Artificial flowers in church


Are there any official instructions about the use of artificial & dried flowers in church? If there are, where would I find them?

Thanks in advance!


Here is a previous thread, from 2008:

Artificial Flowers

It appears that they are generally allowed, though fresh flowers are preferred. Some parishes and dioceses may have rules against them.

I especially enjoyed the ruling of Patriarch Alexis I of Moscow as passed on to us by Bishop Basil:

should not be used in churches PRECISELY because they are artificial and thus contain in themselves an element of deception that is not appropriate for the temple of Him who said, "I am Truth."


[size=]Catholic Encyclopedia

Altar Vase

Vase to hold flowers for the decoration of the altar. The Cæremoniale Episcoporum (I, xii, n. 12) says that between the candlestickson the altar may be placed natural or artificial flowers, which are certainly appropriate ornaments of the altar. The flowers referred to are cut flowers, leaves, and ferns, rather than plants imbedded in soil in large flowerpots, although the latter may fitly be used for the decoration of the sanctuary around the altar. If artificial flowers are used they ought to be made of superior material, as the wordserico (ibid.) evidently implies, and represent with some acouracy the natural variations. Flowers of paper, cheap muslin, or calico, and other inferior materials, and such as are old and soiled, should never be allowed on the altar.

About this page
APA citation. Schulte, A.J. (1907). Altar Vase. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved June 4, 2012 from New

MLA citation. Schulte, Augustin Joseph. "Altar Vase." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 4 Jun. 2012
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.


This is from 1907, but seems to be useful, since not much is written about it. At my parish cost is a factor, so we need to use artificial at least part of the time. Fresh however is always preferred.


I was always told that we shouldn't have fake things on the altar. That being said, at my parish we used fake arrangements until about five years ago when they got re-purposed and replaced with live arrangements.

I work at a poor church and many times we do not have it in the budget for fresh flowers. That means on many occasions we are forced to get creative.

We have used flowers from people's yards and it has turned out great. We used azaleas for mothers day and the pink was beautiful. We also used hydrangeas from our neighbors yard for our mass last Sunday. Ask people who are on the altar society to find people who wouldn't mind cutting some flowers for the altar. It makes for a great ministry and it gives people an opportunity to give a personal gift to God.

Another way to have live plants and not fake plants is to use potted plants for the altar. They last all season and you can dress them up with other flowers to make them match the different liturgical colors.


Thanks all!

Several years ago I was told by a priest that no fake flowers should be used - I wasn't clear if he meant anywhere in the church or just in front of the altar.

Our parish is far from poor, but for a while now there have been no fresh flowers. The only reason there were fresh flowers on Mother's Day was because another woman & I brought some in. Really cheap looking plastic flowers had been put in front of the statue of Mary.

In front of the altar are a mixture of fabric flowers & dried grasses. Usually nothing in front of the Tabernacle (which is in an area separate from the altar).

So now I know - it's tacky, but not wrong. :shrug: Wish I had more flowers, but I'm not much of a gardener. The lilacs I took in for the vigil Mass are pretty much the end of my flowers.


Many years ago, when my oldest daughter was about 5, we happened to visit a small church which had a fake plant near the altar. She was outraged, "God wouldn't want anything fake in His Church!". :thumbsup:


Actually fake flowers from precious metal or gilded with gold were more popular in the past, like the old Catholic Encyclopedia said.
Unlike real flower that have very short span of life, those fake flowers do not decay (if it from metal) or having a longer lifespan (such as made from silk).
They were seen as image of immortality, symbol of new creation that will last forever compared to true flowers that will wither and die, symbol of our passing world and mortality even though they were beautiful.

Scroll the following page and you will see some pictures and explanations regarding portapalma which was common altar decoration.


Hmmm… I think you’d better not let her near anyone with a false leg, then. Would she ban them from Mass?

And how about oil candles? They are generally in the form of a plastic candle, with an oil canister insert. From the distance they look like wax candles. And resin statues which look like wood or marble?

Seriously, I don’t think it’s a ‘thumbsup’ comment, I’m afraid. How does she know what God wants? Should you be encouraging her?


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit