Holiday Decorating with Greenery

Millie Davenport,
Home & Garden Information Center

Americans have used greenery to decorate for the holidays since Colonial times. The use of fresh greenery represents everlasting life and hope for a returning spring.

For safety reasons it is best to start with the freshest greenery possible, which may be obtained from your own landscape. Just remember that the plant is being pruned when branches are removed. So use caution when selecting branches by concentrating on inner branches and distributing the cuts evenly throughout the plant to maintain its natural growth habit.

Some popular sources of greenery include:

Holly- Hollies can be found in solid green and variegated varieties. The female plants will have bright red berries.

Ivy- Ivy makes an excellent greenery for arrangements and it is readily available. Keep in mind that the cut ends must be kept moist or it will wilt.

Junipers- Junipers are fragrant. Their needles can be sticky. A popular juniper that is readily available is the Red Cedar native to our region.

Magnolia- Magnolia leaves hold up well without water. The leaves are large with dark green, glossy color and a velvety, dark brown underside. Magnolia leaves can be used in wreaths or at the base of larger decorations.

Pine- White Pine and Virginia Pine are readily available. These can often be found used in premade garlands and wreaths. The both tend to have excellent needle retention.

True Cedars- Cedars such as Deodar Cedar and Blue Atlas Cedar have a wonderful fragrance. Using greenery from pines and cedars will last longer indoors because they tend to dry out more slowly than others.

Other types of greenery to consider include Arborvitae, Pittosporum, Viburnum, Leyland cypress, Nandina and Hemlock. Avoid using Ground pine, also known as creeping cedar. Ground pine is a slow growing native plant. With repeated use, harvesting year after year, a population can be destroyed in a few short years.

Follow these steps to keep greenery safe and fresh.

  1. Start with greenery that is as fresh as possible. Check needles by bending them, they should be flexible.
  2. Soak greenery in water overnight to rehydrate cuttings.
  3. Avoid placing greenery near heat sources, such as candles, heaters, fireplaces, or sunny windows.
  4. Check greenery every couple of days for freshness. Be prepared to replace or remove greenery when it becomes too dry and brittle.

Consider using other plant parts for decorations as well. Such as acorns, holly berries, hydrangea blossoms, pecans, pine cones, rose hips and sweet gum balls.

For more information see, HGIC 1753, Holiday Decorating With Fresh Greenery.

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