My partner recently purchased a preserved japanese Kokedama plant, which I thought was kind of interesting. It looks like a live plant, but it’s totally dead and preserved. My first thought was “Oh god, do they do taxidermy on these plants the same way as they do living creatures? If so is there formaldehyde involved?”

Turns out there are some nifty non-toxic ways to preserve plants! Apparently it’s common to use glycerin12: basically you mix 30-50% glycerin/water solution and feed it to mature foliage (leafy) plants. They turn brown, which is how you know they’ve taken up the glycerin. However because glycerin solutions turn plants brown, I’m not sure that this is how my wife’s (very green) plant was preserved.

I imagine the plant my wife purchased uses a related process. Maybe they add a dye to the solution to help the plant turn green, or maybe they use an alternative solution that can act the same way as glycerin whilst preserving the plant color. Or they post-dye the plant somehow.

If you’re wondering why anyone wants a live-looking-but-very-dead plant, our home has a few areas that get zero sunlight. But it’s nice for the whole thing to have some greenery, so we have a mix of fake and live plants. Fake plants don’t look very real however, so this preserved-and-very-real-looking plant is a nice touch!