Plastic Plants are Not a Good Alternative to Live Plants

Over the last five years people have become more aware of the need to improve the indoor air quality in the office and to select ,a as much as possible, sustainable materials to be included in the office fit out and decor. Nevertheless we still come across office managers who consider that artificial ( or plastic) plants are a good economical alternative to hired live plants.

This article addresses some of the misconceptions about plastic plants and looks at their disadvantages as compared to an indoor plant hire service.

Misconceptions about Artificial Plants:

  1. Artificial Plants are a one off expenditure
    In reality artificial plants collect dust and grime like anything else and need regular cleaning.
    Artificial plants are subjected to people damage and/or distortion (especially in a busy areas), and need regular maintenance to reshape the plant and stick leaves back on.
    In most offices there is a frequent change of décor and change in plant requirement or a change in the type of plants that are required. Once an artificial plant and container is bought, it is difficult and expensive to make changes.
    Conclusion: most artificial plants have a limited effective life, and need regular maintenance. As the maintenance involves re-shaping the plant and sticking leaves back on, it should be done by experienced contractors.
  2. Artificial plants are a lot cheaper then a live plant service.
    In reality, most artificial plants look just that, artificial.
    It is true that (from a distance) some artificial plants can look quite good, but invariably these are the more expensive varieties, that are professionally maintained.
    Cost factors that should be included when making a comparison are:
    – Cost of a regular maintenance and refurbishment service.
    – Costs to fire retard the product.(probably not effective)
    – Cost of containers and their maintenance.
    Conclusion: in order to get a similar visual end product the cost advantage if any is more apparent than real.

Disadvantages of Artificial Plants:

  1. In a world that is becoming ever more conscious of the environment, artificial plants are becoming maybe a bit unfashionable
  2. Basically all an artificial plant consists of is plastic stems, silk leaves, sometimes a wooden trunk, glue and sometimes a fire retardant loaded with harmful chemicals. If anything they add to the harmful chemicals in an indoor environment. Whereas live plants remove toxic chemicals from the air.
  3. Plastic plants have an effective live span of 3 to 5 years, depending on how they are maintained. After that they get thrown out, limited life span and little if any recycling. Not very sustainable.
  4. In a plant service it is possible to make changes to the number or type of plants and containers; once artificial plants are purchased they can only be changed at great cost.
  5. Artificial plants are a distinct fire risk. They catch fire and burn extremely quick, and the room is filled with flames and deadly fumes literally within minutes. A video is available that demonstrates this. It is possible to spray on fire retardant but this is generally not effective, and can be removed during cleaning.

Advantages of live plants

  1. Well-maintained LIVE plants enhance the image of businesses
  2. Well-maintained LIVE plants raise relative humidity in air conditioned offices.
  3. Well-maintained LIVE plants reduce stress levels in people.
  4. Well-maintained LIVE plants remove toxins from the air, and improve indoor air quality.
  5. Office plants are sustainable; most service companies pass the plants that come out of offices on to the public for use in their homes.

About the Author

Rudy Ursem is the General Manager / Owner of Green Design Indoor Plant Hire in Sydney Australia. He has operated this business for more then 25 years. Prior to that Rudy obtained a Civil Engineering degree at the University of NSW.

Further information on the subject of this article can be obtained at

Indoor plants like this Pleomele "Song of India" help improve the indoor air quality by removing VOCs.
Ficus Lyrata in Banana Leaf Planter.
This planter is available from Green Design on forward order.

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