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Real vs artificial plants: Why go faux?

Alick Burnett Managing director 🌻
Design

What are the benefits of fake vs real plants? In this article we compare the two, including the maintenance needed for both, the environmental impact and health advantages, while looking at the benefits of fauxliage.

Faux pinstripe calathea plant on shelf in dark blue interior

Modern artificial plants are so realistic and carefully crafted that people simply can’t tell if they're real or artificial by sight alone.

So when it comes to appearance, there isn’t much to choose between real and fake. Just look at this faux orchid. It's so delicate and looks so fragile, but of course, it will still look this perfect in years to come.

But, as in most areas of life, there's more to it than just looks. Let’s examine the facts and figures to see how real plants compare to artificial ones. I’ll be considering the vital areas of ease of maintenance, cost over five years and the variety of plants available.

Do fake plants have the same health effects as real plants?

Numerous scientific studies have found plants, and the colour green, to have varying benefits from reducing stress, improving attention and productivity, and reducing anxiety (among other things). But which ones, real or fake, are better for your health?

While real plants may come out on top in terms of being natural, they need regular care and attention (sometimes a lot of it depending on the type) but it's well reported that plants can clean the air...or can they?

Until now, one of the reasons for choosing real plants over faux was the 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 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.

Therefore, both real and faux have positive effects on your health with their stress-reducing greenery, but we believe faux plants win when it comes to mental health, due to the lack of care needed to keep them alive, thus freeing up space on your to-do list.

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.

Comparing other pros and cons

Maintenance

A real plant doesn’t always look its best for many reasons. It may not be the flowering season, it may not have been fed regularly or it may not have been watered correctly. Similarly, it may not have enough light or may have had too much, and the temperature has to be just right for optimum health too. It can be pretty complicated!

Whichever way you look at it, a real plant is a needy member of the household. If you don’t get its care right, and many of us don’t, it may end up looking pretty miserable or even in the bin.

Artificial plants on the other hand don't need any watering, feeding or pruning unlike their natural counterparts, but they do like a good clean from time to time and will benefit from a regular brush down to remove dirt and grime (a paintbrush is perfect for this). See our guide to cleaning artificial plants for more info.

Your south-facing outdoor plants will appreciate being turned every few weeks to stop uneven fading from sunlight. Mind you, the beauty of this low-key maintenance is that you can do it when you have time, nothing will die or wilt if you are away or if you forget about it for a while.

For artificial garden plants, you avoid all the pruning and digging too.

Maintenance taskRealFake
WateringX
Pruning/dead-headingX
FeedingX
Pest/disease controlX
MistingX
Re-pottingOnly once on arrival
Dusting
Turning

Cost difference

Let’s compare two ficus trees, one real, and one false, to see what they will cost over five years. Do note that the real tree is smaller, so you get less for your money at first, but it should reach the same height as the artificial one after five years of careful care.

FakeReal
The specOur variegated artificial ficus tree, 150 cm high.A real variegated ficus tree, 100 cm high from a reasonably priced online UK garden shop.
Upfront cost£52.00£38.00
Pot£20£20
Larger pot to accommodate growthNot required£30
FeedingNot requiredFeed monthly from spring to autumn. This will cost roughly £20 over a 5-year period.
Total£72.00£88.00
Prices current as of publish date.

Artificial plants will often cost you less overall and they come fully grown – no patience or feeding is required.

So when you're comparing real to fake, don’t forget to factor in the care costs – in time and money - for a real plant and consider the risk that it may not survive. With artificial plants, you can be sure to get long-term value for money.

Variety

The range of flowers and plants available nowadays is staggering and the quality of artificial plants has improved tremendously in recent years.

Most 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, making it effortless to pull off fake plants in your home.

From fuchsias to morning glory and from cyclamen to flame roses, you'll be spoilt for choice. This includes trees and hedges, offering instant privacy too. Most popular real plants have been reproduced in fake form so you're very likely to be able to find your favourites.

Not only that, but life is more flexible with artificial flowers in the home and garden. Real plants need to be out in the light and on display, however tired they look or however bored you are of them. With artificial plants, you can change them to suit your mood, décor or the season. They will store beautifully until you're ready to swap them again.

Artificial dracaena marginata dragon tree in white living next to green sofa

Find your perfect faux!

To find the perfect houseplant for you, why not browse our range: you can be sure you’ll be saving money, reducing maintenance and getting plenty of choice, and the looks speak for themselves!

Browse our range

Pets and allergies

There are lots of other reasons why artificial plants may be right for you. One of those is the peace of mind that there's no risk of poisoning your pets or small children - many natural plants are toxic. With this threat removed, you can enjoy lilies, hydrangeas and other plants without worry.

And for those with asthma or hay fever, fake plants will reduce the risk of exposure so you won't find yourself sniffling as you pass your faux flowers.

What about the 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.

Unlike single-use plastics, like food packaging and plastic straws, indoor faux plants can last for as long as you want them – provided they're cared for in the right way. You can also pop them away and store them for a while or if you're looking to switch up your décor or 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 calatheas and finickity potted trees like bays. If you're not successful in keeping the natural version alive, you may have to replace them time and time again which comes at an environmental cost.

When it comes to flowers, a premium bunch 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.

What else to consider when you’re weighing up real vs faux plant purchases

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 people's or their environment's 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's a lot to consider when choosing between real or fake. Here are just a few things:

  • Environment

    • Will the plant thrive in your space?

    • Is there enough light or humidity

    • Is it warm / cool enough

  • Knowledge

    • Do you know what soil type the plant needs?

    • How much water / misting

    • When it needs re-potting

  • Time

    • Do you have time to care for the plant such as watering, misting or fertilising?

    • To re-pot / split the plant

  • Location

    • 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?

  • Family

    • Do you have small investigative children?

    • Pets that like a nibble?

    • Do you suffer from allergies?

  • Size

    • Real plants can be very expensive if you're 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.

If you'd rather not have the think about the above, have a browse of our artificial plant collections where you can avoid all the high maintenance but enjoy all the style benefits.

The benefits of faux plants

ProsCons
Saves money in the long runInitial environmental cost of production and shipping from the Far East
No maintenance, only needs a quick clean
Already fully grown
Non-toxic to pets and small children
Won't trigger hayfever
Doesn't need any light
Has a far longer lifespan
Wide variety available
Ideal for elderly and those who travel
Extra greenery creates a relaxing environment

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