How to Make Fake Plants Look Real

February 9, 2021Allison Murray
I love the look of plants in my home but after having dozens die I've decided to go artificial. See how I make fake plants look real!

I love the look of plants in my home but after having dozens die I’ve decided to go artificial. See how I make fake plants look real!

I love the look of plants in my home but after having dozens die I've decided to go artificial. See how I make fake plants look real!

Whether you want to call them artificial plants, fake plants, or faux botanicals if you have a black thumb and want greenery in your house you may not have a choice but to go faux. Last year I bought, quite literally DOZENS of real houseplants. I even did a ton of research and shared12 of my favorite non-toxic houseplants because my little cat Marla chews on leaves of everything. And while I didn’t have to worry about her getting sick from the plants I didn’t realize that she was going to pee in every darn plant she could get to. Even if the pot was itty bitty, she found a way!

Though Marla is no longer around and my other cat has no interest in plants at all, I’ve decided that for 2021 I’m going faux. I’ve been able to find lots and lots of fabulous fake plants. But when it comes right down to it if you look too closely, you can tell they are fake. In an effort to help out the decor I’ve figured out how to make fake plants look real. Or, at the very least, more realistic. Want to learn my tips, tricks, and where I got my plants?

I love the look of plants in my home but after having dozens die I've decided to go artificial. See how I make fake plants look real!

Where to Buy Artificial Plants…

The vast majority of my fake plants have come from Target. Most of these faux botanicals look great right from the get go and don’t require any additional work. My favorites are this lime green pothos (I have 2!), this artificial fern, and this tiny boxwood plant. This fiddle leaf fig, also from Target needs a little help but it’s the best fake fiddleleaf fig I’ve found for the price.

I love the look of plants in my home but after having dozens die I've decided to go artificial. See how I make fake plants look real!

You can also buy fake plants is IKEA but you really have to see these in person. A lot of the plants at IKEA look SO FAKE to me but I LOVED the FEJKA artificial rosemary and oregano and grabbed several since they were only $5 apiece. They’re nice and full so if you drop them into a slightly larger decorative pot, that’s all the more effort you need to put into them. My mom got several of the FEJKA Lavender plants for $10 each and three look amazing tucked into this gorgeous basket from Target.

The last place I have purchased fake plants this year is TJ Maxx. In fact, all but one of the plants in this post are from the discount store. They have a lot of plants in pretty pots with pretty realistic leaves. But there is something left to be desired, which is why I’m sharing how I made my fake plants look real!

When Buying Fake Plants…

...the most important thing to look for is realistic leaves. Fake plants that are super full also translate well even if the leaves individually aren't amazing.  Don't worry if the plants are just jammed into green floral foam or if the pots are crappy, these are the things we can easily change. First, let's cover up that green foam or sparse moss in the plant's pot.

…the most important thing to look for is realistic leaves. Fake plants that are super full also translate well even if the leaves individually aren’t amazing.  Don’t worry if the plants are just jammed into green floral foam or if the pots are crappy, these are the things we can easily change.

Sometimes your fake plants will have strange pieces of plastic and strands of hot glue throughout the leaves. First steps are to remove anything like this that definitely looks fake.

Sometimes your fake plants will have strange pieces of plastic and strands of hot glue throughout the leaves. First steps are to remove anything like this that definitely looks fake. Now let’s cover up that green foam or sparse moss in the plant’s pot.

I love the look of plants in my home but after having dozens die I've decided to go artificial. See how I make fake plants look real!

If your leaves are all perfectly green, you can also add a little white powder to them. I spray a little dry shampoo over the top of the plant and allow it to fall onto the leaves. If you’re worried about the powder making a mess of your tabletop, spray with a matte sealer to finish.

Sometimes all a fake plant really needs is a bit of a fluff. If the stems are all clumped together, pull them apart. Plants are rarely perfectly symmetrical. To make a fake plant look more realistic when you spread out the foliage be sure to allow the shape to be imperfect. In the end it will look far more realistic that a perfect dome of leaves.

I love the look of plants in my home but after having dozens die I've decided to go artificial. See how I make fake plants look real!

To Make Fake Dirt You Will Need:

As far as the coffee goes you need the ground stuff, not the instant crystalized kind. Absolutely any ground coffee works so you can use something from your pantry that’s gone a bit stale or buy the cheapest coffee you can find. Same thing with the school glue. You don’t have to buy the fancy name brand. In fact, you can get everything you need for this project from the Dollar Tree. You can also use Mod Podge. I’ve used both the cheap school glue and more expensive Mod Podge and I’d suggest going with the less expensive of the two just to save some money.

Though school glue is considered non-toxic it’s best to not use a bowl that you plan to eat from. I’ve got an inexpensive plastic bowl I purchased from Walmart for $0.50 and I use and reuse it for projects like this.

How to Make Fake Dirt for More Realistic Fake Plants:

First, a heads-up… This fake dirt sets up super fast. Make sure you have everything ready to transfer the fake sand to the plant as soon as you mix it up…

In a small craft bowl measure out 1 tablespoon of school glue and add a tiny squirt of black paint. Mix well.

In a small craft bowl measure out 1 tablespoon of school glue and add a tiny squirt of black paint. Mix well.

Add one tablespoon of sand to the glue mixture.

Add one tablespoon of sand to the glue mixture. The sand seems like a small thing but it keeps the coffee from forming clods so it is important.

The black sand beach, Playa Negra on Vieques in Puerto Rico is one of my favorite places in whole world!

I’m using black sand I got from Playa Negra on Vieques in Puerto Rico because it’s just been sitting in a plastic water bottle for years. You can use regular tan sand or buy black sand from hobby stores. Psst – The black sand beach, Playa Negra on Vieques in Puerto Rico is one of my favorite places in whole world! Isn’t it amazing?!? As soon as it’s safe to travel again, I plan on taking my nephews to see it! Now, back to making fake dirt :)

Add 1/4 cup of coffee grounds to the glue mixture and stir well. The resulting dirt will be wet but not sloppy. When a small amount is pressed between your fingers it should easily clump into a solid piece.

Add 1/4 cup of coffee grounds to the glue mixture and stir well. The resulting dirt will be wet but not sloppy. When a small amount is pressed between your fingers it should easily clump into a solid piece. Add the tiniest amount of glue, if necessary, to make the dirt stick together like a cookie dough.

Pour your white school glue directly into the pot of the plant, on top of the foam or moss.

Pour your white school glue directly into the pot of the plant, on top of the foam or moss. Clean off any glue that you get on the pot or the foliage. Roll the pot to coat the area you want the dirt to be.

Transfer your fake dirt to the pot spreading it around.

Transfer your fake dirt to the pot spreading it around.

Very gently tamp down the coffee grounds into the glue. Cover any areas where white glue is visible.

Very gently tamp down the coffee grounds into the glue. Cover any areas where white glue is visible.

Remove the fake dirt from the pot and leaves before it dries.

Remove the fake dirt from the pot and leaves before it dries.

Once the glue dries this sucker will have permanent fake dirt that looks pretty darn real (and smells like a nice cup of coffee!)

Once the glue dries this sucker will have permanent fake dirt that looks pretty darn real (and smells like a nice cup of coffee!) But no worries if you don’t care for the scent, I have found it fades after about a week.

Another Way Fake Plants Look Super Fake…

Now let's take a look at this variegated fake plant I got from Target...

Now let’s take a look at this variegated fake plant I got from Target…  It looks pretty good but I placed it high up on top of my mantle. And when looking at the stems straight on, you can see weird knobs that look really fake. Last year I noticed that some of my plants, even straight from the nursery, had this dry leafy stuff around the stems. Let’s mimic that look onto our fake stems to make the plant look a little more realistic at eye-level.

To Cover Plastic Stems to Make Fake Plants Look Real You Will Need:

First, tear strips of paper.

First, tear the paper strips into thin strips approximately 1/4″ wide.

Add to a craft bowl 3 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon of white glue, and a few drops of tan and green craft paints.

Add to a craft bowl 3 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon of white glue, and a few drops of tan and green craft paints.

Stir well. Add more paint as necessary. You want this ugly baby poo green color.

Stir well. Add more paint as necessary. I know it’s super unattractive, but you want this ugly baby poo brown, green, whatever the heck this is color.

Place a thin strip of paper into the paint. Use your fingers or a Popsicle Stick to wipe away the excess.

Place a thin strip of paper into the paint. Use your fingers or a Popsicle Stick to wipe away the excess.

Wrap around pieces of the wet paper around a few stems, especially ones with a bit knot to cover. Use a wood skewer to help finagle the paper in place. It will be delicate and extremely sticky, hence the pointy stick.

Wrap around pieces of the wet paper around a few stems, especially ones with a bit knot to cover. Use a wood skewer to help finagle the paper in place. It will be delicate and extremely sticky, hence the need for a pointy stick.

Most of your strips you'll want to apply by wrapping around the length of the stem as it looks the most natural.

Most of your strips you’ll want to apply by wrapping around the length of the stem as it looks the most natural.

Allow the paper to sag and hang like it's peeling away from the stem naturally.

Allow the paper to sag and hang like it’s peeling away from the stem naturally and let the paper dry.

You can add fake dirt to your plant after you've dressed the stems, just wait until the paper is dry to the touch so that the coffee grounds don't stick to the plant too much to wipe away.

You can add fake dirt to your plant after you’ve dressed the stems, just wait until the paper is dry to the touch so that the coffee grounds don’t stick to the plant too much to wipe away.

I love the look of plants in my home but after having dozens die I've decided to go artificial. See how I make fake plants look real!

Now when you casually glance over the plant, it looks more realistic than it did before. And it makes me love this little fake plant even more!

I love the look of plants in my home but after having dozens die I've decided to go artificial. See how I make fake plants look real!

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