What is UV resistance & why does it matter?
If you're interested in buying artificial plants for your garden, balcony, or terrace, you'll want to know how well they'll do in the "Great" British weather. This post gives you the low-down on how the suns rays can affect artificial plants... and what you can do about it.
Ultraviolet (UV) resistance is the ability to resist UV rays or sunlight.
Artificial plants are normally made from a variety of plastic, silks, fabric, wire and natural wood. These key materials are not automatically resistant to UV light and can fade, discolour and become extremely brittle.
What makes an artificial plant UV resistant?
To make our outdoor plants UV resistant we add a premium grade chemical stabiliser, absorber and/ or blocker during the manufacturing stage. This addition absorbs the harmful UV light, protecting the plastic’s colour and structural integrity.
When the stabiliser, absorber or blocker is added during the manufacturing stage, plants are referred to as inherently UV protected. Inherently UV resistant artificial plants are preferable to post-manufacture treatments such as sprays because it ensures that all of the foliage includes a uniform amount of the UV protecting chemical. Sprays may miss or not apply an even protecting layer on the foliage which may result in patchy UV damage.
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Looking to buy some outdoor plants, trees, and flowers? You can learn why you need them in this academy post... but if it's products you're looking for, you'll want to start here.Shop outdoor plants
Great! So how long will outdoor artificial plants last?
The premium grade stabiliser added to the plastic will dramatically increase the lifespan of our outdoor plants and trees. However there are still many, many variables which make it tough to specify an exact lifespan for artificial plants.
Amount of direct sunlight the plant receives
We place samples of our outdoor products in a test chamber for the equivalent of one year, eighteen months and two years. After the testing is complete, we compare the foliage samples against an untested control sample to check for signs of fading or damage.
Our testing process subjects the foliage to UV light, heat and condensation to produce the most realistic results possible. Accelerated ageing takes place under controlled laboratory conditions to ensure consistent results across multiple tests.
The vast majority of artificial plant foliage is made from plastic. The exact material varies from plant to plant, but they are generally made from polyester, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PU) or polyethylene (PE). These plastics are made up of lots and lots of identical polymers. Each polymer has a basic chemical structure like the above graphic.
When a non-UV protected artificial plant is exposed to extreme or prolonged sunlight, energy from UV light causes two chlorine molecules to break free. Once free, the chlorine molecules binds to the nearest molecule it can find which in this case is the main hydrocarbon chain in the polymer.
The chlorine molecule then breaks the hydrocarbon apart forming hydrogen chloride gas, which when mixed with atmospheric water vapour (condensation) becomes hydrochloric acid. The acid then gets to work breaking down the plastics colour pigments and structural integrity of the plant.
This process leaves the polymer with discoloured, weakened and susceptible to further attack from UV light.
How we classify our products?
We’ve divided our plants, trees and flowers into two categories. Keep an eye out on each product page for either the “house” or “weather” icon as these will illustrate whether the plant can be used outdoors.
Designed for indoor use
These plants are made from materials that do not contain UV stabilising chemicals. This means they may fade or discolour when exposed to sunlight.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t use the plants outdoors. Many customers do without issues. If you do wish to use these plants outside, we suggest placing them in sheltered areas which are out of long periods of direct sunlight.
Please remember that we do not advise or recommend using these plants outside, therefore we are not able to offer fade related refunds or replacements for products in this section.
Designed for outdoor use
Plants and trees in this category are UV resistant. This means that they contain chemical absorbers, stabilisers and/ or blockers which protect the plants colour and structural integrity against the suns UV rays.
Many of the products have been tested in a testing chamber which has certified the foliage will last for at least one year with minimal fading when exposed to direct sunlight. We cannot provide specific guidance due to variables mentioned above.
Artificial flowers used in arrangements like hanging baskets, window boxes and patio tubs are manufactured using delicate silk which cannot contain the stabilisers and blockers mentioned above. Whilst the delicate materials are authentic, intricate and frankly much more realistic than plastic alternatives, they are likely to fade faster than our outdoor plants and trees.
In most cases, our outdoor flowers will last outside for many seasons with minimal fading. If they fade or discolour quickly, get in touch as you may be entitled to a refund or replacement under your statutory rights. Non-UV protected silk flowers are the norm across the artificial plant industry, as to our knowledge nobody can produce effective UV resistant silk.
You can find out full range of outdoor plants here.
Extending the lifespan of products
We have a separate blog post here which covering ways to extend the lifespan of your outdoor artificial plants. Alternatively these points summarise nicely.
Rotate or turn the products regularly. This means that any gradual fading will occur all the way around the product, rather than on just one side, making it far less noticeable.
Avoid placing plants, particularly non-UV stable versions, in south-facing areas. They will be exposed to more sunlight in these areas causing the UV resistance to wear off causing the plants to discolour faster.
If you are planning to use flowers in a south facing area – choose pastel colours. Red dye degrades faster than all other colours and is very noticeable. Pinks and creams do fade however, they are far less noticeable than their darker counterparts.
Do artificial plants fade in the sun?
Some artificial plants will fade in the sunlight, but our outdoor plants feature a premium grade chemical stabiliser, absorber and/ or blocker during the manufacturing stage, maximising their UV protection and keeping them looking great for longer.
Find out how our bay laurel trees perform against the competition, including a UV ageing test.
Should I use UV protection spray for artificial plants?
We do not currently recommend applying UV sprays to any of our products.
The acrylic spray generally contains an absorbing chemical which may extend the lifespan of both non-UV and UV resistant artificial plants. However, the overall effectiveness of sprays varies depending on the type of spray, amount sprayed onto the plant and the overall coverage.
Sprays such as this can also leave a sticky finish that attracts dust and results in a less than optimal finish.
Which types of artificial plants can have UV protection?
Our range of outdoor plants with UV protection includes our artificial outdoor trees. Although our outdoor flowers cannot feature UV protection, they are designed for outdoor use for a minimum of 1 year. See our full range of products that can be used outside.
How can UV protected outdoor plants be used in a garden?
With the quality of UV protected plants, the main limit is your creativity. Find out more about UV resistance and protecting artificial plants from extreme weather by visiting the Artificial academy for guides and tips.