Three Easy Ways to Make Fake Plants Look Real

April 10, 2023

No green thumb? These quick tips will make your fake plants look real!

A great faux plant or tree can be a great addition to your home! Don't let the old dusty versions from your childhood deter you -- artificial plants have come a long way over the years and look more realistic than ever!

Our home is full of live plants and I really enjoy the life they bring to our home. But sometimes a fake tree or plant is a great alternative -- you don't have to worry about placement and if they'll thrive without direct sunlight.  

I love our real plants, but they do NOT like to be moved around! 

Plus, they're easier to work with if you have young kids, pets (I always search online before bringing a new plant home) or allergies. No fuss! 

Faux decorative trees can get expensive, so before before buying make sure to read reviews (if purchasing online), or inspect the plant close up. 

A high-quality artificial plant will have: 

  • silk-like leaves that move easily and look more realistic than plastic
  • trunk(s) that are thicker and/or have details like knots and bark
  • realistic colors -- faded colors and discolored stems instead of deep green leaves and lifelike branches are a dead giveaway

Did you know you can DIY a decorative fake tree yourself? I shared how I made my own olive tree here -- it's much easier than you'd think!:
DIY olive tree in basket

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We have a spot in our living room that needed some life, but I wasn't sure a real tree would do well in that spot. Plus, the price of a real tree the size I needed was more than I wanted to spend. 

I had two gift cards burning a hole in my pocket when I found this realistic faux maple tree at Target a couple months ago:
fake Japanese maple tree from Target

At first glance I could tell how full it was -- this tree isn't a cheap purchase by any means, but I could see right away that it was worth the price. 

The tree is tall (right around five feet), has a TON of branches and the Japanese maple leaves were plentiful. It's a gorgeous fake plant, definitely one of the best I've seen!

It was so full I had trouble getting it into the cart. ;) I had to stand it up straight -- you could see me coming a mile away. 😂

It has two trunks that have a very slight painted mossy detail: 
fake plant trunk bark

It ticked all of the boxes for me, but I knew I could make it look even better when I got it home!

Three easy tricks to make your fake plant look real!

1. Fluff the branches and leaves to create fullness.

Many fake plants will come to you like a faux Christmas tree -- as squished as possible for shipping. 

Most of these have wire in the branches, or will at least be made of plastic that can be manipulated somewhat. Spread these out in different directions, bending them side to side instead of going straight up:
fluffing fake plant branches

Give the branches a more natural look by adding a slight curve as they come away from the trunk. 

Make sure the leaves are separated and spread apart as well, as they sometimes get stuck together during shipping. 

Remember, real plants are rarely symmetrical, so you don't want it to look perfect. 

Real plants grow towards the sun, so don't be afraid to angle the branches at a window just a bit!

2. Give it more presence with a bigger planter. 

My first step is ALWAYS to put the (always 😂) too small planter into a bigger one. Those teeny tiny pots are a dead giveaway. 

I do this with fake plants of all sizes -- it instantly makes them look more realistic!  

These plastic planters from Lowe's are my favorite -- I have a few of them in the house: 
placing small fake plant in bigger pot

I stole this one from another room of the house. They come in two colors and three different sizes (this is the 16" version and I spray painted it black). They are a great shape and look high end. 

I also love dropping plants (both real and fake) into decorative baskets. Old candle vessels look great as planters for smaller plants. 

3. Cover the fake soil at the base of the plant

One of the biggest "tells" on a decorative plant is the fake soil. This is an easy fix! Just like with our real plants, I use moss to cover the "dirt" at the bottom of the tree:
real moss in bag

You can find it at most craft stores or online. This bigger bag of moss will cover many plants, fake or real!

I used plastic shopping bags as filler for the empty space between the two planters. This gave me a surface to lay the moss on all the way around:
adding bigger planter to fake tree

Old newspapers, bubble wrap or a flat piece of cardboard laid on top will work as well. 

SO much better!!:
moss at base of fake tree

That's the biggest secret -- a beefier base goes a long way to making a fake plant look real! 

This fake plant has given this corner of our family room so much life. I just love it!:
fake tree in black planter

Some additional tips for fake plants and trees: 

  • If you want to forego moss, you can add a small layer of real soil over the top of the planter.
  • Decorative river rocks are another great way to cover the plastic soil on a fake plant. (This is a great deterrent for curious cats as well.)
  • Don't be afraid to touch up the stems or trunks with some spray paint or acrylic craft paint!
  • Just like with real plants, be sure to dust the leaves occasionally. 
white Radley sofa
See how I made that giant square coffee table here!

Remember -- one of the biggest giveaways that a plant is fake is that it's too perfect! Don't be afraid to manipulate it and change it up a bit! 

If you can only do one thing, I would recommend changing up the base of the plant in some way. Am I missing any good faux plant hacks you've used? 

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  1. A great way to keep your silk plants looking clean is to buy a silk plant spray cleaner. This stuff is great for removing that really stuck on dust that you’d have to wipe each leaf to clean. Simply take your plant outside and mist with the cleaner. Let it sit for a minute or two to dry and you’re done! No need to wipe any leaves. The cleaner is available online from Walmart, Michael’s, and Amazon (although the Amazon options seemed more expensive).

  2. I like using the spagnum moss, because its a great neutral and you can get it at Dollar Tree for la cheapa. And when I'm out thrifting, I can also find really interesting pots to re-home my fake plants.

  3. If you want to avoid the messiness of moss, I've used wine corks to fill my pots. It looks super cute!

  4. I found that a can of “Great Stuff Gaps and Cracks” from Home Depot or Lowe’s for about four dollars is great for anchoring a plant to a container, especially if you want to use a big planter. You just spray it in the space between the plant and planter and ten minutes later, the tree is upright for eternity. The only problem is that you won’t be able to reuse your planted if you change your mind. It’s in there for good!


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THANKS so much for reading!