(So they actually last...)
The stakes are high when potting tall, artificial plants outside. Wind can knock them over and rainwater can collect in the planters creating some nasty situations.
Being a landscape architect, I'm usually Team Live Plants. That said, I know that not everyone is blessed with a green thumb. And let's face it, many outdoor environments prove to be extremely challenging for live plants. Limited light, too hot, too cold, extreme wind, extreme everything. Not to mention the maintenance. The cards are stacked against them. So we turn to faux plants to save the day, bringing in that green lushness we so crave to our patios, and keeping maintenance low!
When dealing with large or tall faux plants, you are often dealing with large oversized planters to contain the plants. Tall plants look best in large planters. Large containers mean lots of extra leftover space inside them to deal with.
This leaves you with multiple problems to solve for: How to secure, and stop the plants from being blown over? What do you fill the planters with? How to best position your faux plants in the planter for maximum visual impact?
Inside your home, you can use practically any material you want to fill up the extra space in your planter, like cardboard, plastic bags, or blankets, since they are not exposed to rain or wind. But outside, your choices are MUCH more limited. You’re not going to use soil (these plants are fake after all), and you can’t use a material that will easily break down, like cardboard.
I’ve tried my fair share of methods for securing outdoor faux plants, and through much trial and error, I have found that most of them do not truly secure the plants for lasting durability.
I’m going to show you how I solved for these challenges on a recent project of mine, and my proven method for securing those tall faux plants in your outdoor planters.
How I secured faux tall outdoor plants with water bottles
When it comes to securing tall faux plants in your outdoor planters, traditional methods typically fail, especially if you live in an area where the weather is unpredictable and unforgiving, like in Dallas, TX.
This was certainly the case for my recent downtown rooftop terrace makeover project, where I wanted to install some large dramatic faux bamboo plants for my Clients. The planters I used were large and deep. Not only did I need to figure out a way to secure the tall bamboo plants from blowing over, I also needed to raise them up in the deep planters so they didn’t sit too low inside of them.
I’m going to show you the 4 simple steps I took to secure the tall bamboo plants within the large planters, and how you can do the same for lasting durability and a gorgeous end result!
Step 1: Add some weight to the planter
Adding a few bricks, weights, or large stones at the bottom of your planter goes a long way in securing your containers from being blown away by strong winds.
Other sturdy materials you can use include sand or pebbles. Just be aware of how heavy you are making the planters, in case you want to be able move them in the future.
Remember to not block the drain holes at the bottom of your pot! Since we are outdoors this matters so you don’t collect rainwater….and mosquitos.
Step 2: Elevate your plants
Prop those plants up inside your planters!
Propping up your fake outdoor plants will add instant height and creates the illusion of a more full and dramatic plant. Most large planters don’t have a built-in false bottom and are quite deep, so you will need to prop your plants up on something sturdy so they don’t sit too low in your container. You can use anything you have around. Some examples include overturned pots, empty paint cans, or spare bricks.
Step 3: Secure your plants and fill up the planters
Surround your plants with empty water bottles (lids screwed on) to stuff around the base and sides of the faux plant pots.
As many as it takes to hold them firmly in place and still promote drainage. Don’t be afraid to really cram them in there. This is a big part of what will keep those tall plants from toppling over.
Other materials you can also use include: Solid Styrofoam blocks (not floral foam it will break down too easily), Cut-up pool noodles, and any kind of plastic bottle honestly. Bonus points for using recycled or re-purposed materials! The key is to use something durable, that doesn’t hold water, or that molds easily.
You might be asking yourself, ‘Why not other materials?’ Materials like packing peanuts or plastic bags. I’m here to tell you I’ve tried them all. And while other materials may work, I prefer to not use them. They all eventually break down, or aren’t strong enough to hold the plants in place, or end up molding and holding water. Plastic bottles and Styrofoam are far more mold/mildew resistant than other materials and extremely durable over time. I live in a mosquito-rich, hot, sunny, humid environment; and while alternative materials may work for some, they do not work for me.
Step 4: Topping it off
Now that you have your faux plants firmly secured, it’s time to add the finishing touch.
Creating a surface to cover over the faux plant pots and water bottles. This will give you a way to add a decorative touch like pebbles over the top and hide the items beneath.
For my planters, I used mesh gutter guards to create a top surface. They really are the perfect material to use in your outdoor planters. They are rigid enough to hold heavier decorative materials like pebbles, have small openings to let rainwater through, are inexpensive, easily bent, and easy to cut with sharp shears. They also help to further 'lock in' and secure your tall plants.
To install, I used tin snip shears to cut the gutter guards to fit tightly around the stems of the bamboo plants. Two gutter guards on each side of my bamboo plants, sandwiching the stems, worked for me. You can use any kind of material that works best for your DIY planter install. Get creative with what works best for your particular planter and plants. I didn't know what I was going to use for my bamboo planters until I took a trip to Home Depot to look around for solutions. The key takeaway is to use a material that is sturdy but still easy to work with, won’t break down over time outside, and that doesn’t hold water.
Once you have your top surface installed, add a layer of decorative pebbles on top (or decorative element of choice) to complete the look. I chose Mexican Beach Pebbles for these planters. This will give your planters and faux plants that polished luxurious look and go a long way in convincing the eye they are real.
That’s it, it’s that easy! Now your plants are perfectly elevated, secure, and beautifully finished within your outdoor planters. No one will know they’re fake and they will last you a long time!
Pro tips for your outdoor artificial plants
💥 Choose high-quality plants that are made for the outdoors:
Not all artificial plants are created equal.
Select high-quality plants that are UV infused or UV resistant (not to be confused w/ weather resistant.) UV infused are good, UV resistant are the BEST, and more than worth the extra money They will last far far longer (years!) without the color fading and cracking. The sun is a powerful element – and will eat your non-UV resistant plants alive in a matter of months.
💥 Choose a sexier container
Don’t just place them outside in the pot they came in. The faux plant pot is typically small and cheap looking. You want something with some DRAMA. Select a larger decorative container to place your plants in. The goal here, after all, is to make them look as real as possible.
(Oh - and make sure it has drain holes!!)
Top them with decorative pebbles for that extra added luxurious textural touch. It will go a long way in convincing people they are actually real.
💥 Don’t mix fake and real plants (side by side that is…)
Look – I’m not saying you can’t use both. Just don’t put them right next to each other. No matter how real the fake plants look, they will still look fake AF next to a real plant – Love, your friendly neighborhood Landscape Architect 😊
💥 Choose the right type of plant:
The best types of plants I find that pull of the fake look most convincingly:
Faux plants I used in this project:
Final (Not) Fake Thoughts
Done right, faux plants can have just as much presence as real plants in your outdoor spaces. Giving you that luxurious lushness we all crave on our patios. By using dramatic tall faux plants in large planters, you can completely transform your space with minimal effort. And you can’t beat the low maintenance!
Katie Unicorn – Make room for whimsy™
Check out @katieunicornofficial on Instagram where we share DIY tips for your home and garden. You can also hire Katie Unicorn to create a small space design for your home and garden in the Dallas area.