SUMMARY POINTS

  • Desk plants can brighten up a dull and demotivating workspace
  • Cubicle plants reduce stress, improve air quality, and bring a little joy
  • Low maintenance indoor plants are an easy solution to brighten your day
How do you feel when you walk into your cubicle?

Most likely, you associate it with another long, stressful, and often painful day of work, right?

When you look around, you see a dull and demotivating space that isn’t inspiring or motivating. In fact, it’s pretty depressing.

You weren’t exactly busting a gut to get to work but stepping inside your cubicle never fails to bring your mood down. And it’s a long time until you clock out for the day.

You don’t feel enthusiastic about sprucing up your cubicle, either. Since work isn’t exactly your happy place, surviving the day is the only thing on your mind.

Other than a photo or two and maybe a few little chachkies, you’ve done nothing to make your workspace homely.

But…

What if you can transform your cubicle into a welcoming and peaceful haven just by adding one thing to your desk?

All you need is the right type of indoor desk plant.

It’s not just for making your workspace look better, either. Sure, a desk plant can bring a little bit of joy into an otherwise miserable day. But the benefits go a lot further than this.

Your cubicle may not seem like the best place for a plant to survive, after all, you barely make it through the day yourself. However, some plants do surprisingly well under the fluorescent lights and recycled air. 

Desk Plants Are Essential For Cubicle Life

Cubicle plants don’t just look pretty. They can make your workspace a lot more welcoming. Plus, they’re an easy way to improve your wellbeing.

Desk plants are a surefire way to bring a little bit of joy into your cubicle. Just looking at it can instantly boost your mood or calm down some nervous anxiety.

The benefits can go a lot further than this though, and the effects may amaze you.

Here are a few ways that desk plants can make work life less miserable and a bit more joyful.

1. They Improve Air Quality 

The air in your office can smell stale. Even worse, it can feel impure.

Indoor plants can help improve air quality.

NASA has done studies on this, and the results are compelling. Even more so for producing better air quality in enclosed spaces where there’s not much airflow. Your cubicle, basically.

They can increase the amount of oxygen in the air and filter out the not-so-great parts of the air too.

It’s not just carbon dioxide the leaves can absorb — some plants are also impressive in filtering volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including benzene and formaldehyde. These VOCs may be lurking in your office in cigarette smoke, plastics, and carpet cleaner.

This study from The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has linked VOCs to headaches, tiredness, focus issues, and irritability in office workers. All of which can often lead to “sick building syndrome”.

Yeah, that’s a thing.

Sure, your bad moods and nagging headaches could be a byproduct of how you feel about your job. But they could also be exaggerated by VOCs and air quality.

There’s another big concern around VOCs too. Studies on animals have shown them to be cancer-causing, especially benzene and formaldehyde. Your office furnishings can be an overlooked culprit.

It’s not as terrifying as it sounds, though. Remember, these are the VOCs that desk plants can help filter out.

Having an indoor plant on your desk can help to clean the air in your cubicle and help remove the potentially harmful effects of pollutants that you’d otherwise be exposed to.

It’s not going to make a huge monumental difference, but every little bit helps.

2. They Reduce Your Stress Levels 

This is by far the biggest benefit.

Most days, you’d rather be anywhere but your cubicle. It’s boring and miserable, and you can feel super stressed as soon as you enter it.

You might think there’s nothing that can ease this feeling, right? But what if a desk plant could have a big impact on how stressed you feel?

There’s good evidence to say that interacting with plants helps you feel calmer.

This may not come as a complete surprise. There’s been a ton of research lately to highlight the wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature and green spaces. This study from the University of Essex in the UK is a great example of that.

And bringing nature into your cubicle is a small but effective way to get the same benefits.

In this study from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, workers performed a computer task or transplanted an indoor plant. Those in the latter group felt calmer and soothed. Plus, they recorded lower diastolic blood pressure too.

Even touching and smelling a desk plant can have similar effects. 

3. They Can Make You More Productive

We’ve all had days when you can’t focus on anything. You keep staring at your computer screen or getting distracted by your smartphone, and before you know it, it’s time to go home, and you’ve done absolutely nothing.

Hating your shitty job doesn’t help but your surroundings can play a much bigger role than you might think.
Got a minimalist office? It’s probably not doing much for you from a productivity perspective.

Believe it or not, dotting some plants around the office is surprisingly effective for getting more work done.

According to studies, a desk plant could make all the difference if you’re struggling to make headway on your never-ending to-do list.

This study from the University of Exeter suggests that productivity can increase by up to 15%, just by having plants in the office.

Who knew it could be so easy to up your game and get more done?

And this study from the Journal of Environmental Psychology backs up the findings.

Leafy plants helped increase productivity, especially when the plants were easily seen while working. People were more likely to get a productivity boost if their plants were in full view while they were working.

Okay, it’s definitely not going to be a magic cure if your work sucks and you can’t summon up a tiny bit of enthusiasm for it. You’ve gotta be into it to get something out of it.

So, if you can appreciate a bit of nature right on your desk, it could help you focus better on the job in hand and get in the zone at work.

Here are a few introductory tips about setting up office plants from the folks over at the Wall Street Journal.

VIDEO: Pick the Right Office Plants
YOUTUBE: Wall Street Journal
LENGTH: 3:25
Summary points:
  • Small desk plants are great for improving mood and morale
  • Think through where to place plants given light and location
  • Uses your senses to gauge watering needs

Low Maintenance Indoor Desk Plants

Only got a bit of space in your cubicle?

No problem!

There are tons of small desk plants that can easily fit into corners and tight spaces. You can make the most of your limited space while still getting the benefits of having a cubicle plant.

Killed every plant you’ve ever owned?

No worries.

If you’ll likely forget to keep your new friend watered, it’s no big deal - not with a low maintenance cubicle plant, anyway. It’s super hard to kill one of these beauties, even if you don’t have a green thumb.

These types of plants don’t need constant care and attention to thrive since they’re pretty good at keeping themselves alive. Plus, all of them have some level of air cleaning or purifying capability.

Here are a few smart choices that are low maintenance and great for your wellbeing.

1. Snake Plant 

With its thick, leathery leaves, you can easily mistake a snake plant for an artificial plant at first glance.

Its leaves are tall and sword-like - hence why it’s also commonly known as “mother-in-law’s tongue”!

Some types of snake plants have leaves edged with white or gold, which makes for a super decorative office plant. As it gets older, it sometimes develops small green-white flowers.

For a low maintenance plant, this one can take a beating. Since it can happily thrive in poor lighting and dry air, it’s a smart choice for beautifying your soulless cubicle.

It won’t just look good in the office though.

It’s also one of the best air purifiers you can add to your cubicle. In this Harvard and Smithsonian study, the snake plant ranked highly for oxygen production.

And at the same time, it does well at reducing carbon dioxide levels, particularly if there are a few snake plants in the office.

If you can persuade a few co-workers to add snake plants to their cubicles, you’re onto a winner! 

2. Aloe

The aloe vera plant has thick, fleshy leaves that fan out in a circle from the center. It can look like an upside down umbrella sometimes. The leaves are smooth but the edges are on the spiky side — similar to a cactus.

Besides cleaning the air, it also serves a highly practical purpose.

You can cut off small pieces of aloe, break it open and use the gel. It’s super useful for soothing irritated and sore skin, including insect bites, burns and sunburn. Think of it as a mini first-aid kit for the office.

Since aloe is also associated with positive energy, it’s a great choice for improving productivity and bringing some happy mojo to your cubicle too.

It’s widely used in Feng Shui to attract the right kind of energy — but only in certain situations. Since it’s a thorny plant, it can disrupt chi (the flow of energy) but placing it in front of an office window is said to bring protection. 

3. Jade 

(Credit Marco Verch via Flickr)

Jade has a lot of similarities with the Bonsai tree for how it looks. Its branches are pretty thick and its leaves are glossy and oval-shaped. Sometimes, you’ll see red edges to the leaves.

Since Jade doesn’t need much natural light to survive, it’s another hardy desk plant. It’s not only an excellent air purifier, but it’s also associated with fortune and prosperity in feng shui.

No guarantees it’ll make you rich of course, but having it on your desk will definitely give you a positive mindset boost.

If you’re not already familiar with Feng Shui, it’s about assessing your environment and making sure that you’re attracting the right kind of energy.

Specifically, you want to be bringing positive energies to the fore, while keeping negative energies to a minimum. When you’re giving your cubicle a Feng Shui makeover, try putting a Jade plant in your wealth/abundance or career/life path spaces.

You may also consider placing it at the entrance to your cubicle since this is where energy first enters the space. 

4. Spider Plant 

(Credit Marco Verch via Flickr)

Take one look at a spider plant and you’ll see exactly how it got its name. The leaves branch upwards and outwards — just like spider legs.

This is an office plant that’s best suited to a hanging basket or filing cabinet. If it’s placed on your desk, its long leaves can take on a life of their own. And that means no room to work freely!

One thing to note - in cold temperatures, a neglected spider plant can quickly look crappy. Expect shriveling, brown leaves, and shedding, for example.

Whatever its appearance, you’ll love the effects of this desk plant.

Spider plants are also a smart choice for improving the quality of air in your cubicle. It’s one of the better plants in filtering formaldehyde, as this study indicates. It can even help remove carbon monoxide from the air.

And from an upkeep perspective, you can’t go wrong. No matter your track record with house plants, spider plants can survive days of neglect. 

5. Money Plant 

(Credit Proflowers via Flickr)

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it does come in the form of a desk plant!

The money plant, also known as Pothos, has a super talent for thriving in a variety of office environments. It doesn’t need much direct sunlight - perfect for dark, drab cubicles.

Its leaves are heart-shaped and with a marbled effect, which makes for a highly decorative desk plant. Each leaf has an individual pattern and combined with its glossy, waxy sheen, it’s attractive and practical.

Since it can grow long as it matures, this plant would be a good one to place on top of a cabinet so you can let the vines hang over the side.

When it comes to improving air quality, it’s one of the best. In the NASA air quality studies, it did well at removing VOCs and other toxins.

It also doesn’t hurt that it’s called a money plant, ‘cause ya’ know, we could all use some extra money. 

6. Peace Lily 

(Credit Proflowers via Flickr)

The peace lily is really striking and easy to look after. It’s a smart choice for a cubicle plant that looks great and serves a practical purpose.

The white “flowers” aren’t actually flowers. They’re part of the leaf and grow in a hooded sheath. The “peace” part of their name comes from the “flower”, which closely resembles a white peace flag.

Since they can grow tall, they’re a good plant to keep on the floor when they outgrow their stay on your desk.

Peace lilies are guaranteed to brighten up your cubicle but they’re much more than a pretty desk decoration. One longing glance at it and it can turn any hectic day into a more peaceful one - guaranteed. 

7. Dracaena 

(Credit Proflowers via Flickr)

Multiple stems make the dracaena a unique office plant. These stems produce new ones, which grow towards the top of the plant. Because of this, it can go pretty tall but you can cut the stems down to keep it manageable.

For the ultimate in low maintenance, you can’t go wrong with a dracaena. These sturdy indoor plants are super hardy and can survive in near-drought conditions.

Dracaena plants will also help humidify the air. As this study from the Agricultural University of Norway shows, it can mean you get sick less often.

Colds, coughs, sore throat, and dry skin can be reduced if you have a dracaena or two in the office. And that’s good news for everyone since your office can be a lot more productive if you and your co-workers are taking fewer sick days. 

8. Cast-Iron Plant 

(Credit Leedy Interiors via Pinterest)

The “cast iron” or barroom plant lives up to its name since it’s almost kill-proof.

Its long and pointed leaves can withstand tough conditions, including low-light and neglect. It grows small purple flowers that are only present near the soil. You might have to look hard to see them!

It’s native to the Osumi islands in Japan and grows on the forest floor — where there’s hardly any natural light filtering down.

Since it can grow in low-light and isn’t a big fan of direct sunlight, your cubicle is a perfect location for it.

It’s a slower grower and reaches around 2 feet in height. Expect it to grow upwards, rather than outwards or at weird angles, so it’s ideal as a desk buddy that won’t fight you for space. 

9. Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (ZZ) Plant

Like a palm, the ZZ plant has multiple stems, with leaves growing along the length of them. The leaves are waxy and on the small side compared to many other desk plants. Oftentimes, the stems can grow at awkward angles.

A ZZ plant is one of the best cubicle plants you can choose. It doesn’t care if there’s no natural sunlight, for starters.

It’s also a slower grower than many other indoor plants. So, it’s a good one for cubicles, especially if you’re not looking for an office plant that will take over. 

10. Artificial Plants

If you want a truly maintenance-free desk plant, an artificial variety doesn’t require any TLC. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

The downside is that it won’t improve the air quality in your cubicle. However, you can still get the wellbeing benefits of having a desk plant, though. Just the sight of a plant (albeit a fake one) is still enough to calm your stressed nerves a bit.

And it takes zero upkeep. You can place it on your desk and not give it a second’s thought from there. 

It’s Time To Add Some Life To Your Drab Cubicle

Seeing as you spend so much time in your cubicle, it’s little wonder you feel disillusioned and depressed at how bleak and demotivating it is.

Those feelings of dread and boredom you get on first entering your cubicle aren’t inevitable though, and it doesn’t take a cubicle decluttering miracle to feel better about showing up at work.

Introducing a bit of real nature to your cubicle through desk plants is an easy way to brighten up your day and bring your stress levels down, boost your productivity and even clean the air a bit.

Pretty impressive for something that requires very little maintenance to keep it alive, right?

So, find yourself a green desk buddy and start reaping all the benefits.

Be sure to name it too!

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]

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