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What Is Wicker, Anyway?

If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering how to grow a wicker plant, you’re not alone. After all, it totally sounds like something that exists and you’d be crazy not to want one. Sadly, though, there is no such thing as a wicker plant. Wicker is a generic term for woven plant fibers that can come from any number of plant sources like bamboo, rattan, raffia or the branches of willow trees. In fact, to call one plant strand “wicker” would technically be wrong – it must first be woven into … something … and then you can call <em>that</em> thing wicker. <strong>Wicker vs. Rattan</strong> That process is one of the main differences between wicker and rattan. Rattan is a type of tropical timber vine that can be woven into wicker, but wicker can’t be woven into rattan. Similarly, woven rattan is <em>always</em> wicker furniture, but wicker furniture <em>might not be</em> rattan furniture – because wicker is really more of a process than a specific type of material. Easy enough, right? This is handy to know, because if you want to compliment someone’s wicker furniture, you can just say, “Lovely wicker furniture!” and be right every time. And, if they say, “Oh no, my dear, this is <em>rattan</em>,” you can reply, “Yeah, but it’s still <em>wicker</em>, Ms. Fancypants.” <strong>Natural vs. Synthetic Wicker</strong> Both natural and synthetic wicker can offer a great deal of comfort and style, but untreated natural wicker is best enjoyed indoors and away from direct sunlight. Synthetic wicker, which is most often crafted of resin or a plastic polymer like vinyl, can be made to withstand the elements and therefore used outside. Natural wicker can be treated as well as painted for limited outdoor use, and many believe the natural feel is superior to the synthetic version, but obviously there are benefits and drawbacks to both types. <strong>How Do I Tell the Difference?</strong> Good question! As a rule of thumb, if the product description says “wicker” and it's referring to outdoor furniture then it is likely synthetic, although you should always read further. On the other hand, items labeled “rattan” should always be natural, because otherwise it's just called wicker. We hope this info helps you in your quest for the perfect woven outdoor furniture for your home.
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