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Fresh greenery for holiday decorations


Now that we’ve all been stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey, it’s time to transition into the final and, arguably, most ornate holiday of the year. Right now, you can hear your mantles and door frames crying out to be adorned. Your windows are begging for wreaths and giant red bows – and there might be a certain corner in your house that has been waiting all year for an evergreen or two.

As we delve into the winter holidays, our homes are being dressed to impress. There is nothing better than fresh foliage placed along a mantle or maybe a little mistletoe hanging from a previously unadorned beam. The scent of pine is in the air, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get decorating.

Here is a list of several evergreen plants that make wonderful decorations for the season. You might even find some in your own backyard! Just make sure when you are removing foliage and fruit that you do it gently so as not to harm the plant. Make all cuts at a 45-degree angle so water will not pool on branch tips and rot. Also, if you forcefully remove foliage from a plant, you could expose the susceptible cambium layer.


  • Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) – This southern staple provides foliage that will liven up any banister or door frame. After being cut from the tree, it can withstand the dryer temperatures indoors for days on end.
  • Hollies (Ilex spp.) – Hollies not only provide glossy green foliage but bright red fruit that will beautifully adorn holiday arrangements and centerpieces.
  • Pine/Pinecones (Pinus spp.) – Pine trees offer a wispy presence to many decorations, and their cones can give structure to wreaths and mantle pieces.
  • Boxwood (Buxus spp.) – Boxwoods are great for a touch of green.
  • Ivy (Hedera spp.) – This vigorous vine is readily available in many yards. The cut ends must be kept in water, or the ivy will quickly wilt.
  • Juniper (Juniperus spp.) – This fragrant, short, green or silver-blue foliage is sometimes adorned with small berries. Eastern red cedar is a native juniper and is readily available.


  • Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) – Abelia are not commonly thought of when making holiday arrangements, but its texture and myriad colors can spice up traditional decorations.
  • Aucuba (Aucuba japonica) – Aucuba offer a coarse texture that would pair well with the wispier pine foliage. Also, the gold dust variety will add a little more color to the mix.
  • Smilax (Smilax spp.) – This evergreen vine has thick, glossy leaves. However, it does have thorns, so be careful when harvesting and decorating!

Remember a few well-placed planters can liven up even the smallest spaces. Try using a small evergreen tree or shrub such as a magnolia, cypress/false cypress or arborvitae and surround them with poinsettia or pansies. You can try a smaller planter and add in pine cones, poinsettia, grasses or coleus.

Also, if you are celebrating this holiday season with a live Christmas tree, then don’t be afraid to ask the grower/retail center for discarded branches. These can easily be formed into a wreath or used throughout the house. As always, you can call your local Extension office for more information on plants for the holiday season!

Katernia Cole-Coffey is director of the Franklin County Extension.