Call them “faux botanicals” — houseplants, flowers and even trees that look so real you can’t tell they’re not. In fact, many feel like their living counterparts so you’re left contemplating the authenticity even after you’ve studied them with all your senses (some silks are doused in floral fragrance.)
The fake plant industry has grown immensely over the past decade, says Bella Finé owner Debbie Poulsen, who sells many varieties in her downtown Mesa store.
“Plants have a life span. I think people want to invest their money in something that will last longer than six months,” she says. “I think that’s what’s fueling the market.”
With all the competition, the product has improved. Fake fruit is weighted so when you pick it up, it feels like an apple, for example, and you can see little brown spots on its peel or a dark spot where the flesh might have been bruised in transport.
Artificial plants, fruits and vegetables haven’t always resembled their counterparts in the natural world.
Poulsen remembers when one fake fern looked like every other fake fern on the market and they were all not quite the right shade of green.
But now it’s not at all uncommon for their creations to be mistaken by homeowners for the real thing, say the floral designers at Botanical Elegance, a faux floral design company with locations in Tempe and Scottsdale.
“I delivered a tree to one guy’s house and once it was all set up he said, ‘OK, now how often do I have to water this thing,’ ” says employee Devon Vargeson.
Floral designer and company founder Nolan Beverly says he’s watched the industry improve in recent years, and says the attention to detail — to the shading of leaves and the color of petals — is what’s made the biggest difference.
His company often builds a tree starting with a branch of manzanita wood. Designers spend hours attaching each branch and leaf, being careful not to leave a drop of glue visible, to make a tree that looks real from every angle. Although the price tags can be hefty (some trees cost in excess of $1,000), they last a lifetime with a little periodic dusting, as opposed to buying a living tree at half that price and watching as the dry desert air and dust mites get the best of it.
“A lot of plants are so difficult to grow, like orchids, for instance. They’re so delicate,” says Poulsen. “Why spend the money on one that will die when you can get one that looks real and lasts forever?”
Resources Bella Finé
166 W. Main St., Mesa, (480) 668-8181
1121 W. Warner Road, Suite 105, Tempe (480) 705-0882 or 15475 N. Greenway-Hayden Loop, Suite B-4 Scottsdale, (480) 991-9909