We Ordered the 5 Most Popular Fake Succulents—and This is the Best One

updated Feb 10, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

There’s a time and a place for fake plants. That time is now and that place is your apartment. If you’re a green thumb and have no problem getting plants to thrive under your care, we’re wildly proud of you. But for the black thumbs, there is zero shame in livening up your space with a few convincing fake succulents.

Honestly, the most shocking lesson that I learned on the hard-fought road of turning my black thumb green is this: Everyone tells you to start with a succulent, but they’re quite difficult to care for. It must be some sort of scam from Big Cactus. On the heels of this ill advice, the good people of Instagram pose their succulents next to their letter boards, influencing others to pick up a cute lil’ burro’s tail or aloe plant on their next trip to the nursery. But under the surface, outside the app, all these well-meaning, yet busy, people will eventually neglect their needy little succulents—leaving a wake of shriveled leaves and arid soil that will have everyone wondering if plants can feel pain.

So I feel it’s my botanical duty to spread the truth: Succulents are hard, and you’re not a failure if you’ve killed one (hundred) of them. Just… don’t buy any more. Live ones, I mean.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart
The real succulents we used to compare.

If you’re still feeling the itch to bring one home, opt for something faux. Artificial succulents are a great variety for fake plants—the real ones look plasticky and fake anyway, so it’s easy to pull the foliage over your guests’ eyes and have them convinced at a glance that the faux ones are real.

Nevertheless, some fake succulents are better than others. So we took a quest to get an up-close look at the most-popular, top-rated artificial succulents from your favorite home stores—all so we could crown one true queen of the faux-jungalow.

How We Compared Artificial Succulents

I searched the web to discover what faux succulents people were buying and loving, at any style or price point. Any retailers that had on-site reviews with high ratings made my short list for testing, as well as any that looked really convincing in the photos. I padded the list with a few wild card options that I’d seen or heard my favorite home bloggers talk about on platforms like Instagram. Then, I asked the editors at Apartment Therapy to help me narrow it down to the top five fake succulents, based only on online photos, rankings and reviews.

Check out our other fake plant reviews: The Best Fake Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree & The Best Faux Monstera Leaf

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

The Contenders—I Mean, Pretenders

Once we had our top five, we brought them in to the Apartment Therapy office, along with one planter full of real, living succulents to shoot photos and compare.

The Best Fake Succulent

Living succulents come in so many varieties, and the faux retail offerings are no different. The range of shapes, colors, and sizes makes it difficult to compare them against each other, so we’re recommending two.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

If you like the look of a bunch of succulents in a planter together, as a table centerpiece or to feature on a shelf, the Crate & Barrel succulents look the most realistic overall. The variety of leaves and the individual plants’ arrangement mirrors the organic look of a planter of real succulents. The soil in the planter is very much on display, and looks the most real of all the options—clumping just like real dirt would. Just don’t pick it up: The “cement” planter isn’t real cement—so it’s lighter than you think it would be.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

If you want a realistic small succulent to grace your desk or add a little pop of life to your kitchen without taking up too much room, the West Elm succulent looked the best of the small-plant options, and had some of the most realistic leaves overall. A few plasticky molded ends could be cut off to make it even more convincing.

How to Tell if a Succulent is Fake

The three key factors that could divulge a fake succulent’s deceit are: leaf shape and texture, soil texture, and the planter it’s in. Each of the fake succulents we reviewed had some good things going for them, and each one had unique downsides. So if you’re thinking about grabbing any of the other ones we tested because you like the look, or it fits your budget better, here’s a more in depth view.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

1. Leaf Shape, Texture, and Color

This may be the most important element to telling a faux succulent apart from a real one. Leaves are the most prominent part of the faux plant, and they should lead your decision if your main goal is realism.

  • Color didn’t seem to help or hurt how real the plants looked. The pink plant in the Crate & Barrel planter was the most fake-looking of that bunch, but the leaves of the West Elm plant had a nice pinkish hue at the ends that didn’t look artificial.
  • The options that featured diverse plant types within the succulent family had the benefit of feeling more organic, overall. We liked how both the Target and Crate & Barrel planters had faux burro’s tail dangling over the edge.
  • Some of the Target succulents had a nice fuzzy texture, which makes them look and feel more real. If you expect people to reach out and cop a feel, the Target plants are a great option for the price. The large, green, spiky, aloe-type plant in the Target planter had a few lines on it that revealed itself as molded plastic, however.
  • The Pottery Barn and Target plants were really similar, in both look and persuasiveness; the Pottery Barn succulents also featured a bit of texture that helps take away the plasticy shine.
  • The IKEA plants looked the most fake at any angle or distance. They really can’t masquerade as anything but plastic, and seemed more like a toy than a plant.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

2. Soil Texture

If you want to tell if a succulent is real or fake, look at the dirt. Organic-looking soil can go a long way in hammering home the deception. It’s worth noting, though, that you can easily fill a fake plant pot with a layer of real soil to add a lifelike touch without any real-plant maintenance.

  • Real soil clumps, so the Crate & Barrel plant’s loose, clumping soil is a really nice detail—but the soil was uneven in places, revealing styrofoam underneath.
  • The Pottery Barn plant’s “soil” was covered with a layer of glued-together pebbles, which is a realistic touch—many plant owners cover their plants’ soil with a layer of gravel. But if you peeled back the leaves, you could see excess glue where the plants were inserted in the base.
  • The soil of the IKEA plant was the most fake-looking, and seems like a flat pool of black-tinted plastic, shaped irregularly into small round balls.
  • The soil of the Target and West Elm plants were also molded plastic, but they had a more realistic texture applied to them. The West Elm plant covered most of the opening of the small planter, though, so it would be extra difficult to tell anything about the soil was amiss from a glance. On the Target plant, you could clearly see some places where the fake dirt texture didn’t completely cover the surface.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

3. Planter Styles

A nice-looking planter helps seal the deal—most people who care to keep real plants enjoy choosing beautiful pots to put them in. Most of these fake plants’ leaves and soil look solid, so if your decision comes down to the style, shape, or size of the planter, that’s a totally fair way to choose.

  • Like we mentioned above, the Crate & Barrel planter has a cool concrete look, but the finish is faux (although convincing), so the planter isn’t as heavy as you’d expect it to be.
  • The Pottery Barn and Target planters look very similar—nice clean lines and a shape that would look good on a shallow bookshelf or windowsill. They’re roughly the same size, despite using different dimensions to measure on their retail pages.
  • Both of the small cup planters from IKEA and West Elm have similar minimalist styling. However, the IKEA plants’ containers looked a bit like plastic cups, while the West Elm planter was a nice ceramic vessel—more like something you might select for this succulent at a home store.

Shop These Fake Succulents:

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

Buy: Faux Succulents in Low Round Pot, $49.95 at Crate & Barrel

The best large arrangement of succulents. Nice variety of organic-seeming plants.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

The best small succulent. Convincing details, if you want a small botanical touch.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

A variety of organic-looking and nicely-textured plants inside a modern, slim planter—at a really good price.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

Buy: Faux Potted Succulents Set, $49.50 at Pottery Barn

Another arrangement of textured plants inside a clean and modern planter.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

Buy: FEJKA Artificial Potted Plants, $4.99 for a 3-pack at IKEA

An unbeatable value if up-close realism isn’t your top priority.