I was in Target yesterday on an urgent mission to buy some toy blocks to entertain my sick toddler. Nothing could get in my way. NOTHING. Except, it turned out, the new collection from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Hearth & Hand for Target. It wasn’t the pom-pom pastel pillows or hairpin-legged everything or even the wooden sign reading, “BRUSH YOUR TEETH” that stopped me in my tracks. No, it was the most outrageous display of faux greenery that I have ever seen in my life. There were single branches of faux eucalyptus available for $5.99 a pop. On a tabletop display: a bud vase, filled with make-believe water, and two tiny faux stems of thistle, for $7.99.
One aisle bore a selection of fake plant cuttings and wreaths. There was also a fake potted fig, rubber tree, and pilea peperomioides (or “Chinese Money Plant”). But it was the bud vase and eucalyptus branch—the SINGLE EUCALYPTUS SPRIG—that got me.
As a lover, and sometimes accidental killer, of plants, I appreciate that real, live ones can be time-intensive, hard to please, and cost prohibitive. The latter is especially so amid the phenomenon of “plantfluencers.” A few months ago, I was in my favorite garden shop and overheard the employees shaking their heads while talking about how Instagram popularity would routinely, and insanely, drive up the cost of the new “it” plant of the moment, which shifts every couple months and leads to an influx of “do you have [x plant]” phone calls. Just recently, it had been pilea peperomioides, which I’ve seen priced at the same garden shop at $50 for a six-inch pot.
That is freaking wild. Which is why I can’t begrudge Hearth & Hand—or the Gaines, they of Fixer Upper fame—for selling a similarly sized faux pilea peperomioides for $14.99. That is just a more accessible version of what “plantfluencing” has already done, which is turning certain plants into superficial symbols of belonging, and it shouldn’t just be folks with money to burn who get to access that, right?
But this brings me back to the faux eucalyptus branch and the bud vases bearing a couple sprigs of pretend thistle. There is creating equal access to passing home design trends, and then there is cashing in by selling people a needlessly lesser version of the real thing. A public service announcement: Eucalyptus can be bought as a fresh sprig or bouquet and dried. It then keeps for a very long time. Same with thistle. These may be fashionable pieces of plant life, but they are neither time-intensive, hard to please, nor particularly cost prohibitive.
I felt passionately enough about this that I called a florist in Waco, Texas, where the Gaines’ are based, for a price quote. They sell bunches of four stems of eucalyptus for $14, which is roughly $2.90 per stem. That is $1.09 less than Hearth & Hand’s cheapest sprig, $3.09 less than the most expensive one, and it is real.