Time to hit the books! But to answer your question...
Cycling a SW
tank is just building up a population of nitrifying bacteria. That bacteria will establish itself in your live rock, sand bed, or whatever you have for a biological filter - all it needs is an ammonia source to start things rolling. The cocktail shrimp methods works great... no fish harmed/killed to start the cycle. No bacterial supplements needed.
As long as you slowly add fish - say one per month - then your bacteria population will slowly catch up to the new bioload and you won't see any additional cycles as you add fish. And you won't need any bacteria supplements, etc.
Regarding artificial plants... not sure what you mean by that, except I *think* that in freshwater, somehow live plants can be used to help with a cycle? Sorry... never done freshwater. Artificial plants aren't used much in saltwater - as far as the tanks I'm familiar with. And who needs artificial plants when you can get beautiful coral to stick amongst the rocks?! (Which is an animal, and not a plant... just in case there's some confusion there...)