A Very Real Guide to Buying Very Fake Plants

updated Jul 16, 2020
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(Image credit: Amazon)

I remember reading a list once about the top 25 cardinal sins of interior design homeowners make, and situated somewhere near the top was having fake plants. Fast forward to the present, when designers and influencers seem to be advocating for artificial flora with increasing frequency.

Is it true? Have fake plants turned the corner from faux pas to fashionable?

It’s an appealing prospect for those of us who seemingly lack the innate ability to keep real plants alive. Sure, we tell ourselves it’s because the rooms in our house are too dark (not always true!), or that we simply can’t afford that gorgeous fiddle leaf fig tree that dominates picture-perfect IG vignettes.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman for Apartment Therapy)

We compared some of the top picks in our studio and thought the fiddle leaf fig from World Market ($180) was the most realistic buy.

Sometimes, those things are legitimately the case. But, alas, some of us (*raises hand*) were just born with a black thumb. Believe me, I understand how hard this can be to accept. I’m a Southern woman — gardening should practically course through my veins. And, yet, here I sit, a serial killer of house plants.

So our friends at Apartment Therapy decided to put together this very real guide to buying very fake plants. Here’s hoping it will help you nail the art of incorporating these underrated, low-maintenance beauties into your home décor.

Plastic Plants vs. Fabric Plants

Technology has come a long, long way from the super-fake-looking silk plants our grandmas had, well, everywhere. Advancements mean that fake plants boast amazingly realistic texture, color and, depending on the quality of the fake plant, even reflective properties. This is particularly true of plastic plants, which can be created using molds of real plants. Some are even filled with foam for an ultra-realistic textile quality.

A major benefit to plastic plants, though, is that many of the trendy house plants in modern home décor kind of look plastic to begin with. Succulents are a fantastic example — the real ones already look fake, so the fake ones automatically look real. And, honestly, who doesn’t love the look of succulents?

Silk plants are also much more prone to wear-and-tear than fake plants. It’s a dead giveaway you’ve got a faux fern on your hands when its leaves are frayed or bleached out by the sun.

The verdict: Pick plastic.

What to Look for When Buying Artificial Plants

Try to capitalize on the main reason modern plastic plants work so well, which is that they mimic the look of certain live plants. You can do this by sourcing mainly fake versions of plants with that naturally “plastic-y” aesthetic: aloe, fiddle leaf figs, air plants, lotus leafs, snake plants, banana trees, philodendrons, maguey stems, monster leaves, certain types of ferns, bird of paradise planters, and succulents — of course! — are all solid picks.

Another smart idea is to buy fake plants that mimic preserved varieties of real plants. After all, preserved live plants aren’t really alive anymore anyway! Probably the most classic choice in this category would be the farmhouse-chic boxwood wreath.

What you should steer clear of are any plants that strike you as particularly gimmicky. If the plant is peppered with fake rain droplets, for example, it’s just begging to be scrutinized. Or if the finish of the plant is extremely glossy, that can come across as old-school-tacky. Focus instead on thoughtful details that feel organic, like delicate root sheaths at the bottom of the plant and “dirt” around its base. When you go shopping, have pictures of the real deal handy so you can compare the look of everything from the leaves to the stems.

The 10 Best Fake Plants

Tips for Styling Faux Plants

Even a subpar fake plant has potential if styled right, so you can imagine what good styling can do for a high quality fake plant. The biggest takeaway here is to treat your fake plant like a real plant. Ditch the generic vase or planter in favor of a more thoughtful and attractive option. Research how the real version of the plant you’re purchasing is typically “planted,” and try to recreate those settings. If you really want to go all out, you can even buy simulated water in a craft store.

One of the most obvious pros to picking fake plants is that they can essentially last forever if well cared for. Plus, you never have to worry about that particular plant overgrowing the space you bought it for. However, if you want to avoid casting suspicion — someone may eventually catch onto the fact you’ve had the same floral arrangement on your desk for three years — you can always reinvent your fake plants whenever you see fit. Buy a new container! Stash it in a new spot! Just another one of the beauties of buying artificial.

If you do nothing else, the very best thing you can do to maintain the believability of your fake flora is to keep it clean. Give your fake plants a regular wipe-down to keep a layer of dust from giving away all your secrets.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Looking for the best fake monstera leaf?

We compared some of the top picks in our studio and thought the monstera leaf from CB2 ($13) was the most realistic buy.

Where to Shop for Fake Plants

Here’s something you should know: Although fake plants can be more affordable than their real life counterparts, you also often get what you pay for when purchasing the faux varieties. The home décor sites Wayfair, West Elm, One King’s Lane, CB2, World Market, and Joss & Main all have some gorgeous, realistic-looking options.

If you’re looking for more budget-friendly fare, you can’t really beat IKEA. Some of their offerings are far more life-like than others, sure, but if you’re willing to take a trip to the closest store and check it out, you could come home with great finds.

Amazon and Ebay also offer a wide variety of artificial flora. Because of the wide range of vendors and quality levels represented, though, it’s more important than ever to read reviews of any plants you’re considering. Honest, thorough reviews are a fake-plant-buyer’s best friend.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: A Very Real Guide to Buying Very Fake Plants