How to Decide Between Real and Fake Plants, According to Gardening Experts

Updated 11/15/19

Daniel Kim Photography/Stocksy

Once upon a time, a self-respecting plant patent wouldn't even think about incorporating fake greenery into their space. Reserved for your dentist's office, hotel lobbies, and Grandma’s house, faux plants often got the reputation of looking, well, cheesy—especially if they look particularly shiny and fake. (Sorry, Grandma!) 

But over the past few months, I couldn’t help but notice faux plants are having a moment. My co-working space, the Wing, notoriously has faux plants to keep its well-appointed locations looking sharp year-round. Direct-to-consumer darling the Sill recently launched their own line of faux plants. And I’ve even dabbled in faux greenery for my new apartment.

You see, my apartment has this one window that’s essentially begging to be filled with plants. Problem is, this window is so bright it would kill anything that’s placed there. So faux plants were my only option.

All this faux plant hype had me wondering how do you know when you should buy the real deal or a seemingly real alternative.

To help create the blooming indoor jungle of your interior design dreams, two plant gurus break down the questions you should ask yourself before adding them to your cart.

Can I Care for Them?

ICYMI:Plant parenthood is a lot more than Insta-worthy vignettes and cute accessories. Truth is, caring for a plant requires a lot of time and maintenance. So before you even think about what type of plant you want, it’s a good idea to decide whether or not you can actually care for the real deal. 

“Potential live plant owners should ask themselves if they are able to fulfill a few basic requirements to keep their plants looking happy healthy,” says Joyce Mast, Bloomscape’s resident plant mom.

Meet the Expert

Joyce Mast is Bloomscape's official expert Plant Mom. She grew up working in her family's wholesale floral business near Chicago before working in greenhouses for 26 years.

Are you traveling? Do you have long work hours that could lead you to forget to water your plants? If you don’t think you’re going to have the time and energy to care for your plants, you might want to consider a faux alternative. 

Where Am I Placing My Plants?

When it comes to your plants, it’s all about location, location, location. Yes, even when it comes to your faux plants. 

“Although you can put faux plants almost anywhere, harsh direct sun might discolor some over time,” says Erin Marino, director of brand marketing at The Sill. “We recommend keeping faux indoors—you never know what the weather will bring—and out of bright direct light.”

Meet the Expert

Erin Marino is the director of brand marketing at The Sill, a direct to consumer plant delivery site with brick and mortar stores in New York, Los Angeles, and San Fransisco. She has been with the brand since 2012.

While faux plants might be a great option for fickle indoor areas, you may want to stick to the real deal for outdoor spaces. 

Do I Have Pets? 

Believe it or not, having pets can affect what type of plant you should get. 

“If this plant is toxic, will my pets nibble at it?” Marino asks. 

Fortunately, most plant shops and sites—like the Sill and Bloomscape—make it easy to figure out which plants are pet-friendly. If you want to go the faux route, check the fine print to make sure the material won’t hinder Fido’s health. 

Does it Even Look Real?

The good news is fake plants have come a long way from their faux pas days. That being said, finding a beautiful plant requires some strategy. 

“Look for faux plants that mimic real sizes, silhouettes, and growing habits,” Marino says, “If you're searching for a faux pothos for example, look for one with trailing vines. Or if you're looking for a faux bird of paradise, maybe opt for a version without its famous flowers, since this plant is unlikely to bloom indoors.”

Another way to trick guests into thinking your faux plants are real? Add a pretty planter to the mix. 

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