What Varieties of Greenery Can I Use for Fresh Holiday Decorations?

— Written By and last updated by Cindy Nance

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means it’s time to begin thinking about those holiday decorations. This tradition dates back for many years. It can be considered as one of the oldest winter holiday traditions. Evergreen type plants are used because they represent everlasting life and hope for the return of the spring season. Some live greenery that is used provides your home with a nice fresh scent.

The first place to look for holiday greenery is your very own landscape. This greenery would be much fresher compared to the store bought kind. Keep in mind before you make your cuts, you should consider where to cut because you will actually be pruning your plant. Be sure to distribute the cuts evenly all around your plants to preserve its natural shape.

We have many varieties of evergreens that can be used for holiday decorating. A few examples are:

  • White Pine:  This soft, bluish-green, long needled pine has excellent needle retention but wilts visibly if dry. It is readily available as pre-made garland and wreaths.
  • Virginia Pine:  This native pine has shorter, coarser needles, and is long lasting, with excellent needle retention.
  • Junipers:  Fragrant, short, green or silver-blue foliage that may be adorned with small blue berries. The needles are often sticky.
  • Firs:  All firs have wonderful scent and good tolerance of hot, dry indoor conditions. The needles are short and flat with excellent color and needle retention. Fraser fir wreaths and swags are commonly available from commercial sources.
  • Spruce:  Wreaths are the main use for spruce greens. The branches are stiff with short, sharp needles. Blue spruce is especially attractive because if its color, and it holds its needles better than other spruce cultivars.
  • Ivy:  This vigorous vine is readily available in many yards. It makes an excellent green for holiday arrangements. It will wilt quickly if the cut ends are not kept in water.
  • Holly:  This most traditional holiday green comes in several forms, both green and variegated. Female plants display bright red berries.
  • Mountain Laurel:  This is a traditional evergreen in the South for wreaths and garlands. As with other broad-leaved evergreens, however, laurel holds up best when used outdoors.
  • Boxwood:  The small-leafed shrub is a longtime favorite for fine textured wreaths and garland. It has an aroma that is either loved or hated. Be sure to test it before you use, just in case you don’t care for the fragrance.
  • Magnolia:  The large leaves are a glossy, dark green that contrast well with the velvety, brown undersides. Magnolia leaves make stunning wreaths and bases for large decorations. The leaves hold up very well without water.

In addition, some that may be more common in landscapes around here are arborvitae, ligustrum, pittosporum, viburnum, leyland cypress, and nandina.

Be sure to keep your fresh greenery hydrated to prevent it from drying out. Greenery that becomes dry can pose a fire hazard because it is very flammable. Keep greenery away from heat sources and check it frequently for dryness. Any portions that become dry should be removed and disposed of away from any structures.

Many evergreen plants have poisonous parts, such as berries. Be sure to keep pets and children away from the live decorations.

Reminder:  A growing program this year is the “Sampson County Friends of Horticulture.” This program offers monthly “How To” Horticultural Seminars. Please call (910) 592-7161 for more information. Please call the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center at (910) 592-7161 with your horticultural questions and to register for any upcoming events. Be sure to check out the Ask An Expert Widget at sampson.ces.ncsu.edu for any questions you may have.