An Architects Guide to Artificial Plants: Why, How & More
The days of brutalist architecture are long behind us, and now it’s all about Eco-friendly architecture that mimics or complements the natural landscape around it. From new builds in central London to modern homes built in the Welsh mountains, every design now incorporates greenery.
However, it’s not always possible or practical to use live plants, and this is where artificial plants can fill in the gap. Today, we’ll guide you through how you can incorporate artificial plants into your designs.
Why use artificial plants?
- Modern artificial plants are high quality, especially when you look to specialist retailers like us. We hand-select our stock for realism and quality, and so you’ll never find a plastic plant in our store that looks like it was made in the 70s.
- Artificial plants make your life, and that of your clients, easier. What you see is what you get, so you don’t have to worry about getting a plant that doesn’t look quite right upon project completion.
- Your design lasts long after you move on to the next project even if your clients don’t know (or care to learn) how to care for live plants. How you leave your design is how it will look years later.
- Artificial plants increase happiness and reduce stress in those that live and/or work around them, just as live plants do. This makes them the perfect addition to commercial spaces.
- You can use plants in your designs without worrying about how the client will maintain them.
- Artificial plants have a uniform and/or aesthetically pleasing distribution of foliage so you won’t end up with some plants that detract from your design.
- No light needed – that means you can add them anywhere you like. Add bamboo to a bathroom with no windows, tuck them under the stairs, they’ll look good anywhere.
- Artificial plants can be used inside or outdoors, you just need to make sure you buy the right kind so they last.
- Plant-filled designs are on-trend but live designs often require additional setup, such as irrigation systems, drainage, or education. You don’t need any of these things for artificial plants.
- Artificial plants don’t require moisture, so you don’t need to worry about how your fabulous design will look after the plants have been watered. Any live-plant lover will tell you that you have to be prepared to have a window or two open in a house (or run a dehumidifier 24/7) almost year-round to avoid significant condensation on the windows throughout the colder months.
- No bugs or pests are involved with artificial plants. Where there are live plants, there are the bugs that want to live on them. While the majority of these guests will be spiders that happen across their dense foliage, you do occasionally get an influx of aphids or similar bugs that are almost impossible to get rid of.
- No loose leaves. Live plants grow and lose their leaves as they grow, and while most indoor plants won’t shed their leaves completely like their outdoor counterparts, you will still get some leaf loss.
- They aren’t toxic if a child or pet gets them in their mouth, so you can safely include them in family and pet-friendly environments.
- They don’t aggravate allergies, which is another important factor to consider if you’re thinking about adding live plants. A lot of plants will cause hay fever in the spring and summer, and of course, some people are allergic to specific plants, so it’s a good idea to avoid them in commercial and public spaces.
How architects are using artificial plants in their designs?
Here are some of the best ways we’ve seen architects incorporate artificial plants into their designs:
Green walls – green walls are becoming more and more popular, but live green walls are a huge investment not only in cost upfront (usually costing around £30,000 for all the kit and installation) but in ongoing maintenance costs to keep them looking good. Add to that all the moisture, and suddenly a real green wall doesn’t seem like such a good idea.
Artificial green walls are ideal for commercial spaces, such as restaurants, office entryways, and in stores, as well as for residential spaces such as communal spaces, entrances, and modern kitchens. For more information, see our Guide to Buying Artificial Green Walls. If you’re not sure if a real or artificial green wall is the right move for your design, we’ve also done a Head-to-Head Comparison here.
- Under Stair Gardens – the under-the-stairs space in modern designs is often open and can be seen through the staircase as well as in the rest of the room, but this space is often underutilized, especially in commercial spaces. Some architects have started turning that area into an under-the-stairs garden, densely planted with artificial foliage in a shallow, pebble base.
- Large Potted Plants in Outdoor Areas – Using large potted artificial plants in outdoor areas is an easy way to add greenery to outdoor spaces, such as driveways, entrances, courtyards, and patios, without creating a whole new job for your clients when the project is done. Just make sure the pots you use have a drainage hole, as you would for a live plant, to ensure your plots and planters don’t just fill up with water.
- Use Artificial Grass – For lawns outside (or inside, you’re the architect!) use artificial grass in high-traffic areas. People are prone to making their own paths if they feel it's faster for reaching their destination instead of following your beautiful paths, and so using artificial grass in these areas keeps your design looking as you intended.
- Use Artificial Bamboo for Screening – there are plenty of artificial hedge options that are good options for hotels, restaurants, and bars in central urban areas, but for homes and smaller commercial projects, consider using densely-planted artificial bamboo plants for screening. This works beautifully insider or out, planted at ground level or raised in planters. Click here for our guide on Buying Artificial Bamboo.
- They Avoid the “Trendiest” Plants – most styles of plants are timeless, but there are some trendier plants and flowers that may age your design in a few years. Before you add a plant to your design, think about if it has been around for a while, is likely to be, or may just be a current trend that will best be avoided in your design.
- Feel Free to Mix Fake and Real – This is actually one of the ways many interior designers make artificial plants look even more real! You may be surprised, but one of the secrets to making your artificial plants look more real is to pair them with live plants. Of course, this depends on the application, and the live plants will require care, but if you want to use an abundance of plants but are reluctant to use all live or all artificial plants, opt for both.
- Using Plants at All Levels – Architects are also using big open spaces and adding plants at each level. If you’re designing an atrium, open plan home, or similar, think about how you can use artificial plants on each level – all visible from the ground floor. We’ve seen hanging and trailing plants added to balconies, and green walls on the balconies.
- Hanging Plants – Hanging plants in focal areas, such as over the dining table or in communal areas is an interesting way to lift the eye, especially when combined with lighting.
- Intentional Feng Shui – if you consider Feng Shui when designing, make sure you consider it when placing plants. We have a complete guide on how to use Feng Shui with artificial plants, which you can find here.
FAQs for Architects New to Artificial Plants
Can you use artificial plants outdoors?
Yes, you just need to make sure they have a UV rating and ideally are designed for outdoor use. Silk artificial plants may have the look you want, but will probably start looking ratty after a winter outdoors. With a little more research, you’ll find the right plant that will last outside for years to come.
Can you plant artificial plants in the ground?
Yes, but think about the substrate you’re using and the plant. If the plant you want to use has a real wooden trunk and you want to plant it in the soil outside, you may find that the trunk starts to rot after a few wet winters. Instead, consider using something that drains better like gravel or pebbles.
How long will artificial plants last for?
Indoors, most quality artificial plants will continue looking good for a decade, provided they have UV-protection reapplied from time to time, are dusted and aren’t in a high-traffic area (such as a University campus) where bags and people are going to brush through the leaves day after day.
How do I make sure the artificial plants I use look real?
If you’re aiming to fool the average person, invest in quality. Once you’ve found a quality plant, think about how the plant would be planted naturally. One of the great things about artificial plants is they’re flexible – they don’t need a big pot. However, if you plant a huge Bird of Paradise in a tiny pot, people will know it’s fake. By trying to mimic how the real plant would be styled, you can make the plant look more realistic.
Are artificial plants cheaper than real plants?
It depends on the plant. In some cases, the upfront cost will be less, and sometimes it will be about the same. In most cases, quality artificial plants will be about the same price as their live equivalent, unless it’s a rare plant.
What are artificial plants made from?
They’re usually made with plastics, silk, and wood. For more information, read our complete guide on what Artificial Plants are Made From here.
Using artificial plants in architectural designs is a smart move if you’re designing for commercial or communal public spaces, as well as permanent planters inside residences. While beautiful planted designs are difficult to maintain over the years, artificial plants will ensure your designs last for years to come.
If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to us with your needs. Click here to contact us.