Making Faux Plants and Branches Look Real

At this time last year, I shared with you My “Must-Do Fake Flower Decorating Tips. This post is all about Faux plants and how to style them so they look as realistic as possible. You will find how to style fake stems in water to making a topiary look real.  

If you follow design blogs and have read decorating magazines as long as I have, then you have seen trends in furnishings, decorative accessories, paint colors and more… come and go.

styling ideas for fake plants and branches.

Some home decorating trends have more staying power than others, some become classics, but most simply become popular to the masses for a few years until the next trend surfaces.

How to arrange long stem fake flowers in a glass vase in living room decor

There are two decorating trends that have been popular for the last few years in the world of decor that I just can’t get on board with.

They are succulents and macrame wall hangings. I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s. Both of these remind me of my awkward junior high years… no need to bring any of those memories back. :-)

Even if succulents are not my thing, there is a plant trend I do like… it’s one that is open, airy, casual and relaxed.

Pottery-Barn-fake-branches-in-tall glass-vases

The house plant trend I really like is the simple, but artfully arranged fake greenery branches that are in tall glass vases that you see gracing the pages of Pottery Barn catalogs.

I have never had much of a green thumb and am fine with using faux or fake flowers and house plants in my house. 

Of course, I prefer decorating and arranging with real fresh flowers and clip branches from the shrubs and trees around my yard to place in vases,  but I can only cut so many branches off each season :-) 

Good quality artificial plants, stems, branches and flowers can look just as nice when styled in a realistic way are my second go-to.

how to arrange artificial flowers in a vase

I love the large tall arrangements shown in the catalogs, but I don’t live in a house with large rooms and high ceilings. I have to pare the size down to look in proportion within my space.

When I am out shopping I always search for just the right size to use.

Large glass vase filled with water and fake house plant that is sitting on a round wood table.

Two weeks ago at Hobby Lobby, I found these Ginkgo branches. With my online coupon, they cost around $12. 

What I like about them the most is their color, a light green. Many fake plants are a very dark green, I prefer light green.  The other reason I like them is they were just the right height for my kitchen table.

With some bending and fluffing of each stem, I arranged them in a large pickle jar I picked up at the thrift store many years ago. It is my go to vase that gives off the casual vibe I like.

How to Make Faux Plant Branches Look Real 

Steps needed showing how to arrange artificial flowers in a vase

1. FIND PHOTOS – When you go shopping to find the best faux branches to place in glass vases, take pictures with you from magazines so you can compare the look of everything from the leaves to the stems. Real plants have stems and leaves that are not all the same color and can be slightly imperfect

2. LOOK FOR A TALL CONTAINER – You don’t have to limit yourself to an actual vase, consider repurposing tall bottles and jars. 

3. LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF STEMS  – Using only 3 stems looks more realistic and allow the stems look prettier in the water. 

two branches to use for tall vase arrangements

4. CURVE THE STEMS  –  A real flower does not stand perfectly straight on it’s stem, they softly droop to the sides of a vase. Using your hands, bend the wire stems into a slight curve so they will stand more like a real flower.

5. ADD WATER TO THE VASE – When using glass vases to display fake branches or flowers, make sure to add water to the vase. This tip alone will make fake florals look more realistic.

If the metal ends of the stems are visible, cut them off with wire cutters. If the metal can’t be cut off,  apply clear nail polish over the metal and let dry, then place in water. This will keep rust marks from forming on the glass.

6. MIX WITH REAL – If you only have one long faux branch, mix it up with two real branches to create a more realistic look. 

Fake Gingko house plant in large clear glass vase filled with water on top of a round wood table.

Other Ways To Style Faux Greenery Branches To Make Them Look Real

how to ideas to arrange indoor plants in glass vases

The Lily Pad Cottage

I love how Kelly from The Lily Pad Cottage styled a fake branch in a clear vase. No water needed when you style the tall greenery into the glass vase that has potting soil and a few decorative rocks in the bottom.

How to Create a Fake Topiary That Looks Real

Make a fake topiary to decorate a kitchen counter.

This idea is not using the fake greenery branches in a glass vase, but it is another way to use them to create a real looking plant.

Cut greenery off fake floral stems. Use a real tree branch wedged into a pot filled with soil. Find out how to create it here: How to Make a Fake Topiary

How to Clean Faux Plant Stems

Thank you to reader, Connie M. who shared a very smart tip on how to clean artificial flowers. Use a paint brush.  A 1″- 2″ wide one would be perfect. The bristles are stiff, yet soft enough to get into all the crevices without damaging the flowers and leaves.

When they need a deep cleaning:

  1. The easiest way to clean fake greenery is to place them in a tub or sink of warm soapy water, swish them around to loosen the dust, then spray them down with the sink faucet sprayer.
  2. Shake and gently remove excess water on them with a fluffy towel.
  3. Air dry them by placing them right back in the vase.  Arrange to your liking and let dry in place. If you allow them to dry laying down on a towel, they may get kinks or flat areas and won’t look natural.

Faux Plant Resources:

Green Boston Fern Bush

More faux plant decorating ideas:

10 Minute Flower Vase

My “Must-Do” Fake Flower Decorating Tips


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  1. Thank you Diane for all these wonderful tips. I especially like the one about coating any metal tips on the faux stems with nail varnish as I have experienced rust from them before but never figured out what to do about it. Great idea!

  2. I love this!! All of these are such great styling tips!! I do LOVE my stems…Hobby Lobby has super great stems these days and many of them look super real!! Hope you have a lovely day!

  3. Unbelievable fabulous. It blew my mind how much the fake plants look so real. Thanks for the tips how to get that look

  4. Oh my gosh..! I have spent so much money on fake plants over the years that ended up in storage because I just couldn’t get them to look right. Thanks to your tips, I pulled many of them out and styled them according to “your” directions and They Look Great! My husband asked if they were real ?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sheryl – This is so nice to hear. Thanks for taking the time to tell me that my post helped you get your faux plants to look more realistic. With each passing year, manufacturers are making fake plants truly look real and with a few tweaks when styling them in our homes can truly make them look real. Recently I bought two bunches of faux spring flowers at HomeGoods. When I was standing in line to purchase them, every person around me commented how real they looked. I always prefer the real thing, but faux allow me to have flowers and greenery all the time.

  5. It is so refreshing to see your own style or diy rather than seeing one more gather picture .

  6. Audrey B. says:

    Hi, I love your blog and need some help. I’ve bought two 2’ fake cedar shrub “trees” to put in my outdoor cement planters but they look spindly and thinner than I had anticipated. Any ideas on how to make them look fuller? Thanks!!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Audrey – Sorry to hear your fake cedar shrubs are not as full as you want. :-(

      If you have already tried to primp and arrange them to look fuller and they are still looking thin, the only way to add more to them is to get one more shrub that you can clip pieces from to add to the two that look spindly. I would clip the shrub at it’s base to get long stems from it to add to the other and would use florist wire to attach them.

      You may also be able to find fake cedar sprigs at the craft store that you can add into the two shrubs to make them look fuller.

  7. maria mannoni says:

    I always find your blog super inspirational. Thanks for the share.

  8. Thank you. Very usefull tips. I will buy stems at Michaels…

  9. My Aunt and Uncle used to own their own florist business. They taught me to clean faux flowers by spraying them with Windex. Let them sit a few minutes and then rinse with water. It cuts dirt and grease quickly.

  10. Linda L Weeks says:

    Now all I need to do is take a trip to Michaels to pick out some good stems!

  11. Ruth Daines says:

    I love the water look with the faux plants and always wondered how that doesn’t ruin the stem? I see this done on Fixer Upper and on the Magnolia website. I think it looks beautiful but am confused if the water would ruin the faux stem. I’d love to hear how that works and if you’re changing the water out every week. Seems like a lot of work but it’s definitely pretty! :)

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Ruth –

      The stems are plastic so they are not damaged at all. Are your stems made of something different? I have had some in water for months. The water doesn’t get very dirty. I may change it every few weeks when it starts to look cloudy. All very easy.

      For stems that are too long for my desired arrangement to fit into the vase, I cut with wire cutters to the height I want them. When I do this, the wire encased in the plastic stem becomes exposed on the bottom of the stem. This little piece of wire will rust and leave a rust dot on the glass. To stop this from happening, apply clear nail polish over the exposed wire, let dry and then place in water.

  12. Your simple gingko arrangement is beautiful, minimal and feels like a breath of fresh air. Thanks for the tips on how to make the faux arrangements, Diane! I have been noticing them in magazines and wondered how to keep the stems from getting rusty or grungy after being submerged in water for some time. Now I know…
    I’m with you on the whole macrame and succulents thing! My freshman year of college, my roommate was a macrame queen, she had plants suspended in macrame planters all over our room, I felt like I lived in a knotted jute jungle. When we got married in 1979, some friends gave us a cactus that looked like it was harvested from the Arizona desert, it was almost as tall as me (okay, I am only 5’2″) but that’s huge for a cactus. We were forever pulling needles from our little cocker spaniel, she never figured it out. I’m going out on a limb, I know, but another decorating trend I am SO over, are antlers, horns and animal skulls, enough already! I saw an HGTV show where the designer hung a tiny set of antlers in a newborn’s nursery…

  13. Thanks for the tips. I am so with you on the succulents and macrame. You could do a post about trends that should say goodbye. Don’t get me started…. Have a great day…

  14. thanks for your posts. they help me with a lot of my decision making.

  15. Kathy Duval says:

    I also grew up with macrame. Never likedit it. Love the faux plant idea.

  16. A tip I read once and have used- put your faux greens in a plastic bag with some salt. Hold the opening shut and shake the bag. It knocks the dust off. Nothing wet to dry. I’ve cut back on my faux greens due to the cleaning chore, but I miss them in the winter when I crave green. I used to have a macrame belt!

  17. Also….sometimes it’s less expensive to buy fake flowers and/or greens in a ‘bunch’ rather than individual stems. Cut them apart into single stems and voila! They look so much more real.

  18. Sharon Smith says:

    Thank you for all these ideas! I just moved into my condo and have been planning on greenery here and there but not real greenery – I too have the brown thumb syndrome plus not enough sunlight. I will definitely be decorating with your suggestions!

  19. Love this post!! So timely, I just bought some new greenery and flowers at HL yesterday.
    For my bigger ferns I end up taking them outside on a nice day and use the hose lightly to get the dust off. Then lay them out on the patio to dry. Works great!
    Macrame is thumbs down for me too. I think we had potted plants hanging in macrame holders in almost every room ?

  20. Connie McGhee says:

    A co-worker taught me the trick of using a clean paintbrush to “dust” my artificial plants. She also used it on other decorative items around the room. Works like a charm.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Connie – That is a great trick. Better than a feather duster since a paint brushes bristles are stiffer than a feather duster. Plus, smaller, so it can get into the grooves on the faux flowers better. Thanks for taking the time to share the tip. I will add it to the post with a mention to you. :-)

  21. HATE the macramé! I also grew up in the sixties and seventies, and I didn’t like those wall-hangings even then! And there were so many macramé hanging plant holders! I like a few of the succulents, not many, but what I also dislike so much are the air plants–they are creepy to me.

    Love lots of the ideas you have! Are there any particular faux-plant sources you like? Thanks.

  22. 1960s girl says:

    Hello. No macrame for me either; it does remind me of the 70s when my mom took a class to learn how to make terracotta planters and hung them in macrame!
    That trend is either for nostalgic or young people who were born after!

    Another trend I do not miss: in the 70s, my aunts used to knit “poodles” with Phentex yarn to cover toilet paper rolls! Every “trendy” bathroom had one. LOL

    For fun, I went down memory lane and found some poodles under “Knitted poodle toilet roll cover” on the Internet!

  23. romeogirl says:

    Totally with you on the macramé!! It makes me uncomfortable :)

    1. Mary Boger says:

      Ditto….no macrame. And I’m tired of succulents. Less little things!

      1. Karen D Sconyers says:

        Dang. I love macrame. I wouldn’t want it everywhere, but I wouldn’t want anything everywhere .. other than money.