant (Aloe barbadensis miller) has medicinal properties in its aloe gel that can be used to soothe minor cuts, scrapes, and sunburns. You can apply the fresh aloe gel to your skin or add it to a smoothie to reap the medicinal benefits. However, stay away from the aloe vera latex, the yellow substance inside the leave, because it poses risks when ingested. 

Aloe vera is technically a succulent, so it is drought-tolerant and requires bright light -- about six hours of sunlight. For this reason, it's best to place your aloe vera plant in a south or west-facing window. Also, keep your aloe vera in a pot that drains well, because it cannot tolerate standing water and will die if there is no outlet for water drainage. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Drought-resistant
  • Easy to propagate
  • Various sizes and colors
Cons
  • Grow slowly
  • Not ideal for cold climates
  • Can rot easily
More Details

Features

  • Easy maintenance 
  • Dormant during winter
  • Abundance of styles and colors 

Succulents are stylish indoor plants that are relatively easy to take care of. Succulents only need indirect sunlight (so be sure to place your plant by a window), a good watering once a week, and a pot with solid drainage.

Your succulent will need even less attention in the winter, when they become dormant. This means you can water your succulent once a month in the winter, but keep an eye on the leaves to see when they might need water.

While terrariums are a popular and stylish way to house succulents, it's harder to keep them alive in a terrarium compared to a traditional pot. Since there are no drainage holes, it's best to water terrarium succulents with a spray bottle or let an ice cube melt on top.

Also: Best indoor garden 

What is the best indoor plant?

ZDNET experts chose the pothos as the best indoor plant for its air purifying capabilities. With this indoor plant, you can miss an occasional watering, and the plant will tolerate it. While you may have other preferences related to style, here are how the best indoor plants compare based on sunlight, water needs, and toxicity:

Best indoor plant

Toxic?

Sunlight

Water

Pothos

Yes

Medium-high light spots, but can adapt to low light

Prefers moist soil, water when dry

Snake plant

Yes

Any light condition

Water when soil is completely dry

Money Tree

No

Bright indirect light, but can adapt to low and fluorescent light

Two ice cubes in soil once weekly

Aloe Vera

Yes

Bright light

Water when dry, needs drainage holes

Succulent

Depends on the type

Indirect sunlight

Water once weekly

Which indoor plant is right for you?

To determine which indoor plant is right for you, consider your office space. For example, if your desk is next to a window, you can opt for plants that prefer sunlight. However, if you work in a room without windows or where there isn't much natural light, it's best to choose a plant that can thrive in low-light conditions.

Also, pay attention to the maintenance requirements for each plant. While plants on this list are all relatively low-maintenance, you still have to look for indications about their health. If you run into any problems with your plant, try watering less, changing the plant's location, or adding fertilizer.

Choose this indoor plant…

If you want or are…

Pothos

Best for purifying air 

Snake Plant

Best for any light condition

Money Tree

Best for easy watering 

Aloe Vera

Best medicinal 

Succulents

Best low-maintenance 

How did we choose these indoor plants?

We chose these plants based on our own experience growing them and how easy they are to care for. Of course, indoor plants shouldn't be a full-time job -- you have your career for that -- so we chose relatively low-maintenance plants that thrive in a variety of conditions to fit any office space.

What indoor plants are toxic to animals?

In this list, the pothos, snake plant, and aloe vera are toxic to animals. While most succulents are safe for pets, a few succulent types can pose problems for your furry friends if ingested.

For a complete list of toxic plants to pets, you can check out this handy list from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Where can you buy plants for your desk?

Stores like Home Depot, Lowe's, and Walmart have gardening sections where you can purchase plants. Your local nursery will also have plenty of options for indoor plants -- just be sure you buy an indoor plant and not an outdoor plant, as they require different sunlight and watering expectations. 

What are the best pots for indoor plants?

While plastic pots are lightweight and easy to clean, ceramic pots have the edge. They're porous, which reduces the chance your plant have develop root rot. And, because the soil can absorb water more efficiently, your plants will grow quicker. 

Are there alternative indoor plants worth considering?

There are many indoor plant options that can boost the ambience of your work space. Here are a few other indoor plants to consider:

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