The lazy gardener’s guide to faking it

As plastic plants get more realistic here’s: The lazy gardener’s guide to faking it

  • Jenny Wood explored the trend for using artificial plants for a stylish garden 
  • Ikea’s faux foliage has seen a rapid increase in sales year-on-year since 2014
  • Rebecca Gwyn from says fakes have become more realistic
  • She says good outdoor artificial plants are designed so their colour doesn’t fade 
  • She advises buying artificial plants that look a bit shaggy for a realistic look
  • Jenny rounded up a selection of the best artificial plants from UK retailers

Alongside avocado baths and paisley carpets, artificial plants used to be one of the biggest interior style crimes anyone could commit.

But now, those in the know are faking it both indoors and out with a veritable forest of faux foliage and flowers.

The appeal, especially for those not blessed with green fingers, is greenery that needs minimal maintenance, looks good in all seasons and lasts for years.

While some ‘plants’ cost several hundred pounds, others have budget price tags.

Sales of Ikea’s faux foliage have grown almost 30 per cent year-on-year since 2014, and they are now expanding their range to include 86 different varieties.

Jenny Wood (pictured) explored the growing trend for using artificial plants for the illusion of a thriving garden both outdoors and inside

Chic department store Heals sells faux blooms by superstar interior designer Abigail Ahern, while artificial plant sales at John Lewis rose by more than 15 per cent in the early part of last year.

Marks & Spencer and Next have introduced large ranges, featuring everything from faux cacti and orchids to full-sized palm and olive trees.

It’s all down to improvements in the way artificial plants are made, says Rebecca Gwyn, from, which supplies customers with fake foliage that is almost impossible to tell apart from the real thing.

‘Artificial plants are far more realistic than they used to be,’ she says. ‘There’s an incredible amount of detail in the petals and leaves, and the way they join the stems.

‘They used to have chunky rubber joints with dried glue oozing out, but now they’re much more sophisticated. We’re about to start stocking one plant that was created by 3-D printing.’

Forget shiny plastic. These days plants are made from a huge variety of materials including latex, paper, PVC, satin and silk. Some artificial trees have real wooden trunks, while faux bamboo plants often use real bamboo poles for their stems.

‘Good outdoor artificial plants also come with UV protection, so the colour doesn’t fade or change in the sun,’ says Rebecca.

This is especially important with fake grass, which has soared in popularity. Fake lawns are now a common sight in family gardens because they look great all year and won’t be worn away by boisterous children. 

Last year, sales of artificial turf rose by 136 per cent at B&M stores, one of the UK’s biggest artificial lawn retailers, which guarantees its high UV-resistant grass will look lush for at least seven years.

Jenny (pictured in a faux garden) believes fake lawns have grown in popularity as they look great all year and aren’t easily worn away 

In the Femail faux garden … 

Jenny in her faux garden with:

(1) 4ft flower tree, £22.99, B&M Stores Fejka potted geranium, £10, Ikea Zebra grass £85, Bay tree, from £250, Hydrangea, £14.99, B&M Stores Karina Bailey Floral Pot, £19.99, B&M Stores

(2) Palm plant, approximately £115 each, from a selection at Fejka potted daisies, £6 each, Ikea

(3) Olive tree, £240, Five sprigs Boston fern, from £25 per stem, Fejka oregano and rosemary, both £6; large bamboo, £40 and small bamboo, £15, all Ikea Japanese bamboo, from £140 per plant,

(4) Lemon tree, £200

(5) Standard olive tree £324, Three sprigs English lavender (in olive tree pot) £12.50 per stem, Foxtail grass, £95,

(6) Four Buxus balls, from £60 each, 

Plus Thoresby artificial turf, £9.99 per sq metre, B&M Stores ( Hanging geranium bush, £31 and hanging forest fern, £80,

The artificial trend has spread indoors, too.

‘Thanks to the new technology and materials, people see replica plants in a beautiful room and the last thing they think is “is that live or a replica?” ’ says Jessica Rowlands, director of Cheshire-based Her firm stocks more than 500 types of faux flower and sells everything from succulents to 2.5m palm trees.

‘We have always worked with the bar and restaurant industry, but in the past five years we’ve seen a huge increase in residential and private customers.

‘When you tell people you sell replica plants, some turn their noses up but when they see them, they can’t believe it — some of the flowers even feel real.’

Of course, replica plants will survive in windowless rooms and dark, awkward spaces such as basement courtyards.

Jessica Rowlands of revealed one appeal of artificial plants is their ease to maintain, she says their upkeep just requires wiping away dust once a week with a damp cloth

‘We’ve seen a big increase in customers wanting to create a green haven both indoors and out,’ says Marcos Tejedor, from IKEA, whose artificial offerings range from a 40p carnation to a palm tree for £45.

‘For many, keeping plants alive just seems impossible. We all have a friend who seems to constantly buy new plants because they didn’t look after the last ones correctly. Artificial plants can come to the rescue.

‘It has also been shown that simply having greenery around — whether it’s real or not — has psychological benefits.’

Jessica Rowlands agrees: ‘For upkeep, it’ll just need a wipe with a damp cloth once a week to get rid of any dust.’

For the rich and famous among Rebecca Gwyn’s clients, this is a vital selling-point.

‘Lots of them don’t live in their homes full-time, but with artificial plants they can go away for months and when they return, their garden or roof terrace still looks immaculate,’ she says.

There may be some disadvantages. ‘You have to think about what is seasonably appropriate,’ says Rebecca. ‘If you have flowering lavender in winter, it’s a giveaway.

Rebecca advises against buying fake plants that look too perfect, she suggests looking for styles that look like they need a trim 

‘Equally, some fake plants can look too perfect. I advise going for something that looks a bit shaggy, with looser leaves, almost as if it needs a trim, or plants so flawless that they almost look artificial in real life, like orchids.’

Styling them correctly is also key. ‘Less is more,’ says Rebecca. ‘Indoors, don’t cover every surface with them, and outdoors think about what you’d use if you were planting real ones.’

Faking the perfect garden doesn’t necessarily come cheap. While you can pick up convincing potted daisies, lavender and peonies for £6, or tall bamboo plants for £40 in Ikea, showstopping pieces can cost hundreds of pounds. For example, super-realistic standard bay trees from Fake it Flowers start at £250, whereas living ones would only set you back about £50.

‘But unlike real plants,’ says Rebecca, ‘these last for ever.’

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