How To Buy Artificial Flowers and Plants for Airbnb’s and Vacation Rentals

and what to avoid at all costs!




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October 21, 2015
Artificial flowers in vacation rentals

Last week, I received the following question on the 1 Chic Retreat Facebook page from the subscriber, Lynette Doan, and thought I’d share it with our community because it’s a great discussion topic:

Hi Mercedes. What are your thoughts on artificial succulent arrangements? Would you put these or any other artificial plants or flowers in a vacation rental?

The answer is, yes I do approve of artificial botanicals in vacation rentals and Airbnb’s – be they succulents, flowers, twigs or sprigs.

However – and this is a critical “however” – there are some very critical guidelines that must be followed if you’re going to buy the right kind of artificial plants and arrange and maintain them well. 

So let’s get started!

1 Chic Retreat’s Handy-Dandy, Trustworthy Guidelines for Buying, Arranging, and Caring for Faux Botanicals:

1. Know the difference between “Fake” and “Faux”

Ok, let me begin by saying that 95% of artificial botanicals are slumlords. Shiny plastic leaves, unrealistically bright colors, super fake looking leaves. They’re a hot mess.

Ugly Fake Flowers

Ouch! It actually hurts to look at this fake flower arrangement. The only place I can imagine this is in front of a velvet Matador portrait. And please don’t tell me you have one of those.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned monster is all too common when you Google shop “artificial flowers.” There are thousands of such garish, cheesy, tacky, low-brow arrangements on which to spend your money. Avoid them at all costs.

They are the kiss of death in vacation rentals.

But the other 5%?

The other 5% are simply and utterly awesome. This tiny, élite minority, eerily lifelike, don’t belong in the same class as their slumming-it siblings. These babies take realism to a whole new level. We’ll refer to them as “faux.”

Here’s a fine example to feast your darlings on…

Artificial flowers in vacation rentals

Can you believe these aren’t real?! The Rose Cottage Arrangement from Fox Flowers looks as if it was picked the same morning from an English garden. My my, what beauties!

Faux botanicals are fantastic in vacation rentals and Airbnb’s. Not only do they look epically chic, but they save you the hassle and cost of constantly buying flowers. And for those guests with flower allergies, well, you’re pleasing those folks too.

2. Find some trustworthy vendors and stick with them.

Now that you know the difference, it’s time to find some faux botanical vendors you can trust. And even they can’t always be depended upon, so inspect, inspect, inspect. Look carefully, wear your glasses, take a magnifying glass out if you have to. You should not be able to tell they’re fake by sight; rather the catch will be in the touch. Don’t solely depend on yourself, ask a few family members or super honest friends. If the specimens give off even a whiff of the fake-y vibe, err on the side of caution and send them back.

Here are my favorite vendors.

  • Pottery Barn – Pottery Barn has some darn great looking faux flowers and plants. Unfortunately, you have to remember to buy them in the spring and summer because for some weird reason they don’t have much in stock outside the warmer months. So buy them when you can.
faux cherry blossoms

Pottery Barn’s faux cherry blossoms are my favorite, especially paired with a red vase.

  • West Elm – West Elm doesn’t always stock faux plants either but when they do, they do a great job. Elegant, lithe, and slight artsy, they beckon “whether these are real or not, I still own the room.”
West Elm Privet Berry

With blackberries, these Chinese Privet Stems add instant drama displayed in a glass (put water in it for realism) vase or tucked into a full bouquet. Best of all, they’ll look fresh year-round. $14.99 from West Elm.

  • Olive and the Fox – This is perhaps my favorite vendor, to the point that I’m willing to pay pricey international shipping from the UK. However, when you factor in never having to buy flowers again (yippee!), the prices might pencil out. All Olive and Fox’s faux flowers are extremely realistic and can be molded to shape, mimicking the imperfections of real flowers. The stems can be either bent or cut down to size with a pair of garden secateurs. They are the Rolls Royce of faux.
vacation rental plants and flowers

Fox Flowers is one of my all-time favorite faux flower and plant vendors. Their Lady’s Mantle Green, paired with White Lilac, is multi-textured and will impart a handmade, cottagey feel to any Airbnb or vacation rental. Fox Flowers

3. Display your faux botanicals for maximum realism

  • Place your faux botanicals in chic containers. Just like real botanicals, faux plants need to be placed in beautiful vases. For the record, when I say “vase” I’m referring to any container that traditionally holds water. Bowls are vases, jam jars are vases, planters, pewter coffee pots, bottles, mason jars…you get the picture. Don’t ever put faux in something you wouldn’t put a real plant in (like a basket) or it will scream, “I’m a phony!” no matter how lifelike it may be.
  • If your vase is glass, put water in it. Faux plants don’t need water but water fools the eye into absolutely believing your faux friend is the real deal. No questions asked.
  • Error on the side of simplicity. The best arrangements are simple and unfussy. The goal is to make your botanicals look like you went into the backyard, picked some flowers and popped them in a vessel you saw.  Just letting the flowers (or fronds or branches) do their thing is the best bet. Bend some of them over as if they’ve wilted a little and you get that “flowers being flowers” vibe.
  • For maximum realism, mix your faux botanicals with the real deal. Adding some living fronds, sprigs and twigs to your faux beauties will ante up their realism. People will ooh and aah, never suspecting the truth, faux that it may be.

4. Thou shalt not allow your faux flowers to gather dust 

Like ever.

Don’t shrug off this last essential step or the whole shebang goes to pot. “Faux” turns into “fake” really quickly when dust gathers on your faux specimens, so take them out, give them a good rinse, shake off the water and stick ’em back where you found them.

You’re good to go!

That’s about all there is folks.

But if I forgot anything, let me know in the comments section below. Have any good faux sources you’d like to reveal? How about any faux arrangements you’d like to show off? Share away! Our community always appreciates it.

  • One very important note in using faux bouquets is to avoid those that come with faux water- that is clear acrylic that is used to hold flowers in place. Keeping the dust out is a challenge a best.

    • Oh my! I have never heard of fake water but that sounds dreadful. Thanks for letting us know, Donna!

  • Thanks for providing the guidelines on chic faux flowers arrangements Mercedes. I’d rather go for fresh 99% but… the only one time I used them was in the home staging for my home photo shooting. There are 4 arrangements that are faux (and I hope they don’t look fake to your eyes). And if people are willing to guess which are they, here is the link to the gallery :-) Paola

    • The only guess I’d venture to make is the one in the bedroom but that is ONLY because I don’t see any water in the glass vase. Am I correct?

  • Alanna: TheDistinguishedGuest

    Great info Mercedes. Thank you! I actually have the faux Pottery Barn cherry blossoms at my home (primary residence) and love them. They have been going strong for over 3 years now with little or no maintenance at all and everyone thinks they are real.

    The dust drives me nuts but I can honestly say that has not been a problem for the cherry blossoms. I also have a fake orchid that I bought at ZGallerie and I use that at my vacation rental in Kauai and it has also held up very well.

    • Alanna, how do you clean your fauxs? Just dousing them with water?

      • Alanna: TheDistinguishedGuest

        I usually use a spray bottle with a small drop of soap. I take the flowers outside place them on a towel and spray them with the water and then lightly dry them off then I let the sun do the rest.

  • jshattuck

    Absolutely wonderful post. Olive & The Fox’s seem to be the very best — and of course hard to get, as I’m a US citizen and need shipping to Barbados, where my vacation rentals (and I) are. I wrote them to ask about whether they’ll be able to ship to me. If not, I’m sure I’ll be very happy with one of the other sources you mentioned. Thanks for the post – outstanding info. Jane

    • I’m glad to have helped, Jane. Perhaps you have a US based friend who will ship them to you if Olive and the Fox will not. Otherwise, the other vendors are fantastic.

      • jshattuck

        They don’t ship to the US, either. I wrote to the company and they’re going to send a quote on how much to send them to Barbados. If too much, I’ll go with another of your recommendations. Thx :) Jane

  • Jessica

    Great post! I never would have thought to ask for brands of faux flowers, I’m always on the lookout for realistic ones though. What do you think about birch lane faux flowers? I’ve heard amazing things and you can obtain them on wayfair as well. I’ve not personally experienced them but would love to hear if you or anyone else has! :)

    • I have never personally used them but they do look pretty realistic. I have returned a lot of faux flowers that looked great in photos and then in person were not quite good enough. It’s worth it to try to new brands though that have a good shipping return policy.

  • You could also add a fun faux arrangement for the kitchen. I found lettuce (you actually have to touch it because it looks so real) artichokes, lemon, moss and sticks. I found a great pot and glued all the rest in. Super simple to make and a little county chic too!

    • That is stunning, Amy! Maybe YOU should be selling your faux creations, right everybody?!

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