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Beginner's guide to faux plant decor

I really love having plants all around and everywhere. Greenery, floral, all of it. Unfortunately I am not very good with plants… awhile ago, I was trying to decide on whether or not to keep trying with more failed plants, realizing that attempting to own and decorate my space with plants was bringing me more stress than joy. I had never given much consideration to using faux plants but decided then to give it a go.

That was in 2017, and lately I have been noticing that faux plants have really had a glow up in the last year or two, becoming both more affordable and realistic-looking than before.

If you’re new to decorating with faux foliage, these are some basic tips that can help you achieve your desired look.

1. How realistic?

There are some really real looking plants, and some really fake looking plants. How and when you use these different levels of realistic depends on where the plants will be going and what you are trying to accomplish with their placement. A smaller arrangement or pot that will be seen close-up should have more realistic qualities, while with an outdoor arrangement you can focus more on the color and shape.

Some key points that help support belief for your plants are stem color and leaf detail, as well as material. Monotone green stems are typically going to be a giveaway, and sometimes fabric leaves (if done too cheaply, they will start to fray on the edges). Look for things with color tone variety, and if the stems are going to be visible, opt for something that mimics the real plant it’s made after. If you find a collection that you love but has awful stems, you can usually use some acrylic paint to lightly paint the stems for a more realistic look (make sure the plant will be kept indoors in this case). Faux plants that use multiple textures and materials in the leaves, branches, stems, etc are usually a winner for looking real.

Extra tip: working with faux flowers can be tricky! Greens and foliage are easier to create a convincing arrangement. If you want something to look super real without breaking the bank, avoid most blooms.

Placement is key as well. I have used dollar store plants in areas that are not immediately eye-level or as an accent piece rather than focal, and it came out great! For anything used as a centerpiece, entry/foyer, or otherwise in direct view, I opt for more realistic plants. Holidays are more forgiving as well, when the emphasis is more on the overall decor and holiday mood.

2. Prep the plants

Most plants, especially potted ones, come in a default from-the-warehouse stance. Most plants also have wire in the stems or branches - use this to your advantage! Do not put a potted faux plant from the store shelf to your home shelf without first giving it a good fluff and prep. Spread out the stems from the base, and don’t follow a completely perfect spaced pattern: think like how a plant grows. If the wire extends into the leaf area, make sure to turn the leaves appropriately so they are not twisted or clumped together. Avoid exposing any large gaps that will give a view into the plant’s base.

Some plants this year are even sporting faux dirt in their pots, which gives things a more realistic feel. In most cases, you can still add some vase filler materials of your own to cover the top layer or enhance what’s already there. Again, think like the real plant you’ve bought a faux clone of: do they grow in dirt? Rocks?

3. Pots/arrangements

If you’re making your own potted plants, or vase arrangement, you have more freedom to customize things. If creating an outdoor arrangement, use real potting materials if possible. I have made hanging patio baskets with bright colored florals, and paired them with a peat moss hanging basket and filled with dirt. The colors did fade after the summer season ended, but they were kept in full sun and the no-fuss maintenance was wonderful, especially as we approached heat waves and my baskets remained perky and colorful! For my outdoor succulent pots, they are potted in pea gravel. When working with succulents be sure to give them space and don’t overcrowd the arrangement, or the pot/vase opening. “Less is more” applies here! Since it is faux, you can also work with other potting materials to create visual interest, such as color shard vase filler (crushed glass, crystals, etc).

4. Maintenance

While faux plants are low-maintenance, they are not necessarily completely maintenance free. This will again depend on where the plants are kept and your situation, but as a general overall rule, it is a good idea to plan to clean the plants off (and their pot/vase, if needed) every 6-12 months. If the plant is a plastic or rubber-type material they will rinse off easily, for fabric materials they can usually just be dusted with a duster. Be sure to clear off dust inside of glass bowls and vases.

Now you should be ready to embark on a faux plant journey! If you are looking for accessible and affordable places to start looking, I have seen some good stuff this year at Target, Michaels, and Home Goods. Amazon is pretty hit-or-miss but there are usually some reliable succulents there (the Seeko brand is good).

Good luck and happy creating!

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