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Fresh or Fake Flowers; Yay or Nay?

By 06/30/2010February 10th, 201769 Comments

I am not a snob about silk flowers as long as they look real–the ones that look real are certainly more expensive but think of all the money you save in the long run? A stunning silk orchid will last much longer in your powder room without natural light (well obviously) than a real one.

Atelier Abigail Ahern

Some say they get dusty and they’re right! That’s when it’s time to toss ‘em!
I usually have fresh flowers on my dining room table or entry but not everyone can afford to deck out the entire house with fresh flowers every week. I don’t know about you, but a tastefully done fake in a tablescape in my living room (for example) makes me happy, how about you?

Atelier Abigail Ahern

What’s your take on fakes?

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  • Anonymous says:

    It's utter nonsense to be a "snob" about fake flowers. Cut flowers are one of the world's most pesticide-ridden crops! All that greenery is "Not so green!". Since cut flowers are not considered to be an ingestible import, the USDA does not regulate the pesticide levels on them.

  • Melissa @ Veranda Interiors says:

    I do love fresh flowers and try to have at least one fresh arrangement in the house at all times, usually on my kitchen island.
    Since we do split our time between a home in Canada & our cabin in the States I do have quiet a few fakes around each home…but I have spent a lot of time searching out the right ones that will fool anyone.
    I say YAY!!!

  • Brillante Home Decor says:

    I definetely don't like fakes, but sometimes they are a necessity. In that case though I would prefer dried flowers, I have seen roses that look perfectly fresh, and what about branches? they are beautiful too. Ciao.

  • Kat says:

    I love fresh flowers…however, they are not always practical. I have several real, blooming orchids, but I also have several not so real (but it hard to tell unless you really look)ones in darker areas where they wouldn't do as well.

    If they are not real, make sure they look it!

  • Sara @ Russet Street Reno says:

    If they look real, I go for it. There is nothing worse than fake-looking flowers! I do have some nice ones in my home. I also have hydrangeas cut from my yard all over!

  • Dana Lynn says:

    You say your always interested in how geography affects things. Well, in Arizona fresh flowers are not practical. The dry air combined with air conditioning, which dries it even more, and hot temps (keep in mind we keep our house at 80, that is a 30 degree difference to the outside temp)all make flowers lives VERY short. Even tropicals which can normally last weeks, start to wilt in our climate.

    I take a floral design class every week, so I always have an arrangement in the house. The flowers our instructor receives are normally closed buds so we can enjoy them just a little bit longer. Even then getting a week out of a summer arrangement is impressive.

    For that reason a have a lot of artificial arrangements that I have made. I use the artificial water and try to keep things simple. Most people think they are real- I fool my husband all the time. He really should have a better eye by now 🙂

    I have to say I miss the Michigan gardens. Peonies so heavy with flowers that the bushes are collapsing, lilac branches, and fresh flowers from the snow crocuses in March to the dried corn hay and mums for fall. There's nothing like being able to make beautiful arrangements from what grows in your yard.

    • Sylvia says:

      Oh, you made me feel wistful:) I live in AZ too, so same challenges, but grew up in Illinois with the lilac trees and really miss them. I’m fortunate that my roses bloom almost year round, so I will have one or two in a small vase on my nightstand and maybe elsewhere. Even one rose will make me ridiculously happy, especially when my husband cuts it for me, and I’ll carry it to whichever room I will be in for a while. I do have a couple of fake flower arrangements also, though. I find white roses or lighter flowers look best in the long run and show less dust. I like a full bouquet with less greenery since it’s usually the leaves that strike me as more fake looking than the flowers. I just vacuum the flowers with a brush attachment. The leaves usually require more care with a silk flower spray cleaner and rubbing with a soft cloth. Only once in a while, due to budget constraints, will I splurge on a full bouquet. Oh, how I love that smell when you walk in a room! For those who love real flowers and haven’t been there yet, the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas has an incredible, ever changing, seasonally themed, living flower, plant and water exhibit that defies description. You can smell this incredibly clean, fragrant scent the moment you enter the hotel.


    I really enjoy both.

  • Marcus Design says:

    I wish I could have fresh flowers all the time! But I agree with you, a really well done fake is fine by me!! I am terrible at keeping things alive, and my favorite flowers (orchids) can be particularly difficult as well!

  • jenelle. says:

    I try, but I don't ever enjoy fakes.

  • Mariska Meijers says:

    just can't do fake and I live in Amsterdam where there is a flower shop on almost every corner!

  • Jeannine 520 says:

    Real only. I'm not a snob about it, I've tried to love fakes but whatever it is that's so great about real flowers is just not there in the fakes. They don't have the ability to lift a room or mood like real flowers. An object trying to imitate life is somehow icky, like taxidermy.

  • Will @ Bright.Bazaar says:

    If anyone would do fake flowers well it would be Atelier Abigail Ahern, but I have to say I'm a real kinda guy! Love fresh blooms.

  • Linda@ Lime in the Coconut says:

    Ok…here is a trick I will use once in awhile…a happy compromise. I always have at least three or four vases around the house. We have a quite prolific tropical garden…so even the leaves look lovely brought in the house. When I don't have any flowers blooming outside, I'll throw a good looking fake flower in amongst real leaves and branches. Sometimes I can hardly tell the difference between a heliconia from the yard or my "stand ins"!

  • pve design says:

    I have met some impostors that tricked me into thinking they were "for real!" Faux that is. I do love fresh – but honestly there are some amazing faux designs, "Diane James home designs" are lovely.

  • Angela N says:

    It is one of my wishes to alway have fresh flowers in the house. Unfortunately our budget just doesnt allow it. So until it does, I have a bunch of fake ones around the house. They definitely perk up my tablescapes.

  • Vicki says:

    I don't like fakes. Where I live, they'll get dusty and icky in no time. If I can't do real flowers, I'll do a single big green leaf (from my garden) in a tall vase.

    My rule of thumb–IF it is reachable/touchable, it HAS to be real, whether flowers or plants.

  • Sally@DivineDistractions says:

    I think I'm supposed to hate fake. I'd rather have real, but I can't grow houseplants…dont have time for anything else that needs feeding…and if I want the look, or need to fill some space, I'm probably going fake…it's just practical for me and many of my clients. But the real story to me is that FABULOUS orange pedestal table. Be still my heart!!

  • Mary says:

    I prefer fresh all the way. If I don't have the money for fresh I'll cut some branches or leaves from the trees/plants outside.
    But for the folks that don't mind fakes…when they get dusty, put them in a bag with some salt and give them a shake. It gets them clean again.

  • Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    I use both! I just cut some hydrangeas from my bushes in the backyard but I also have some faux greenery that I keep around the house. I've even mixed them together in the same container ~ I've done faux hydrangeas mixed in with some of my real dried ones!

  • wyplash says:

    I am partial to roses and was buying them almost weekly. They die so fast though! I have 2 fake arrangements now and have to say they make me smile every time I look at them! I arranged the one in my living room myself and that is part of the pleasure.

    I also have real plants all over the house that add other touches of color.

  • Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle says:

    I prefer real. I like to use fresh flowers and hosta leaves from my garden in the summer. In the cool weather I add fresh flowers to inexpensive plants that I purchase at the home improvement store.

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    If something is blooming outside, I might cut some for a fresh arrangement. But this is AZ, and as Dana said, it's hot, dry and dusty. Real stuff doesn't last and the fakes look bad in a short time because of the dust.

    I have had ficus and other indoor plants, they grew well, but they were a PITA to care for.

  • The Buzz says:

    We think flowers finish a room but what to do in the rooms you rarely use? Us the best faux available! Even if they do cost a little more, they're well worth the investment and no one will know that you didn't run out to the flower shop to buy fresh.

  • Houses Gardens People says:

    I unexpectedly have learned so much just reading the comments on this post — such as how flowers are the most pesticide ridden plants in the world (makes sense because they have to be perfect and if the government isn't looking out, well) and to remove dust on fake ones, put them in a bag with salt and shake (this trick has got to work on other things, I'm trying to thing of what else might benfefit from a salt dusting). In this terrible economy I decided to cut back on things that make me less happy, like cable, and put the money towards things that make me more happy, like fresh flowers. I don't think I would give up cable for fake flowers, though.

    Thanks Maria for another thought-provoking post!

  • Michele from Boston says:

    Well, I think fresh is obviously better than fake if you can afford a bunch or can pick a bunch from your own garden. I had a huge change of opinion – twice, actually. Firstly, when Margaret Russell during a lecture I attended spoke STRONGLY against fake florals, then secondly when Michael Smith admitted he always used fake sweet peas because he couldn't get them year round (his favorite flowers). I like your idea of using them in locations like bathrooms or areas that don't have the natural light to keep something alive. Always buy the best quality you can afford. My dream would be to have a little greenhouse where you could always rotate something in bloom in and out of you home. Maybe someday?

  • says:

    I think there are a lot of great fakes out there (I'm thinking of Pier 1 specifically). I think if you make the effort of keeping them fluffed and relatively dust free it is totally worth it. I love fresh flowers as much as the next girl but that is an expensive habit.

  • amymeier says:

    Yes, with silk you don't get that great feeling of going to a farmers market and walking home with a newsprint wrapped bouquet, but I do think that they can be just as fabulous. The silk flowers that are out now are so realistic! I have a bouquet of magnolias mixed with preserved wheat and it looks wonderful. Everyone that comes over thinks that they are real!

  • Heartfire At Home says:

    Either is great with me. I have probably 4 fake flower arrangements in my home, and some sort of draping off the top of an armoire type cupboard. I love fresh when I get the time for them, but it doesn't seem to happen often.

    The only flowers I won't have are dried ones!

    According to Feng Shui and vibrational type principles, dried flowers are bad for your home as they are… well…. DEAD. This (according to believers of Feng Shui etc) means they give off bad vibes. Better to have fake than dried, as they don't give off those vibes. In certain instances Feng Shui also says (if I remember correctly) that fakes are better than real ones as well (can't remember why though).

    Linda. 🙂

  • FrenchGardenHouse says:

    I always have fresh flowers in the living room. {I actually started designing and selling silk arrangements years ago so that I could afford that} Once in a while, I'll mix in a few beautiful fakes in a fresh bouquet.

    Having fresh flowers everywhere is usually too costly, so at times I do have silk flowers in the kitchen on the table. The high end flowers are so realistic, people actually feel them to be sure. adding a little water in the clear vase adds to the illusion.

    Many of my clients have purchased silk arrangements from us to use in their second homes, too, so that they have a cheery greeting when they arrive.

  • Bridgette says:

    I love fresh flowers and cut them from my yard whenever they're in bloom, but I also have fakes to get me through the winter months. Just a tip… when mine get dusty I take them outside and use a can of compressed air (the stuff you use on your keyboard) to clean them off. It works like a charm!

  • Kelly Berg says:

    I think it depends. Fresh flowers look and smell beautiful. But sometimes artificial are a necessity (for certain jobs, anyway.) I have some clients that I do holiday styling for every year. The first 3 years we did fresh flowers and greens. Looked BEAUTIFUL…but they would die so quickly. The las two years I've used artificial. Guess what? Also looked beautiful. The colors stay vibrant, and I can reuse them each year. Would I prefer fresh? Yes – but sometimes practicality wins out.
    The only thing I struggle with is the "green" thing. I hate that most artificial plants are plastic-y and made in China. But your first commenter brings up a good point about pesticides. Huh. Not sure which way to go. Seems to be on the same line as the paper or plastic bag dilemma.
    Great question, Maria! Interesting to see everyone's take on this. I think as designers/decorators, we have to be flexible and take our client and project needs into consideration. (But I don't have any fake plants in the house…)

  • mustang says:

    I prefer fresh as well. But the pesticide thing really bothers me so I buy fresh flowers only occasionally. I have some faux arrangements in my home but they are more branchy than flowery. I have a fake orchid that looks totally real. I would say if you use fakes, use them sparingly.

  • rb says:

    I prefer real, of course – who doens't – but I do have one bunch of artifical white hydrangeas that fool everyone. I have those because they are on my mail table and get knocked over frequently. I can't deal with real there.

    The rest of my greenry is live houseplants. I have had good luck with getting white florists orchids to rebloom, and I have one faithful christmas cactus that produces for me, though I'm not wild about its fuschia color blossoms.

    Other than those, I buy kalanchoe plants regularly at the grocery store, for about the same price as cut flowers. They keep their blooms for months rather than weeks and require very little water. I chuck them when they're spent.

  • Anonymous says:

    I only like about 5% of the fake flowers I see in the stores, so those are the ones I get.

    The flowers that look the best to me are the ones that cup inward so you can't see that plastic thing in the middle. I have had more luck finding tulips and peonies. I have the most luck at Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware. My experience with NGI has been mixed even though they are very expensive.

    I got a can of silk flower cleaner from Michael's (a craft store). I sprayed it on my dusty white tulips and coated them with the foam. Then the foam dissipated in a few minutes and it was clean. For spots, I gently rubbed the spot with the foam and my fingers and repeated until the spot was gone.

  • Velvet and Linen says:

    I'm fortunate to live in a climate that allows me to have real flowers all year round, but I'm not completely against fake flowers.
    There is a nursery here in LA called Rolling Green. They have amazing fake flowers. You really have to look closely to tell that they aren't real!


  • Anonymous says:

    I like the nicer fake flowers but don't like fake trees and fake greenery. However, you don't really have any other options on a high plant ledge.

    The most successful plants I've grown are a ficus tree and peace lily. I've mostly killed the plants with flowers.

  • Space by Eliana Tomas says:

    i have a few silk flowers and they look very real. when they get dusty, as you say, i toss'em (it works perfectly). my fav is my orchid, no one believes it's fake, it has roots and everything.
    great post, i love all the pics yo use to illustrate your post.

  • Jane says:

    Great question…I have both in my home. First…I have to find real flowers that do not produce tons of pollen due to my allergies…gerbera daisies, tulips, shasta daisies work pretty well. I have one vase on my breakfast bar that almost always has fresh flowers or greens. Like Linda (Lime in the Coconut), I have wonderful tropical plants…hence gorgeous leaves and I occasionally add the odd silk flower to the arrangement. But, I have to admit, I use a lot of silks…mostly because they take little or no care. Dusty…shake them in a bag with salt or silica. Right now, I have several bouquets of silks on my front porch…color, no care, and lovely. But, I do buy good quality silks.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am not interested in fooling others, what is important is that "I" know they are fake, and therefore I would never have them. If you considered them as food for your soul and just as important as food for your body, you would not think of them as extravagant. You could not fool your body with fake food can you? But would think nothing of rubbing your spirit of the nourishment it get from real flowers. I would much rather have one fresh flower than an arm full of the others.

  • Kim says:

    While I love fresh flowers, I agree that well-made fake flowers are an acceptable alternative, especially in a dark(er) space. And if they're silk flowers, there's a product you can get that you spray on (preferably in a bathtub or outside) and after a few minutes gently rinse off and allow to dry. They end up looking like-new.

  • The Homesteading Apartment says:

    Recently became a new follower and so glad I found your lovely blog (: I look forward to coming back for future posts!

    Fake are fine…but for me there's nothing better than a living plant/flowers. It just adds an energy that fake plants can't (:


  • allison says:

    I LOVE your blog and read regularly. I also happen to be in PR (in the states) and saw this query from a reporter and thought of you. You don't have to post my comment – just wanted to send along so you could follow up personally.

    23) Summary: Looking for Canadian interior design projects

    Name: Amber Lindros (Home By Design Magazine)
    Category: Lifestyle and Fitness

    Email: [email protected]

    Media Outlet: Home By Design Magazine

    Deadline: 12:00 PM EST – 2 July


    U.S.-based interior design magazine is looking for residential
    projects located in Canada. We feature one type of room in each
    issue, such as kitchens, bedrooms, or living rooms, along with
    one entire home tour. Our readers are located throughout the
    United States and Canada. If you are interested in submitting a
    project, please reply with links to an online portfolio or
    low-res images. It is preferable that you own the rights to the
    professional photography of the room or home, but it is not
    required. We look forward to receiving your editorial

  • Elizabeth Brown says:

    Fakes are just that. ugh.

  • Mona Thompson says:

    Maria, Once again great post. Who wouldn't rather have fresh flowers? Obviously no one with good taste. But are their instances where they just won't work and are there some really good alternatives out there right now for a price? Absolutely. Another instance of there isn't really an absolute. You have to consider everything and make the best decision accordingly.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Allison, thanks for the heads up on that design magazine!

    I am so happy that I asked this question, I am getting such a great education just be reading the comments, the cleaning of them alone–thank you!!

    I love my readers, you all rock!!

  • Carol@TheDesignPages says:

    I think if you mix 'em up throughout your home and the silk is well made, no one will know the difference. Real flowers can be expensive but a little goes a long way…Carol

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't have a "thing" against fakes but when I can't justify the cost of real flowers, I often put out other things I think are just as lovely – a bowl of fresh lemons, or apples, for instance. They can smell heavenly and look surprisingly pretty. And then I eat them : ) so I can definitely justify the expense.

  • Trell says:

    Maria, I think I like a combination of both. In the rooms that are frequently used, I think fresh flowers are great. And, I think it's totally doable on a weekly basis.

    For those other room, I'm totally okay with the designer fakes.

  • traci zeller designs says:

    I am so loving reading these comments! I've written about this before, so we know I have an opinion. I want to like fake ones, really I do … but I just don't. I've bought them before – good ones — used them for a bit, and then I just can't do it any longer. I do prefer dried to fake, although I didn't realize it's bad feng shui. Hmmmppph. I second what Kelly Berg said about being flexible …

  • thewelcomehome says:

    I love having fresh flowers when possible but it's sad when they start to wilt. I do have some fake topiaries.

    I find that a few really good fakes work well when I am staging a home. They bring a sense of life to a space and I don't have to worry about changing them out when they start to go. Maintaining real flowers in a staged house is too challenging.

    One thing I believe is that it can be fake but it should never look fake.

  • Lisa says:

    I love fresh flowers but when you have a cat that likes to eat them (and having to get his stomach pumped once was enough) you start looking at the faux ones. But you must ensure the fakes look fabulous and not plastic…

  • Donna says:

    Hi Maria, I like fakes if they are VERY realistic. I had fake tulips ( I saved up for them and used a Hobby-Lobby coupon) and they looked so real people were constantly complimenting me on my lovely tulips. I also got a great bargain on some daffodils that featured in my sewing room tablescape. They have now been moved to my soon to be green bedroom!! :o) They may be fake, but they are a work of art.

    I don't like tacky cheap ones though. I think I have a couple of greenery baskets that need to be tossed. However you can clean some of them up very well.

    But in the kitchen or at my desk, I almost always have fresh flowers. Thank goodness, some bright mind planted our landscaping so well that we have something blooming almost year round..even in January! When we don't, I pick up an inexpensive bouquet to put in a small vase. Right now the hardy summer wildflowers are still blooming! The grandsons picked me the most darling bouguet..which fit perfectly in a champagne glass. I'll let you use your imagination and try to picture that one! Tee-hee!

    It was precious! I also got to float wildflower blooms (minus the stems) from my two yr.old grandson.

    Life is too short to sweat over real plants you can't keep alive, or to live without fresh flowers…

    I think we need question!

  • Eliza says:

    I'm not a big fan of fakes, but I do have a single basket of ivy on top of my (green) bedroom bookcase. It is nearly ceiling hight, so the ivy really just fills the gap between bookcase top and ceiling, making it look more like a built-in. I have been toying with the idea of getting rid of even that though- but it's such an awkward space I can't think of anything else.

  • Annie@A View On Design says:

    I love fakes, some are divine – better than real!

  • NYCLQ says:

    Although I would LOVE to have all real all the time – the budget doesn't permit it. Rather than flowers, I'll walk our community and cut a few fresh greens (esp. palms). Real is REALLY nice in the office – where most time is spent. And for a special occasion tablescape, using a color I don't usually decorate with – faux – mixed with real greens saves money and the faux can be repurpose for future holidays.

    Great post!!

    😀 Lynda

  • Linda @bushel and a pickle says:

    Love fresh and have a nice selection in my yard. The grocery store has a very affordable assorted flowers to chose from. I dry hydrangeas for a massive display in the dining room between autumn winter holidays.
    And I have lived where silk and dried were the only reasonable options. Those places also needed candles to chase away the long dark hours. So have dried and silk arrangements in my home and add fresh as much as possible!

  • Beautiful world says:

    I am yey, as long as it looks real!

  • Laura Bielecki of Luxury Interiors says:

    If you can't take care of or afford the real thing fake flowers can fit the bill. Just seeing flowers in a home can bring warmth and comfort. No home should go without a floral touch. Great advice for cleaning fake flowers of dust: put sugar in a plastic bag and dip the head of your arrangement in the bag. Twist to seal and shake. The sugar will remove most of the dust.

  • Anonymous says:

    Knew I'd need another cup of coffee when I saw the title of this post!

    I prefer bunches, branches or a single silk flower over faux arrangements. But I absolutely do not like fake greenery. I have an eight-foot silk ficus tree in a room that needs the height and know I must get rid of it (consignment shops grab them up) because keeping it (relatively) dust-free is a real chore.

    I have good luck with houseplants. A tiny bit of Miracle Grow throughout the summer keeps them nice all year long. I like to tuck a few flowers in with cuttings I have rooting in water on our kitchen table and my vanity.

    Very enjoyable post, Maria!

    Jane in Ohio

  • Anonymous says:

    Love them as long as they are from Diane James Designs.

  • mrsben says:

    Preference is real flowers/plants, however out of necessity do lean towards fake on occassion. Quality fake ones of course. 🙂 For cleaning, I can vouch that the table salt in the bag works! For quick jobs, a can of Dust Destroyer (used for cleaning computer keyboards) can be an added plus. (Works great on chandeliers too.) -Brenda-

  • carolanne says:

    with a cat that eats any flowers I have brought in… can’t put them high enough, she will knock anything and everything over to get to them…. I use a best faux I can find…as for dust I just wash them….
    the end…

  • Susan says:

    I discovered that our guests had been watering the silk flowers in their guest bedroom, so apparently they weren’t offended by them!

  • Mariann says:

    Just recently had the opposite problem of some – bought a real orchid at a farmers market and placed it in my living room. Had friends over for dinner and they didn’t believe it was real because ‘it looks too perect’. I say do whatever makes you happy. Fake flowers are great for those that suffer from allergies. Anyone with allergies to most flowers dread going into homes with real.

  • Mariann says:

    Just recently had the opposite problem of some – bought a real orchid at a farmers market and placed it in my living room. Had friends over for dinner and they didn’t believe it was real because ‘it looks too perfect’. I say do whatever makes you happy. Fake flowers are great for those that suffer from allergies. Anyone with allergies to most flowers dread going into homes with real.

  • Noelle says:

    I have a beautiful mixed silk arrangement of hydrangeas, etc…in the lime greens, creams and a little burgundy…bought during the brown trend. I feel as if they are dated due to the colors, not because they are silks. Silk orchids seem to be the in all the magazine spreads.
    I paid $175., on sale,for the arrangement so I feel as if I cant just toss them into the Goodwill bag…lol

  • sandyc says:

    I live in Arizona too and the issues brought up are real. But I have an additional one – three kitties. Mei Mei loves cat grass and catnip plants and plants of any kind, so anything real has to sit on a very high shelf. Even then, she will sit and watch for dead blossoms or leaves to fall to the floor. And I’ve seen both Mei Mei and Claire try to eat the fake grass stems. Although there’s nothing like a bouquet of the real, I’m glad there are so many faux that have the look if not the fragrance.

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