Realistic Expectations: Fake Plants Look Good And Last

Not too long ago, a good artificial was hard to find.

But now a whole forest of artificial houseplants commands close inspection. Their leaves and petals feature realistic patterning, subtle color variation and dimension that were lacking in the past.

I catch myself touching artificial plants because they are so real looking,” says Kim Noe of Kansas City, Kan., whose artificial 6-foot Areca palm in her living room fooled her friends.

Improvements in artificial plants and busy schedules are the reasons more people are faking it. Noe grew up preferring real plants. But as an adult she had never mastered the right balance of watering and sunlight to prevent leaves from becoming dry and yellow. And, frankly, she doesn’t want to take the time to figure out the maintenance because she’s already swamped with work. To her, a artificial houseplant is better than a dead one.

Other factors are playing a part in this artificial revolution, including:

Care instructions

To clean, place a drop cloth around large artificial plants; take smaller ones outside.

With a rag, feather duster or a 1-inch-wide soft-bristle paint brush, dust off leaves. (This part can be skipped if there’s just a moderate amount of dirt on the plant.)

Spray artificial foliage cleaner (found at craft stores), or a mixture of dish soap and water, onto leaves.

Air dry.

Source: Ranchview Floral and Interiors

Allergy concerns.
Houseplants contain mold in the soil, which could aggravate allergies, says Scott Frankel, an Overland Park, Kan., allergist. Also, water on plant leaves and in container saucers collects bacteria that produce endotoxins, increasing the risk of asthma attacks.

To avoid problems, Frankel says, people should not keep real or artificial plants (they collect dust) in bedrooms.

New home design.

Houses and lofts are being built with high ceilings and giant windows, so people are having tall custom trees built to fit the big scale.

Andrea Neuman’s Overland Park house features extra-large windows tinted to limit sunlight. She bought a natural-looking artificial ficus for the family room and a faux palm for the dining room because real ones would not grow in those rooms.

“These will last forever,” she says.


Considerations for custom trees

Plan: Take along photographs and measurements to help designers create a tree that meets your needs.

The more realistic and taller the tree, the higher the price. It’s not unusual to pay more than $400 per tree.

Think about furniture. If the tree goes behind a chair, branches and leaves should not interfere with sitting areas.

Thick, full plants look best with traditional interiors. For modern decor, think lean and sparse.

Some want a tree to dramatically sway a certain way so it looks cool from their spot on the sofa or from outdoors if it is in front of a window.

Trees and tall plants should not touch the ceiling and should not be level with the furnishings.

Choose containers and top dressings that complement colors and furnishings. A porcelain pot filled with bark fits in with traditional interiors. An iron urn filled with black rocks looks stylish in modern rooms.

Sources: Sue Reinertson, National Equipment Co.; Bryan Messmer, Stay Green Silk Plants; Mark Sudermann, Madden-McFarland Interiors

Good artificial
Texture looks natural.

Edges are crimped like a real plant.

Plastic components are evident only up close.

Leaves have subtle color shading.

Underside does not look overly plastic.

Bad artificial
Texture visibly shows that it is fabric.

Edges show threads.

Plastic components are evident even from a distance.

Leaves are unnaturally green and don’t vary in color.

Underside looks unnatural, and glue is visible.