Am I the only one that shudders at the mere mention of silk flowers? Look, I’m a child of the ’80s, with most of my formative “childhood home decor” years being in the ’90s, and those decades, for whatever reason (someone, please explain if you can) had a love affair with artificial plants of all kinds. Florals, indoor trees, topiaries, even outdoor plants. I seriously remember visiting some people’s homes in Florida (where the weather is mostly hospitable to greenery year-round, mind you) who had plastic flowers in their window boxes and “planted” along walking paths…WHY?!?!? Just thinking about this makes me sneeze…all the dust that accumulates in those petals. I have a very clear scent memory about that very specific dusty, plastic-y scent that’s hard to shake.
But guess what everyone? We’re now living in 2019, and faux florals and plants have gotten SO MUCH BETTER. Emily told us all a story recently that proves this point, plus had us all in stitches. I was going to regale you with her tale, but actually, it’s just better if she shares it herself:
“Last year, when we were visiting Brian’s parents, I was super impressed with the health of her orchid that she had for two years. When I asked her what the secret was, she said she kept it in the perfect light for orchids and that every time they went out of town, they brought it over to her neighbors to care for it, water it, etc. I felt it. It felt so real and healthy. I rethought the orchid once again, historically not loving it mostly because when it’s dormant it looks like sticks and yet you still have to care for two sticks so that it’ll rebloom eventually. I have two young kids and no time to care for sticks. The next time we were up there, she made the announcement to the family that indeed we had all been the fool of a faux flower conspiracy and that while it looked real and felt so real, it was in fact TOTALLY FAKE.”
I’ve seen plenty of artificial trees that are pretty passable (more on that in a bit), but this begs the question, just because you can, does it mean you should? If you asked me a few years back, I would have given faux plants (especially flowers) a hard pass. Veto. No thank you. But, you see those flowers up there? In that pretty wallpapered room that Emily designed last year? THOSE ARE FAKE. Would I be able to tell in person? Hmm, maybe?? But also…so what? (WHO AM I?). When I was prepping out this story, I asked Emily her opinion on it all as I tried to find my own words for the very important matter, see where she stood on so real vs. faux real (considering the orchid controversy), and here’s what she said:
“My 25-year-old self would look at me with such ‘you’ve changed’ shame. As someone who has historically been more obsessed with flowers than most, it seems quite absurd to be okay with the imitation taking the place of natural flower and greenery. While I historically have hated anything that was faux trying to be real, I’ve been convinced time and time again that IF DONE WELL, the faux can be better than the real: vegan leather is starting to look so good, polyester can absolutely look like linen, we use faux logs in our fireplace. If a fake plant or flower looks actually real then I say it’s fine to use, saves money in the long run and stress trying to keep it alive.”
While I don’t necessarily disagree, I do want to state very explicitly here before carrying on that nearly nothing can replace the delicate beauty of cut florals or real greenery. NOTHING. No one is arguing that here. But…is close enough good enough in some instances? I think my answer is yes. Because WHAT?!? THOSE PEONIES ARE FAKE UP THERE. Stop it. I would have bet a week’s worth of nitro cold brews that that arrangement up there was real. Usually the leaves give it away, but being so densely packed hid a lot in this instance. The slimming black outfit of the floral world?
So…what exactly are those instances, you might be wondering. Let’s dive in…
Here is TOP SECRET, BEHIND THE SCENES information: the roses in Emily’s vines up there…fake. Even the buds. Fake. They were brought in for last year’s 4th of July shoot for Rachael Ray Every Day and unless you looked up close, you’d never be able to tell. Honestly. Now, I’m not telling you all to run around, shoving silk roses and peonies into your bushes and vines, but if you’re after a more lush look in some of your existing plants and maybe having a party of some sort, there’s no shame in helping things along (like false lashes!). The key is using florals that would naturally occur. This is not the time to throw in some Birds of Paradise in a vine they clearly do not belong. It would be like adding hair extensions to a dog. Could you? I mean I guess…but why on earth would you?
Both of those photos above are FULL of faux plants. The bookshelves…nearly all artificial, and the lesson here is, it’s totally okay to go faux in areas of your home that are either hard to reach (high open shelves in the kitchen or the top of bookcases, etc.) or you don’t spend a ton of time in but want a natural pop of green for looks. Could all of these potted plants have been real without much fuss + all the benefits living plants offer? Yes, probably, but another thing to think about is pets. So many house plants are actually quite toxic to our cats and dogs (you can find out more about which ones those are here), so this is a good solution if you want the boho jungle vibe without the worry.
Another EHD-approved time that faux florals and greens are 100%A-Okay is when the plant is OBVIOUSLY fake, but in a playful way. Last year, in staging out this bedroom for Target, they had some papier maché-esque cactus and they were very, very cute. These weren’t trying to fool anyone. They were purposefully quirky and such a fun decor piece that would be great in kids rooms or on a “shelfie,” for instance.
Like Emily mentioned, when the real version and the faux versions are, at least from afar, very passable, and you happen to be a hopeless, negligent plant parent (no matter how much you try), go ahead…go plastic. Hot Tip: Don’t put two of the same faux plant too close together because they likely won’t be varied in shape or drape (they are mass produced, after all). Two same-same arrangements side-by-side would stand out as plainly as a palm tree in Alaska.
The last instance I want to talk about where artificial plants are perfectly great is with hard-to-care-for varieties. If you’re a master green thumb, by all means bring in air-purifying natural beauties, but some plant species are notoriously finicky, especially if you’re a newbie or just don’t have the right indoor conditions for them (dark rooms, for example). The ever-popular fiddle leaf fig tree…not the most low-maintenance house plant out there, folks, yet people are obsessed with their looks and try regardless. There are actually some really good faux offerings on the market (Apartment Therapy did an in-house test and the most real-looking one they found was from World Market—the second one from the left…it’s pretty darn good).
Do note that you typically get what you pay for here. If you want artificial florals and plants that would fool even Emily, be prepared to spend, typically, several hundred dollars. Like I said earlier, poor quality leaves that look papery or too much like fabric with super plastic-y veins will hardly ever be passable for the real thing (if that’s what you’re going for).
I didn’t want to leave this post without discussing things to avoid when sourcing faux plants, and while the below are mostly extreme examples, there are still lessons to be learned.
-Okay, so let’s start at the top left orchid arrangement. In general, I’d say avoid an “arrangement” to begin with, especially one that is so decorative. Simple is always best as not to attract doubt. The faux artichoke, sticks, wood ball thing…red flags that you’re dealing with a fake.
-Next up…ROSES ARE NOT KOOL-AID BLUE. If you’re considering a faux floral and it looks like it could match a popsicle, step away.
-So…vines like ivy are also tough. There’s something about them that feels especially stuffy and hard to pull off. The print on the leaf usually is just not spot on and there are too many opportunities to spot plastic stems.
-And finally, in the bottom right shot, while the flowers themselves are not offensive, you don’t have to stare too long to tell this is a plastic situation. As per usual, the leaves and stems are a dead giveaway. Florals with much denser petals are easier to pull off because you can pack them together, but with something airier like this…it’s so much harder to pull off.
Again, thank you 2019, because you have brought with you a plethora of very good and convincing artificial plants…
With all these plants, I played a fun little game of “real or fake” with some of the team, and no one passed. Muahaha. Mission accomplished.
-The king protea at the top left of the above grid is such a great faux floral. That flower basically always looks fake, even when it’s real. I’ve literally stared at one recently, convinced it was FAKE (oh how the tables turn), and turns out it was REAL. So…solid choice if you want some “natural” vibes without going through cut flowers every week or two.
-The top middle sedum plant from Magnolia is also so so good. I could see it in a dark bathroom, bedroom or a spot like a laundry room where having a plant might be tough, but it just adds that movement so needed in some vignettes.
-That fern from West Elm (top right) has great texture for the faker that it is.
-In the bottom row, the jade plant on the left is probably the most convincing one of this whole bunch. Jade plants are so waxy and, like the protea, already look kind of fake, even when real, while this fiddle leaf fig—the World Market pick Apartment Therapy reported on—has a thick cluster of leaves that are varied with passable veins.
-The snake plant (which is actually a very easy plant to care for, though toxic to cats) fooled me, owner of many snake plants over the years.
Now, it’s time to hear from all of you. There really is no wrong answer here, but I’m itching to know where you stand on this front. Would you let faux florals and plants into your home, or are you staunchly “real or nothing”?? Can’t wait to see what you all think.