How I Use Fake Flowers for a Mental Health Boost Without Triggering a Painful Memory

published Oct 19, 2022
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window sil full of fake plants
Credit: Sarah Crowley

I still remember being 7-years old, trying to blink my eyes hard enough to erase the nightmare unfolding in front of me as I leaned over my dad’s casket to give him a kiss for the last time. All I could smell was the scent of flowers wafting through our house. 

To this day, I still wrinkle my nose whenever I pass by a flower shop, or a coworker comes in with a bouquet they got for their birthday. Still, strangely enough, I can’t help but love flowers. I love the way they look. I love the brightness they add to an otherwise dreary expanse of gray and beige houses lining the street. 

The solution to my dilemma is fake flowers. While they might be a faux pas to some, fake flowers are eco-friendly and sustainable. If you have a negative response to flowers, suffer from allergies, or have kids or pets that tend to knock over planters and vases, fake flowers might be a good option. Here’s why.

Smells can trigger good and bad memories.

Have you ever suddenly recalled a memory after smelling something? Maybe it’s a spice you smelled while baking muffins, or a laundry detergent that reminds you of the one your mom used when you were a kid. Odors like these can have a calming and grounding effect or they can prompt involuntary recall of painful memories.

“Of all the senses, smell may be the most powerful trigger of memory, often bringing up emotions that accompany the memory,” says Elizabeth Harvey Abrams, a licensed mental health counselor based in New Mexico. “If the memory is a traumatic one, the smell associated with it may take you right back to that experience.”

Credit: Chamille White/Shutterstock

Flowers may improve well-being.

If the scent of flowers isn’t appealing, you might still enjoy the colors, textures, and organic shapes. In my case, each time I see a hummingbird gliding across my neighbor’s blackberry bush, I feel a sense of awe for these ethereal creatures and the flowers that drew them here. 

As Abrams explains, “flowers have held special meaning for humans throughout recorded history, symbolizing life and beauty coming forth into the world.” By helping you relate to nature, flowers can improve your mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

Making a floral arrangement, for example, can be an outlet for expressing emotions in a tangible way. “Authentic expression and processing of emotions is an important part of maintaining wellbeing,” Abrams adds.  

If you struggle with allergies but have your heart set on flowers, you might want to try non-blooming houseplants like the braided Ficus or philodendron which can liven up your space without the unpleasant side effects. You can also try less fragrant flowers like orchids and tulips, which produce fewer allergens.  

Credit: Shokhina/

Fake flowers draw inspiration from nature.

Incorporating natural materials and colors can promote a sense of meaning and connection. “Natural elements in our home remind us that we are part of nature, not separate from it,” Abrams says. “The key is to find something beautiful or evocative or that speaks to you.” 

If you’re looking for some nature-inspired alternatives to plants and fresh cut flowers, you can try:

  • Using dried flowers, grasses, or branches
  • Swapping out flowers for ones made of fabric
  • Hanging paintings or photographs of flowers
  • Installing windows that look out onto a garden
  • Decorating your home with floral printed wallpaper, curtains, or pillows  
  • Using flower essences such as those found in lotions and bath salts
  • Adding some flower power to your wardrobe

Whether you have an aversion to real flowers or an affinity for the fake ones, you can enjoy the mental health benefits of these captivating blossoms.