I have a confession. I’m a murderer. I have murdered countless houseplants and because no one seems inclined to stop me, I keep buying new ones only to murder them, too. I have the best intentions, but because they aren’t like a cat or a dog — both will loudly let you know if they need food or water — houseplants are the quiet type and suffer in silence until all their leaves drop off and there’s no chance of revival. Yes, I do feel guity about that.
Chances are, thanks to the ongoing pandemic, you’re working both at home and at the office at least some of the time like I am. Because plants are the easiest way to add colour and life to a home office or dark cubicle, while reducing stress and purifying the air at the same time, you probably have some of these in your space. There’s something about green growing things that just makes you feel good.
While I’m now devoid of plants in my home, I did inherit a few in my cubicle at the office. Somehow, I’ve managed to keep them alive even though I’m only there part of each week. I did a little digging to find out what these plants were called to help explain how I was managing this feat.
It turns out that there are specific low-maintenance plants that can take missed waterings and bad lighting conditions and actually thrive. And sticking with an easy-to-care-for plant means you don’t have to stress about its survival alongside your workload, which is definitely important.
From cacti and succulents to the trendy ZZ plants and golden pothos, here are the best plants for sprucing up your workspaces that while reducing your stress. And the best part? You can buy them all online!
If you’re a plant novice, pick up a cactus. These plants thrive in natural light and only have to be watered once a week during the spring and summer, and every three weeks during the fall and winter.
2. Air plants
These spidery guys don’t even need soil to survive. All you have to do to water them is dunk them in water for two or three hours every 10 days — a perfect activity while you labour away crunching numbers.
Also known as Devil’s Ivy, this sprawling plant is ridiculously easy to take care of. It can tolerate the darkest cubicles and the brightest, window-filled offices with ease, and will still survive when you forgot to water it every once in a while. Look for cues on what kind of care it needs — yellow leaves mean it’s been overwatered, while a droopy plant is thirsty.
4. Jade plants
These plants only require medium light for a few hours every day, so they can sit just about anywhere in your office. Since the soil should dry out before you water them, we recommend taking a second to test the moisture with your finger each day.
5. ZZ plant
While the trendy ZZs (or Zanzibar Gems) thrive in moderate to brighter light environments, they’ll still hold up just fine in low light. They also require little water, like a cactus, so you don’t have to worry about watering them all the time. Plus, it’s a hardy plant — if its leaves start falling off, just give it a good watering and it’ll bounce right back.
6. Spider plants
Since these plants prefer to dry out between waterings, you can usually go a few days between sessions. They also like indirect light, so they’ll flourish even if you have a dark, windowless cubicle or home office space in the basement.
7. Aloe vera
Forget to water your aloe vera? No problem. It’s actually worse to overwater these plants than to underwater them. Just give it a soak every week or two.
8. Snake plants
Since these vertical plants can survive low light levels and drought, they’re basically designed for the kind of office life where you can’t find 10 minutes to eat your lunch—let alone water your plants.
These waxy plants actually store water in their thick leaves. Therefore, they typically only require weekly waterings and enjoy sunlight and dry air.
This “lucky” plant needs very little light, meaning it’s basically made for cube desks. Even better? It’ll give your work space a much-needed Feng Shui boost.
11. Peace Lily
These beautiful flowering plants are surprisingly easy to grow. Just keep the soil moist (but avoid overwatering!) and mist its leaves regularly, and you’ll have a happy plant. Oh, and while they prefer some light, make sure you keep them out of direct sunlight.
12. Red Aglaonema
This colourful stunner is a popular new plant with pink stems and reddish-pink leaf tips that’s sure to add some personality to your desk. Plus, it’s not hard to care for — it’ll show the most colour in brighter light, but it will thrive in low light, too.
13. Rex Begonia
These Tim Burton-esque plants require brighter light to keep their bolder colour, but they should be kept out of direct sunlight. Wait until the soil feels dry to water your begonia, but don’t wait too long, or it’ll wilt. They prefer higher humidity, so misting is key.
Whether your office is bathed in light or only offers filtered sunshine, these plants will survive. And since they actually prefer several days of dry soil, they basically thrive when you neglect them. Perfect!
15. English Ivy
When you first start growing these vines you should water them frequently. Once they’re established, they can tolerate dry conditions. Even better? They do well in cooler temps. Good thing offices are notorious for being chilly!
These plants are so easy to care for, even I’m feeling inspired to try growing one at home again.