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As much as I love having real houseplants, my brown thumb sometimes gets the better of me, and I’m better off going faux. Here are my tips for the most realistic, budget-friendly artificial plants on the market, and when to buy them for the best deal.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years of owning the UDH, it’s that I can kill a lot of plants. And even though I can keep a few alive, like around the sink in the kitchen, buying some fake ones for certain parts of the house is best!
I’ve realized that some spaces in my house, I just forget to water. I still like green things, though, so I compulsively buy plants, even when I know their potential fate (my trash can is nice and all, just not a spot I hope for plants to end up)…
…and then they die from neglect, and then I buy replacements, vowing to do better this time…
And then I forget again. On and on the cycle goes… until I realized I should just buy some faux plants for the areas that I forget. As long as I can find some realistic-enough-looking ones, I can still have greenery in tough areas that might not otherwise tolerate my watering forgetfulness (or lack of enough natural light… this house can be a little dark sometimes!). Through a little trial and error, I’ve picked up a few tips:
- The best places to find them
- The best times to find them (since seasonality can play a role on selection)
- Ways to make them look more realistic
Since I just had a “Homegoods haul” and found a bunch of new ones to add to the house, I figured now was as good of a time as any to cover some of these in more detail.
Where to find good deals on realistic faux plants
I first started out by buying a few to replace the plant graveyard on the laundry room’s back shelf. The room doesn’t get much natural light from this small, hexagonal window, so the only things that still managed to stay alive during my makeover project this winter were things like aloe and other succulents (the ones I put directly in front of the window and forgot to water, pretty much).
During the holidays, local stores didn’t have much to offer, and as many of you know, finding faux plants that look even a little bit real can be kind of a crap-shoot if you buy online, so finding realistic photos of the product were key. I found that the best “real” photos I could find were from a few Etsy shops, which I’ve now favorited so I can go back for more when I’m decorating future rooms (for instance, two of my bathrooms are windowless, so I’m just going to go with faux in there).
Search keywords: faux ___ (plant name), real touch, realistic faux
You can also check my curated Etsy list here: f a u x p l a n t s
I found through online reviews that West Elm had a good faux trailing succulent, so I picked that up for the side shelf (and maybe for bathroom placement when that makeover is completed). I will say, though, not all of their plants are consistent in quality (so be sure to read reviews whenever possible!).
What to look for
In nature, plants tend to have imperfections. So, in order to find a good fake, you need to look for the same perfectly-imperfect elements:
- not too perfect — variation in color, size, length (especially when buying faux stems that you’ll later create your own arrangement with)
- lack of glossy shine — a great deal of plants do not have waxy leaves, or leaves that are sort of waxy and sort of not, and this one is probably my #1 complaint about stylized photos; a glossy look on plants that you know aren’t naturally that shiny is a dead giveaway that the plant is made of plastic, and this sheen can easily be Photoshopped out of catalogue-type product listings. So, I look for imperfections and have found that “dusty” plants or ones known to have super-waxy leaves (basically, one end of the spectrum or the other) look best. In nature, even the waxy-leaf varieties don’t typically look like they were covered in poly!
- plant types — I’ve found that the following plant varieties often look pretty good when faux: fiddle leaf, rubber, boxwood, snake plants, eucalyptus, succulents & cactus (of all kinds – sedum, aloe, etc.), ferns, spider, Dusty Miller, Lamb’s Ear
- “real touch”, “nearly natural“, or “UV protected” product descriptions — granted, it’s not always the case, but these descriptions yield more realistic-looking results when I shop online; they tend to be better quality, have better ratings, and are less plastic-smelling, too.
- greenery vs. flowers — I find that flowers are harder to look real than bunches of greenery. To each their own, but I’d rather buy an inexpensive flower bouquet and switch those out while having greenery as a staple.
- DIY-friendly — sometimes it’s not about the plant that makes it look fake; it’s what it’s sitting in, or how smushed together the leaves are, or other details that can be changed with just a little tweaking (more on that below). Make sure you can bend/twist the stems around or break the item down with a few gentle tugs (don’t dismantle it in the store… I’m just saying look at the base, see what’s attaching it, etc. to know if you can later break it down!)
More Faux Plants I Like
Best times to buy faux plants (or find the most selection)
Spring (aka, right now), or just as winter is drawing to a close, seems to be the best time for the most selection in retail stores. A lot of what you see in some of these photos came from a recent trip to Homegoods and TJMaxx, though I’ve also found that Target and West Elm are good when things start to go on clearance or have a big sale.
What about dried plants/stems?
It’s a personal preference, but I don’t like dried plants or stems as much. I find that they always look a little dead and I prefer realistic faux with more color. I also hate dusting dried plants because they sometimes break apart (and I am not a gentle enough duster, it seems).
DIY for a better faux
I find return trips to be an avoidable hassle. If you find that you’ve ordered something that is too shiny or looks too unrealistic, you can often DIY a fix!
- If the item is too shiny — spray a matte sealer on the leaves to tone down the sheen; if you don’t get every single nook and cranny, that’s ok! The lack of consistency in the leaves will actually help to make it look more real.
- Rearrange — I tend to look for good deals on an entire sleeve of faux stems (like the box of faux Lamb’s Ear in the pictures above/below). Usually, stems are only stuck in place with the end of the stem in a floral block (or a little hot glue), so they can be yanked out and rearranged with ease! You can also break the original arrangement down completely to individual stems and come up with entirely separate groupings, then toss/donate/repurpose the decorative box they came in. The only reason why I might do this instead of buying a bunch of stems in bulk is because the arranged ones at discount stores (like Homegoods) can sometimes be cheaper than buying 20 stems from a retailer.
- Repot — the problem might not be the plant at all, but what it’s sitting in. Young House Love recently found a great faux fiddle leaf fig at Target that looks pretty fake at first, but by repotting and rearranging the individual leaves, it looks believable enough to keep. More often than not, the problem is that the pot is not in proportion to the plant’s size, which makes the whole thing look dinky and emphasizes its flaws.
- Put them next to real plants — intermixing faux and real (like I do in my laundry room) makes the fake ones look more like they belong… just be sure not to put the real version and fake version of the same plant next to each other.
- Surround them with other natural elements or warm metals — wood, straw, and brass/copper can add the earthiness vibe that real plants put off, so repotting to a planter that has one of these elements will help a fake look more realistic. You can also add dried moss or rock to the potted area to hide any visible floral styrofoam.
Do you have a favorite go-to faux plant that you like? Or any of your own tips to share?
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