Last Updated on July 14, 2021

Improving employee wellness and happiness can sometimes be inexpensive and simple to do and one such way is through the introduction of plant life to the office.

So, without making you wait any longer, let’s look at office plants, the benefits they offer employees, which plants to buy. Let’s get started!

Why you need plants in the office

What Are the Health Benefits of Office and Desk Plants

I am not sure if you are familiar with the term Biophilia but this term describes the idea that as humans, we have a natural inclination to relate to nature, including plants and other beings.

Indeed, there are a number of health benefits of office plants and you might well be wondering why you haven’t already embraced this idea before? Consider the fact, for example, that office plants and desk plants help to:

  • Improve the quality of the air in your office, with better oxygen levels created.
  • Are proven to lower staff sickness and absenses (I’ll explain further in the studies section below). In essence though, an office with plants is an office that generally looks better and one that staff find more enjoyable going into each day.
  • They aid workplace creativity given that plants make staff feel more relaxed and happier and this leads to better creativity.
  • Likewise, plants also help employees to destress, with plants something that employees can get a positive experience from.
  • Make the office space look prettier and a nicer work environment.
  • Improve acoustics as plants are quite effective at helping to absorb ambient sounds.

Studies on Plants in the Workplace

Plants in the workplace

Numerous studies have been undertaken to determine the effectiveness (or not) of plants in the office and exactly what these effects are. Some such studies have found that:

“The effects of plants in the workplace on the opinions and attitudes of workers was assessed. Attitudes of employees regarding plants were favorable, and most surveyed agreed that plants in the office made it a more desirable place to work. Office workers were aware of the benefits such as improving air quality, that plants provide”

Shoemaker, Candice A., et al. “Relationships between plants, behavior, and attitudes in an office environment.” HortTechnology 2.2 (1992): 205-206.

“The …study confirms that natural elements can affect cognitive performance in an office work environment.

Raanaas, Ruth K., et al. “Benefits of indoor plants on attention capacity in an office setting.” Journal of Environmental Psychology 31.1 (2011): 99-105.

Likewise, a study by Wageningen University found that within one year you can easily recuperate the outgoing costs for plants in the office, from money saved directly through reduced staff sickness and increased productivity.

Other studies have similarly shown that physically being around and in the presence of plants (such as in an office environment) aid concentration and our memory.

One such study showed that the plants have a calming and meditative type influence on us.

Indeed, there is little doubt that plants are a very positive influence on employees and the cost of implementing such an idea is within most companies’ budgets!

What Are the Best Office Desk Plants (Including for Low Light Conditions)?

So, the next consideration once you are convinced that introducing plants to your office is a great idea, is to try and understand what the best plants for an office are. Here are some of my suggestions:

1. Devil’s Ivy

Devil's ivy office plants
Devil’s ivy

Devil’s Ivy is a plant that is perfectly suited to office life given that this plant is normally fine in a variety of conditions.

This plant can thrive in high or low light and humid conditions and is a heart-shaped plant that is easy to look after i.e. it needs little watering.

It’s an easy plant for staff to look after and it is an air-purifying plant.

2. Bromeliads

A bromeliad plant which is good for an office or desk

One of my favorite office plants, Bromeliads burst into color for two to three months a year and they work well with most office lighting.

To keep the bromeliad healthy just make sure not to overwater it, so keep it in a small pot, i.e. maximum of 6 inches to avoid the pot holding too much water.

This is generally an easy-to-manage plant and when it flowers it looks fantastic.

3. Aloe Vera Plant

Aloe Vera office plants

You cannot go too far wrong with an Aloe Vera plant on your desk or positioned around the office.

One of my personal favorites, Aloe Vera plants are very easy to look after and with minimal watering, and as long as it gets just a little sunlight, it will normally do very well.

It looks great and if you forget to water it for a week or two because you are away from work, it will manage just fine.

4. Peace Lily Plant

The Peace Lily plant which is great for offices and desks

Another great plant for your office desk is a Peace Lily plant.

They survive well in low-lit offices and are good as air-purifying plants and are low maintenance so easy to keep.

They produce a white flower that looks beautiful and overall this is a fantastic option for an office space.

5. Snake Plant

Snake plant that is great for offices

Snake plants are one of the most popular office plants and one of the reasons is because it’s an extremely resilient plant that only needs watering every few weeks and it doesn’t need very much sunlight to survive.

Some snake plants grow quite tall so for an office I recommend choosing a snake plant that is a:

What Are the Best Free-standing Office Plants?

Now, if you are looking for office plants that are much larger, such as to place in the reception area or to really make the main office space look more tropical and bucolic, here are some great options for free-standing office plants.

1. Rubber Plant

Rubber plant that is ideal for an office setting

You cannot go too far wrong with a rubber plant as they grow vertically up to a reasonable medium-sized height of 2 meters, and they look majestic in an office setting.

You can grow this from a baby-sized plant into the large office sizes free-standing plant you want but it can be much easier just to buy them as large plants.

Rubber plants do prefer to have some daylight but try and avoid direct sunlight if you can on the plant.

2. Bamboo Plant

The ‘dypsis lutescens’ plant alias bamboo plant, is another plant that looks great in an office environment, and they can grow between 4 to 7 feet tall.

I would recommend trying and make sure that you give the bamboo plant a couple of daylight each day to enable to plant to thrive.

3. Kentia Palm

Kentia palm in the office

If you like a tropical look in your office, kentia palms, which originate from the South Pacific, are perfect and they look majestic.

They can grow quite tall (up to 3 meters in containers but they grow very slowly) and they are low maintenance. Kentia palms tolerate low light conditions and need little watering.

4. Pony Tail Palm

A ‘Pony Tail Palm’ is another delightful tree to add to a large office, and this plant can grow up to 2 meters high.

This is another easy to look after plant and it is a member of the succulent plants family (even though it looks like a palm tree.

5. Weeping Fig

Weeping figs (also known as ‘ficus benjamin’) are often seen in office reception areas as they can grow quite tall and look magnificent and graceful, with their slender leaves.

Weeping figs are one of the most efficient plants for removing indoor pollution and they are not too hard to care for. Just ensure that they have plenty of indirect light and water them regularly during the growing season, in spring and summer.

Lucky Plants for Your Office Desk

Lucky bamboo offic eplant

Update: Since I first wrote this post, I have been asked several times by email, what is the best lucky plant for an office.

One of the best plants that fit into this category both in name and for historical purposes is the Lucky Bamboo (or using its Latin name, the ‘Dracaena Braunii’).

Bamboo has long been considered (for thousands of years) good luck in Chinese culture and hence the bamboo plant has been named ‘Lucky bamboo’.

Even though the plant is named as a bamboo plant, it is, in reality, stalks that look like bamboo.

This is a good plant for air purification, only needs to be watered roughly once a week, and it is ideal for an office environment.

Biophilia – Office Plants, Noise Pollution and Acoustics

Having mentioned biophilia (in the introduction) and the innate sense we have as humans to gravitate towards interacting with other species and plant life, I will just expand a little further here on this before we bring this post to a close.

In urban design and in wayfinding, you will notice examples of how plant life is used to reduce noise. Trees and plants are often planted, for example, next to main roads especially in suburban streets.

Applying biophilia design to the workplace and office spaces, the same concepts of sound and acoustics apply.

Looking for ways to make a large and noisy office more noise efficient for employees?

Start introducing plant life around the office and start using these plants to absorb noise and sounds from around the office.

Granted that the noise will only be reduced by a certain percentage, but it is enough to make a real difference.

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Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds

Valeria has been involved with education for over 16 years. She has taught in the UK at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (where she got her PhD), in addition to working as a researcher at Exeter University. Valeria additionally has several years of experience of also working with Ofsted and Cardiff University in management roles & is she is the founder of Symonds Training.