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As home accessories go, fake plants have among the worst reputations. Situated somewhere between waterbeds and plastic couch covers on the tackiness scale, we tend to envision them nestled in an unfortunate corner of someone’s great aunt’s house, gathering dust and looking unequivocally not alive. Most interior design experts (and non-experts, for that matter) would therefore advise you to steer clear of faux flora of any kind. That is, they would have until recently.
“I think people are more aware of the beauty plants bring into a home. Fake plants help people who do not have a green thumb enjoy the physical effect of greenery,” explains Deidre Remtema of interior design firm Deidre Interiors. “Fake plants got a bad rap in the past because they looked like plastic and not real at all, which is a huge turn-off. The materials used to make fake plants have come a long way to tricking the eye!”
Indeed, as your own window sill may evidence, plants — both alive and otherwise — have experienced a surge in popularity, especially among young people. Generational identity notwithstanding, houseplants can be finicky, time-consuming, and expensive. Thankfully, where there’s a trend, there’s somebody figuring out a way to get the look for less. Enter: the return of the artificial houseplant.
The proliferation of plant fakery might also have something to do with the popularity of plants that aren’t artificial but can sometimes appear to be — stuff like succulents, cacti, and rubber plants. These sturdy plant varieties are popular because they’re easy to maintain and hard to kill. But if you’re going to have plants that kind of look fake anyway, well, why not go one step further?
Instead of cheap, plastic-y, and weirdly perfect (the dead giveaway of most non-living vegetation), today’s faux plants are crafted with the express purpose of looking realistic. They’re perfectly imperfect if you will.
Just as fashion folk are determined to make chunky dad sneakers and mom jeans relevant again, there’s a tendency to mine the past for things that might have been unfairly dismissed. It’s the same thing that happened to shag carpeting: Once considered a gauche relic of the ‘70s, rugs of all descriptions are everywhere.
Before you replace the contents of your much-toiled-over plant corner with a bunch of fakes, though, Tavella cautions that there is one potential drawback. “I worry about it from a sustainability perspective,” she says of the trend. Many fake plants are made from plastic, which pollutes oceans and the environment. And unlike their living brethren, faux plants don’t help create better quality air for us to breathe. “It would be a good opportunity for a brand to come out with some that are sustainable and of that level of quality,” Tavella notes.
Indeed, judging by their presence not just at commercial design arbiters like IKEA, Target, and Adairs but also at plant stores like Bunnings, it would appear fake houseplants aren’t going anywhere. And that’s fine, especially if you’re mixing them with real plants, as Remtema often suggests to clients who want large arrangements (“one fake plant is easy to pass but a grouping of seven would not be convincing,” she says). Just please, remember to dust those oh-so-convincing leaves off every now and then.
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