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The plastic plant boom: here’s how to grow the real thing – for beauty, better air and biodiversity | Life and style


Low-maintenance, evergreen lushness and an instant garden – it is easy to see why the sale of plastic plants is bursting into life. According to trend forecasters, sales of artificial plants are booming, with hedges, shrubs and lawns leading the trend.

Some are better than others, says the gardening writer Jane Perrone. The cheaper ones “haven’t been particularly well-made with plastic that is UV-stable, so within a short amount of time they are going to look quite miserable. There is work starting in terms of these companies trying to ensure these products are recycled at the end of their lives, but ultimately you’re going to end up with this thing that is probably going to end up in landfill, and has been manufactured with petrochemicals. But I can see why people would want them – not everyone wants to garden or feel they have the skills to maintain plants.”

The botanist and broadcaster James Wong points out that plastic plants don’t support “the biodiversity benefits of insects and birds. There is evidence of plastic run-off, tiny particles that disappear away [into the soil], and living plants are constantly sucking carbon dioxide out of the air. Putting taste aside – because there are some very convincing plastic plants now – and the environmental impact, I just don’t think that the promise of them necessarily stands up to scrutiny. They’re not low-maintenance or low-cost.” Plastic lawns still get weeds and need to be groomed, and plastic plants can become dirty, dusty and faded.

“Outdoor plants largely take care of themselves,” says Wong. “If you dig a hole and get a well-grown specimen, put it in and water it, probably for the next 50 to 100 years that plant will be there … there isn’t a huge amount you have to do.” He suggests finding out what type of soil you have, then visiting a good nursery that grows the plants themselves and asking for advice.

There is no low-maintenance, unkillable, one-plant-fits-all – it depends on your site. If you have plants in pots, Perrone advises you “invest in an irrigation system so you don’t have to worry about watering”. People can be intimidated by a lack of knowledge and a thicket of Latin names, but it is really about trial and error. “Plants might die but that’s OK,” says Perrone. “You willl learn through your mistakes and you will find things that will grow in your garden. Part of the joy is the process of finding what that is.”

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