“Silk flower” has become a generic term used to refer to any fabric flower and many of the newer chemical composites that produce not only real looking, but nearly real feeling plants and blossoms. They are also called artificial flowers, faux flowers and the now beloved term used by many florists, permanent botanicals. They vary in material, quality, and apparent skill of the manufacturer.
Most silk flowers are manufactured in China, Thailand, and Honduras with thousands of 40-foot containers exported to many countries every year. Polyester has been the main material utilized since the 1970’s. It is suitable for large quantity production due to its lower cost, good response to dyes and glues, and strong durability. Plastic is commonly used to replicate stems, berries, and other parts of flowers. Other materials may include paper, cotton, parchment, latex, rubber, and sateen. When creating silk flower arrangements, florists may also add dried materials including flowers, other plant parts, berries, feathers and artificial fruits.
Artificial fruits are often made from a tapioca or flour based product which is shaped in molds to resemble their natural counterparts. The final touches of the finishing dyes are an integral part of the fruit looking like it was recently brought home from the grocery store.
Higher end silk flower arrangements will also use flowers that have been manufactured using silk, rayon, and cotton. Stems are often made of wire wrapped with specially dyed, tear-resistant, durable paper.
The material is placed in molds and heated to form the distinctive shapes, curves and wrinkles of individual petals. A variety of stiffening techniques are then applied.
Since approximately 2007, a new generation has emerged called real touch, fresh touch, natural touch, true touch, velvet touch or soft touch. These range from pretty realistic to ultra realistic in detail and have amazing elasticity and flexibility of stems, foliage, buds, and blooms similar to their natural models. They are made from blends of complex chemical composites like polyurethane, latex, polyvinyl chloride and more advanced polymers.They are formed in high precision molds. Original real touch technologies were developed in the U.S.A. and later perfected and tested in Taiwan and Japan. Factories throughout Asia (predominantly in China and Thailand) are now large manufacturers of real touch artificial plants.
Many silk flower arrangements are on the market today that are such botanically accurate and precisely made replicas that displays which were previously reserved for only the most magnificent fresh flowers are now utilizing these lovely silk flowers either exclusively or mixed in with the fresh. Silk flowers provide the opportunity to use seasonal blooms throughout the year and to mix and match flowers that naturally bloom at different times of year into one arrangement.
No matter the actual material and process used in manufacturing, vast improvement in quality and design along with current lifestyles that demand a more carefree approach to home decorating have created a surge in popularity and acceptance of silk flower arrangements.