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Artificial plants that look real

A bit of flora in the office is a sure-fire way to make your workplace feel homelier. And making your workspace more comfortable can have a positive effect on your wellbeing.

But let’s face it, many office plants are destined for a long, slow demise. Brown thumbs, busy schedules and unforgiving office environments force many office plants into early retirement.

Artificial plants seem like the obvious solution.  The live forever and never need pruning or watering. And how hard can it be to choose one. It’s fake, after all.

But before you jump online and order one, there’s a few things you might want to consider.

When it comes to choosing a faux/fake/artificial/plastic [delete as appropriate] plant, it’s fair to assume most people are looking for a hassle-free bit of decor that will add a splash of color and vibrancy to their workspace. But to complete the illusion, many of us are also searching for artificial plants that look real.

The good news is that there are a handful of artificial plant varieties that will look good on your desk and have everyone asking if they are real. None more so than the ones on our shortlist.

Looking for the perfect living plant for your office?

But just how realistic can artificial plants be?

These days, very realistic. But if realism is your aim, you’re best sticking to a select group (species?) of artificial plants. Although other plants can be copied quite effectively, they tend to be expensive. The ones on our shortlist are affordable, look good and will easily fool your colleagues.

Artificial Succulents

Montage of fake succulents and artificial plants

Fake Succulents are, hands-down, the most realistic fake plants

Real succulents are pretty easy to look after. Because of this, they are extremely popular desktop plants so a fake one looks perfectly at home on office desks.

Known for their distinctive rubbery leaves, these plants are easily replicated in plastic. As such, you don’t need to spend much to find one that will fool anyone who isn’t looking closely.

Ranging in size from small to medium, and from dirt cheap to very cheap, these are the ideal artificial plant for desks. Display them in an attractive container and you have a simple, affordable way to perk up your desk.

Tip: Always check the fine print before if you like the look of the container you see online. A lot of the time, artificial succulents arrive in a plain container and you might need to buy a separate pot to display it in.

Arranging several small succulents into one display means you can really make the display personal. There are many different types of succulents in the plant kingdom and almost as many fake varieties. With so many small, colorful options to choose from it is easy to make a highly personal and eye-catching display.

Artificial Orchids

Long image of 5 different colored orchid flowers

Artificial Orchids can be surprisingly life-like fakes. They are ideal if you’re looking for a more colorful and elegant display for your desk.

From a distance, you would struggle to notice the difference, even for low quality ones. That’s because their delicate leaves and bright colors can be convincingly copied. But unlike the real thing, these take no effort at all to look after.

They can range in price and quality. Some are seriously expensive, especially the taller varieties.

The better specimens typically boast silk flowers, usually with plastic stems. Often, they will come with realistic looking buds and roots too, enhancing the overall effect.

Aside from requiring zero attention, another advantage vs the living version is you may only need a small pot. This means you can have an distinctive tall plant without taking up precious desk space.

Tip: Take note of the overall diameter before purchasing. Most need rearranging after delivery. The measurements should indicate the total size once the branches are full folded out.

 A couple of fake orchid varieties to look out for

Artificial pink Phalaenopsis (orchid)

A popular orchid variety is the tall-stemmed Phalaenopsis. They take up very little space on your desktop and come in an array of colours to suit your workspace. This is probably the most common variety of artificial orchid to be found.

Artificial Oncidium

Another popular variety is the ‘Dancing Lady orchid’, or Oncidium.

These are often fuller orchids, with more stems and leaves all along the branches. Because they tend to have more detail, they can be more expensive. But they certainly stand out from the crowd.

Fake plastic trees

Montage of fake trees

Fake plastic watering can not required

Tall & distinctive, these large artificial plants can add some serious foliage to an empty office, filling everything from a desk corner to an empty reception area.

Contrary to the Radiohead song ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, fake trees are rarely made of plastic. Most are made with real wood trunks and branches. The leaves are often silk or other fabrics, depending on how much you spend.

Many are modelled on the types of trees commonly found in offices, such as Palm trees, Schefflera and Ficus.

Of course, you don’t need to restrict yourself to indoor varieties when choosing an artificial tree. You can add more colourful outdoor varieties such as Red Maple. Or to really brighten up a drab office, an artificial fruit tree complete with fake fruit.

Artificial Topiary

Scene of topiary hedges, including heart-shaped ones

Get the hedge at work. 

Topiary, the art of sculpting bushes into defined shapes, is usually best left to the professionals. But fake topiary is for everyone.

Much like real-world topiary, they come in all shapes and sizes, for indoor and outdoor use, so prices can vary. Good artificial topiary is in demand for events, so does tend to cost more. However, if you want to bring a slice of the English country garden into your home, there are more affordable indoor versions.

Topiary branchFor a truly life-like plant, opt for a preserved topiary bush. You get all the benefits of an artificial plant, but it’s a once-living specimen frozen in time forever.

Displaying your artificial plant for maximum effect

If you already have an attractive container in mind for your faux flora, you can easily purchase ‘plug plants’. These are sold without any pot and are typically very cheap. This makes them ideal for creative types, as you can get a handful for just a few bucks and make your own distinctive artificial plant arrangement.

Montage of 3 different plants in interesting pots, to highlight different potting options. Includes one in a watering can container.You should always check the advert carefully if you see a plant in an attractive pot. Very often, the plants are supplied in a plain plastic pot.

You should be mindful that the cheapest artificial plants are often glued into their pot.

Tip: If you find separating the plant from the pot too difficult, just pop your plant with original pot still attached into a larger pot. Fill the gap with pebbles or sand for a solid base. In many cases, particularly for larger plants and trees, upgrading to a larger pot can add stability as well as improving the overall appearance.

In some cases, you may want to change the potting material for something more appealing, such as colored or white pebbles, sand or even good old earth.

Placing a LED light on or behind bushier plants can give your plant a striking look while making your workspace a little brighter. You can even purchase artificial plants with embedded LED lights for a less traditional look.

For those who want a more natural look, mixing artificial plants and real plants can work. This can help reduce the amount of care and attention required to keep your floral arrangement looking good. It also allows you to play around with your display, supplementing hard-to-find plants with fake varieties and making a fuller display. Plus, some plants are seasonal, which means they may not always look at their best. A mix of fake and real can help keep your display looking fresh all year round.

Material matters?

Fake plants all come with an obvious advantage over their organic relations. They won’t wilt and die. But, just like the organic originals, some are tougher than others.

Look out for UV resistant artificial plants if your new desk buddy will spend time in bright sunlight. The more colorful varieties, such as orchids, can fade in the sun.

Tip: If you want to add extra protection, applying a UV protector spray will help.

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