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Fooling the eye with faux plants

Here are tips on using faux flowers and greenery in the home:

Mix a few faux floral stems with fresh branches and other greenery in a vase full of water for an even more realistic look.

Every time you buy a real orchid in bloom, buy a faux stem of orchid too. When the real orchid has finished blooming, add the faux stem _ many of which look quite real _ to keep the plant attractive until it blooms again next year.

Most faux plants need some tweaking when you bring them home. Study plant books so you know how to move petals, leaves and twigs into the correct shape. But don't make them too perfect; feel free to bend or prune plant parts. A book on floral arranging is a plus, too, for do-it-yourselfers who want to master the art of floristry.

Some dust on faux plants looks realistic, true, but too much is unattractive and poses problems for those with allergies. To clean faux trees, shrubs and floral arrangements, use a spray-on dust dissolver such as Newlife or take plants outside and gently swipe with a feather duster. For more durable plants, or for those seriously dirty, do as you would with a real plant and gently spray leaves off in the shower.

For added realism, buy fragrance spray made for faux flowers. Potpourris would work, too, but keep them hidden.

Keep in mind a plant's seasonality. If you really want an authentic look, faux vases of daffodils and forced fruit tree stems, for example, should be displayed only in spring when the real things are in bloom.

Avoid keeping the same faux arrangement in the same place long, no matter how perfect its location. A main purpose of plants is to add fresh life to rooms, so circulate your flowers and blooming shrubs around the house to keep them from looking stale.

The faux plants in terra cotta-style pots are perfect for patios and temporary use in uncovered areas, including flowerbeds. But unless you have $400 to spare a few times a year, limit use of faux plants to indoors, where sun and other elements won't wear them out prematurely.

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