Ten Unusual Indoor Plants for Your Office Desk

You’ve read here many times about the benefits of having plants in your workplace environment. They absorb impurities and toxins in the air, they help dampen noise down in open floor plans, and they improve your mood, creativity, and productivity. Really, there is no down side other than the occasional watering spill. And that wouldn’t be us!

But we couldn’t blame you if you are a little tired of seeing the same types of indoor plants on everyone’s desk and in every office down the street day after day. The reason you see certain plants all the time makes sense. These plants tolerate the less than perfect growing conditions in many indoor spaces. They will absorb some abuse, and still look beautiful.

This is why Good Earth Plant Company uses and recommends hardy flowering orchids, colorful bromeliads, pretty variegated pothos, tough sansevierias and the workhorse dracaena family.

But if you are a little more adventurous – or maybe bored! – there are plenty of other choices. Some require you to give them a little more attention, but not many. We chose our Top Ten most unusual indoor plants for you to consider adding to your workspace.

ZZ Plant

The ZZ Plant does well inside and provides a lot of green for a little care.

Zamioculcas Zamiifoliais better known as the ZZ Plant. It’s a dramatic plant which does well in most offices with a minimum of care, the magic combination. It does best in filtered light and it will tolerate nearly any kind of light, but not direct sun. What’s so interesting about this plant is hidden below the surface. It has roots that look like a potato and they store water. For this reason, you don’t have to water the ZZ Plant very often. If you seem hit with Fungus Gnats all the time, the ZZ Plant is perfect for you: it never gets gnats. You can propagate it simply by slicing off a leaf and putting it into moist soil. But be patient, it grows slowly – which can be another advantage if you’d like to keep the plant in a small container on your desk for a long time.


They aren’t rocks, they are succulents called Lithops. They come in many shapes and colors. Photo: Ezequiel Cohelo/Creative Commons

If you work in an office without much light, or you’re looking for something Zen minimal, Lithops are the plant for you. These are called Living Stones and the reasons are obvious: they look like rocks. They are succulents made from two plump leaves. A flower will bloom in between the leaves in the fall. All you need is at least four hours of direct sun a day, near a window for instance. They only need watering twice a year. No kidding. Water them in the spring when their new leaves form and replace the old ones, and when your flower appears. They look great grouped together in a shallow tray.

Touch-Me-Not or Bashful Plant (Mimosa Pudica)

With this plant, seeing is believing. Look what happens to the leaves of this plant when you touch it.

Don’t worry, they will open back up a few minutes later. The leaves also fold up at night, and then open up when the sun rises in the morning – or when you turn the office lights on. This plant is happy with a little shade, so it’s a good choice for a slightly darker room. But they don’t like to be cold, so if you blast the air conditioning, take this one home where it’s a little more comfortable (at least 65 degrees).

Sweetheart Hoya

Hoya heart plant

One of my favorites – and it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day!

Maybe not SO unusual, because we’ve showed you these before. The Sweetheart Hoya has been popular for many years, and people love to grow them because of their heart shape which is completely natural to the plant. But you don’t see them in a lot of offices. Let’s change this! Hoyas are a climbing plant, so you need to guide the stems. They have a hardy waxy quality and they produce beautiful flowers. But they aren’t for the fragrance sensitive, so be considerate if they are too overpowering for your co-workers. Consider them for bigger spaces like a lobby or lunchroom. Hoyas don’t need direct light but they DO need some light. You can mist the leaves but not when the plant is flowering in the spring and summer. They are especially happy with a little plant food during flowering season too. You can grow Hoyas from leaf cuttings.

String of Pearls

It’s easy to see how this trailing succulent got its name, “String of Pearls.” Photo: Maja Dumat/Creative Commons

You have probably seen this unusual succulent in Southern California as a hanging plant for your patio. But you can grow it indoors too. The name describes the long stems and the round leaves that looks like pearls draping down from the plant. They look fragile but they grow nicely in bright light of any kind. Like all succulents, water them infrequently, only when the soil is dried out.

Donkey Tails

Whether you prefer to call it “Donkey Tail” or “Burro Tail,” these trailing succulents can be a good indoor choice.

This is another plant you may be familiar with, and another trailing plant. This is a type of Sedum with thick little leaves on stems which cascade over the edges of their containers. They are easy to propagate like lots of sedums, and they can grow in bright light or partial sun. With a little water every two weeks, they will grow nicely. They can be a little bit fragile and break off when their stems get big and heavy, so don’t handle them too much. Hang them (macramé is back in style!), or sit one up high on a shelf to take advantage of letting the “tails” drape.


Tillandsias were everywhere at the 2017 TPIE show and literally growing on everything and anything.

These little guys were all the rage back in the 1970s when I first started Good Earth Plant Company. Like macramé, they are on a comeback too. Tillandsias are a type of bromeliad, and commonly called air-plants. Of the 2,500 different species of bromeliads, 550 are Tillandsias. They grow in jungles, rainforests and deserts in nature, at sea level and in the high mountains. So they can tolerate a huge range of office environments. They use their roots to attach themselves to trees and rocks. All they need are good light, air circulation, and water. They absorb water through their leaves. If you are prone to overwatering (and you know who you are!), you can mist Tillandsias two to three times a week.

Zig Zag or Fishbone Cactus

The fun shape of the leaves on this Zig Zag plant is a twist on the usual indoor plant.

Aren’t the leaves on this cactus cool? Their zig-zag pattern gives them a different look than your average office plant. It is very low-maintenance, and it’s perfect for people who forget (ahem!) to water regularly. It actually does great if it dries out from time to time. Put it in a sunny window

Zebra Cactus

Patterned plants are popular and the zebra plant will be right in style. Photo: Wikimedia

Patterned plants are a hot trend for 2018, and the zebra cactus or zebra plant is right in style. These have sword shaped leaves similar to many aloe plants, but they have striking dark green leaves with white stripes. They are small and don’t grow quickly, so they make a good desk plant you can put into a bright container in a small space. They do need sunlight, so they aren’t a good choice for a dark office. They need very little water and no maintenance if they are in a happy spot.

Sticks On Fire

Yes, you can grow this landscape favorite indoors.

You may also call this type of Euphorbia “Firesticks,” and you are probably used to seeing them in yards and in street medians all over Southern California. This is one tough plant and it can grow nearly anywhere. People love its unusual colors and shape. But you can also grow this succulent in a container. It needs bright sun and well-drained soil, but if you can meet those conditions you have a winner. This plant comes with a warning: the leaves and sap are toxic. This plant needs to be out of the reach of children and pets. If you trim it or handle it, be sure to protect yourself from the milk white sap – including goggles.

To get the most health benefit from your indoor plants, they need to be healthy and clean. While our choices are fairly easy care, they do need regular care and attention. Match your choice to your indoor conditions and if you’ve chosen wisely, your plant should thrive.

But be honest with yourself. If you are just too busy at work to care for your indoor plants, or you’re truly a black thumb, it’s worth considering some professional plantscaping help. The benefits of plants are worth it! Get in touch with us at Good Earth Plant Company and we’ll be happy to come check out your office and come up with a Plantscaping plan for you. Email us at info@goodearthplants.com