/>
X
Why you can trust ZDNet
ZDNet independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNet Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNet's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

The best indoor plants: Spruce up your desk and workspace

Bring the outside in with a variety of indoor plants for your office.
allison-murray-2.jpg
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer on

Your office space should be a sanctuary of sorts. It should be comfortable, organized, and have things on your desk that bring you joy. Whether you work from home or work in an office, one thing you should have on your desk is a plant.

Research shows that having plants around the home and office significantly improves people's moods and reduces the likelihood of stress-related depression. And, you don't even have to have a green thumb to keep a plant on your desk—many indoor plants are low-maintenance.

We've rounded up the best indoor plants for your office, and we've got you covered whether you need one that's easy to water, non-toxic to pets, or merely pretty to look at during lulls in the workday.

Pothos plant

Best for purifying air

pothos.jpg
Home Depot

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.

Some benefits of a pothos plant are that it functions as an air purifier of sorts. It can also increase the humidity levels in your home, so having one on hand during the dry winter months could benefit your workspace.

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

Pros

  • Already pre-potted
  • Can tolerate missed watering
  • Different leaf varieties

Cons

  • Leaves can burn in direct sunlight
  • Prone to root rot
  • Mildly toxic to pets 

Snake plant

Best for any light conditions

snake-plant.jpg
Home Depot

Another air purifying plant to add to your desk is a snake plant, also known as Sansevieria trifasciata, or by Mother-in-Law's Tongue. The snake plant requires little maintenance since it is drought tolerant. In addition, it thrives in a wide range of light conditions, so a snake plant will most likely grow whether your office is sunny or dark. 

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

A bonus to the snake plant is that they perform a different type of photosynthesis at night and release more oxygen, so if your office space is located in your bedroom, you'll benefit from it while you're sleeping.

Pros

  • Can withstand full sun and low light
  • Limited watering and no need to mist

Cons

  • Not pre-potted
  • Grows at a slower rate when indoors
  • Toxic to small children and pets 

Money tree

Best for easy watering

money-tree.jpg
Home Depot

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

Money trees are extremely easy to water, making them the perfect indoor plant for those who don't necessarily have a green thumb. Once a week, just put two ice cubes on the soil (or three tablespoons of water if you don't have ice cubes on hand), and the plant should thrive. In addition, money trees also like bright, indirect light. However, they can also adapt to low and fluorescent lights, so even your office without windows should be able to be a decent environment for a money tree.

Pros

  • Already pre-potted
  • Non-toxic to pets
  • Doubles as a good luck charm

Cons

  • Be careful of overwatering
  • Require regular pruning 

Aloe vera

Best medicinal plant

aloe-vera.jpg
Walmart

Maybe you want a plant that can act as more than just something nice to look at. In that case, the aloe vera plant (Aloe barbadensis miller) has medicinal properties in its aloe gel and can be used to soothe minor cuts, scrapes, and sunburns. You can apply the fresh aloe gel to your skin or add it to smoothies and drinks to reap its medicinal benefits. However, stay away from the aloe vera latex, a yellow substance found inside the leave that poses risks when ingested. 

Aloe vera is technically a succulent, so it is drought-tolerant and needs 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 since it cannot tolerate standing water and will die if there is no outlet for water drainage. 

Pros

  • Does not need to be fertilized
  • Gel can be used internally or externally
  • Easy maintenance

Cons

  • Cannot tolerate standing water
  • Pay attention to dosage information when taking aloe vera and talk to your doctor before taking or using aloe vera
  • Toxic to pets 

Succulents

Best low maintenance

succulents.jpg
Walmart

Succulents are stylish indoor plants that are also relatively easy to take care of. The only things your succulent needs are 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 months since they become dormant. This means you can wait up to a month in between watering in the winter months, but always 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 one compared to growing them in a traditional pot. Since there are no drainage holes, if you plan to keep your succulent in a terrarium, it's best to water it with a spray bottle or let an ice cube melt in it.

Pros

  • Drought resistant
  • Easy to propagate
  • Comes in many different styles and colors

Cons

  • Grows slow
  • Not ideal for colder climates (if you have a cold office space)
  • Can rot easily 

Also: Best indoor garden 

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 job to take care of -- you have your day job for that -- so we made sure to choose relatively low-maintenance plants that thrive in a wider variety of conditions since office spaces can vary.

Which indoor plant is right for you?

To determine the right indoor plant for you, you'll have to look at your office space. For example, if your desk is next to a window, you can opt for plants that like more 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 all the plants on this list are relatively low maintenance, you still have to pay attention and look for clues for some to see how their health is doing. If you run into any problems with your plant, try watering less, changing the plant's location, or looking into seeing if it might need fertilizer.

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 conditions 

Water when soil is 100% dry

Money tree

No

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

Two ice cubes on top of the soil once a week

Aloe vera

Yes

Bright light 

Water when dry, make sure there are drainage holes

Succulent

Most are not, but some are

Indirect sunlight

Water once a week

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 to pets 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 buy 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. 

Are there alternative indoor plants worth considering?

Here are a few others to look into: 

Related

The 5 best home battery and backup systems of 2022
Best home battery backup systems in 2021 zdnet

The 5 best home battery and backup systems of 2022

Energy
Best high-limit credit card 2022
Successful young woman using tablet computer building online business earning money

Best high-limit credit card 2022

Credit Cards
The 5 best weather apps of 2022
replace-this-image.jpg

The 5 best weather apps of 2022

Services & Software