Fresh or fake: choosing a houseplant

Alick Burnett Managing director 🌻

These days, there are thousands of houseplants to choose from, hundreds of online stores, garden centres and plant shops, and then you hit the question; fresh or faux… real or fake?

In our latest blog we’re going to dive into the decision and give you all the info you need to make the right choice for you.

Climbing artificial monkey monstera plant lifestyle image on bookcase

We believe picking fresh or faux isn’t a binary, polarised choice. You don’t have to choose a side – rather consider your needs and the plants use. (It’s OK to have some of both too!)

Many of our best-sellers like faux palms, exotic plants and ferns are chosen because their natural siblings just don’t meet peoples or their environments needs.

Maybe you're a time-poor professional or have reached an age where you can't care for plants. Or maybe you dream of having a tropical palm or monstera but don't have the ideal light to help it thrive.

There is a lot to consider when choosing between real or fake. Here are just a few things:

  • Do you have the environment?

    • Will the plant thrive in your space?

    • Is there enough light or humidity

    • Is it warm / cool enough

  • Do you have the knowledge?

    • What soil type the plant needs

    • How much water / misting

    • When it needs re-potting

  • Do you have the time?

    • To care for the plant such as watering, misting or fertilising

    • To re-pot / split the plant

  • Where’s the plant going?

    • Is the plant going in a home? Or somewhere like a holiday let or commercial space?

    • Will there be someone on hand to look after the plant?

  • What about your family…

    • Do you have small investigative children?

    • Pets that like a nibble?

    • Do you suffer from allergies?

  • What size plant do you need?

    • Real plants can be very expensive if you are shopping for something 5ft and above. You can buy small and wait, but in some cases will wait years for the plant to reach maturity.

    • Faux plants can also be pricey but are instantly full size and guaranteed to keep.

Faux rattlesnake calathea on windowsil

What about other factors?

Quality & realism

Artificial plants these days are made of a mixture of materials like polyethylene, polyester, latex and natural wood. The best plants come from factories that mix these materials, using robotics and high-end machinery, to make truly incredible replicas which look, and in some cases feel, like the real deal.

Environmental impact

An artificial plant has the initial environmental cost from the raw materials, manufacturing process and shipping from the Far East. However, once they’re here, it’s all about maximising the plants lifespan.

Indoor faux plants can last for as long as you want them – providing they are cared for in the right way. You can also pop them away and store them for a while or if you are looking to switch up your décor, re-use them by passing them to family or giving them to charity.

Natural plants are frequently imported from Europe and beyond, racking up plant miles in the process. Many of these plants are cultivated in peat-infused compost, in green houses which are energy intensive.

This is particularly an issue for short-term plants like novelty and seasonal plants like sprayed cacti, succulents, and poinsettia - which are consigned to the compost heap after the festive period.

It’s a similar story for particularly tricky plants like calathea and finickity potted trees like bays. If the person is not successful in keeping the natural version available, they may have to replace them time and time again which comes at an environmental cost.

What about flowers?

A premium bunch of flowers can cost anywhere from £10 in a supermarket to £50 at an online florist. These flowers are grown across the world and flown in for maximum freshness for a lifespan of 10-20 days at best.

A top faux flower arrangement starts around £80 and will last as long as you want it to. It can also be put away in a cupboard and brought out again when the time is right – or reused by someone else.

Air purification

It’s a common claim that real plants clean the air. This claim is based on a NASA study in the 1980’s, however a more recent study casts some doubt on the overall impact. The original study in lab conditions perhaps over-exaggerated the impact of plants in a regular home or office space.

Reduced stress, anxiety & improved concentration

Numerous scientific studies have found plants to have varying benefits from reducing stress, improving attention and productivity, and reducing anxiety (among other things). Around the workplace, other studies have shown green friends to have a positive impact on productivity and job satisfaction.

Many of the studies are focused on improving the appearance and perception of interiors by breaking up décor with greenery. Artificial plants may not stack up fully to natural plants in this aspect, but when balanced with other needs, may still be the right choice for you.

It doesn't take a scientific study to know that surrounding yourself with faux orchids can help to create a more relaxing and positive environment.


Where artificial plants consistently come out on top. They’re super-easy to look after regardless or your time, plant knowledge or environment.

Keeping faux plants clean is quick and easy to do. We have a full blog post here with several do’s and a couple of don’ts. 

Put them away

If you’re short on space or you want to switch your décor (around Christmas for example), you can store faux plants in a cupboard or the loft. You can get them out again when you’re ready and they’ll look just like they did before. Most real plants won’t enjoy that sort of treatment!

So... how to choose

Weigh up your situation and whether you have the right space. Then, consider if you'll be able to help a real plant thrive and go from there.

If you're looking for a simpler life, then it may be time to go faux.