the complete guide to christmas flowers and greenery for holiday home decor

'Tis the season to trim the tree and deck the halls to set a festive mood for the holiday season. While there may not be a ton of fresh-flower options available during the wintertime, there are still some beautiful Christmas decoration options to choose from, including vibrant greenery, berry branches, and colorful wintertime blooms. Decorating your home for the holidays doesn't have to be extremely time- and labor-intensive; in fact, our best advice is to choose just one or two areas in your home as focal points and spend your time and energy on making those spots shine. In this post, we will review 10 Christmas flowers, greenery, and plant options to consider when dressing up your home for the holidays. We will also provide a step-by-step guide to making your own holiday garlands. Let the holiday decorating commence!

TOP 10 CHRISTMAS FLOWERS, GREENERY, & PLANTS FOR HOLIDAY DECORATING

1

Poinsettias

If you've ever wondered "What is the name of the red Christmas flower?" or "What flower represents Christmas?” here's the answer you've been looking for: poinsettias! You'll see these brightly colored blooms everywhere during the holiday season, such as for sale at the grocery store, decorating hotel lobbies, and lining stairways or porches. Poinsettias are synonymous with Christmas and it's not hard to see why. Their deep-red color is the perfect complement to your holiday decorations and Christmas tree. While classic red is the most traditional and widely available variety, poinsettias also come in several other colors, including white and cream, pinks, oranges, and beautiful variegated tones.

How to decorate:

  • Poinsettias work great as cut flowers. Snip a few stems and dip the cut ends in boiling water for 20 seconds to remove the white sap and then immediately place them in cold water. Or, you could sear the freshly cut stem with a candle flame to stop the flow of the milky sap, which will keep them fresh longer. Place stems in several different-sized bud vases and group the vases together to create an eye-catching display.
  • Incorporate them into your Christmas dinner centerpiece. Fill a low vase or bowl with a few poinsettia stems (be sure to dip the ends in boiling water for 20 seconds to remove the white sap). Fill the remaining space around the poinsettias with holly berries, roses, and fresh greenery like pine branches or eucalyptus stems.
  • Float a few poinsettia stems in a low dish or bowl. Choose a large, shallow vessel and fill it with a few inches of water. Snip a few poinsettia blooms and sear the stems in boiling water. Float the bloom heads in the container and add a few sprigs of greenery to complete the festive look. Since this arrangement will look especially beautiful from above, try displaying it on a low table, like a coffee table or side table.
  • Weave them into a Christmas wreath. If you're displaying a greenery wreath on your front door or above a mantel, dress it up by adding several faux poinsettia blooms. Purchase stems and a roll of floral wire from your local craft store and use a six-inch piece of wire to twist-tie the poinsettia blooms to the wreath frame.
Wrapping paper

Poinsettia Garden Wrapping Paper designed by Wildfield paper co.

Keep in mind:

  • Place potted poinsettias in a spot that gets bright, indirect light. Poinsettias are of tropical origin, so they like to be kept at temperatures between 60° and 70°F.
  • Water your poinsettias regularly. They like moist but not sopping wet soil. If the surface of the soil feels dry, it's time to give them a drink. It's best to remove the foil packaging and place a saucer below the pot. Then when you water, the water can fully drain through the pot. Discard any excess water in the saucer, as the roots might rot if they sit in standing water.
  • Poinsettias have been thought to be poisonous, but experts have since chalked those rumors up to being an old wives' tale. While eating a few leaves may cause a mild upset stomach, poinsettias are not deadly for humans or their pets.
  • December 12 is National Poinsettia Day. Buy a few potted poinsettias and get started on your holiday decorating!
Holiday card

Holiday Explosion designed by Chris Griffith

2

Berry Branches

Decorating with fresh berry branches is a quick and easy way to make your home look merry and festive for the holidays. In December, there are a wide variety of berry branches available, including:

  • Holly branches: A very popular Christmas foliage with red berries and spiky, uniquely shaped leaves.
  • Ilex branches: Also called winterberry (pictured above), ilex features clusters of vibrant red berries. Rarer versions can be purchased in shades of orange and peach.
  • Toyon branches: Also called Christmas berry, toyon has shiny green foliage and clusters of small, bright-red berries.
  • Snowberry branches: This variety features thin stems of foliage with plump berries in varying shades of snow-white, pink, and pale-purple berries.
  • Pepper berry branches: Pepper trees feature dangling, willow-like leaves and clusters of small, delicate berries that dry nicely and work well in Christmas wreaths.

How to decorate:

  • Cut several berry-branch stems and place them in a large vase, as seen in the arrangements above. You may want to choose a white vase or light-colored vase to create a striking juxtaposition against the scarlet-colored berries.
  • Make a berry wreath. Wire clusters of berry-branch stems to a wire wreath frame to create a full, berry-laden decoration to hang on your front door.

Keep in mind:

  • When working with cut berry branches, place them in clean water, and try to change the water every other day to maximize freshness.
  • Berry branches will regularly drop berries, so keep a close eye on them in case family members accidentally step on them (which can get a bit messy!). Or, you could spray the branches with a clear lacquer (do this outside or in a well-ventilated area), which will give the berries more staying power.
3

Amaryllis

Amaryllises are another popular Christmas flower as well as holiday plant. Known for their tall, graceful stems and showy, trumpet-like blooms, amaryllises would act as a beautiful addition to your holiday home decor and Christmas dinner table setting. The flowers are available in classic holiday colors like red, peppermint stripe, and crisp white, as well as varying shades of pink, yellow, green, burgundy, and variegated hues. If you're stumped for holiday gifts this year and wondering what Christmas plant makes for a popular present, amaryllis bulbs make a wonderful choice. The bulb is ready to bloom on its own and all your gift recipients will need to do is place the bulb in water or soil, then watch it grow.

How to decorate:

  • Freshly cut amaryllis stems look beautiful and striking in a vase on their own.
  • Mix amaryllis stems with other wintry blooms to create a beautiful seasonal arrangement.
  • If you're starting with amaryllis bulbs, soak the roots in water for an hour, first. Choose a vase or decorative container with drainage holes; pick a size that is slightly wider than the bulb (for a grouping of two or more amaryllis bulbs, choose a wider pot that will snugly accommodate them). Fill the container with potting mix up to the bulb's "shoulders" (where the bulb begins to taper towards the top). Make sure at least ⅓ of each bulb is above the soil. Water thoroughly and set the container in an indoor location that receives good light. Then, water sparingly until new growth emerges. Once that happens, begin to water regularly.

Keep in mind:

  • If you're working with cut amaryllis stems, be sure to refill your vase with fresh water daily as amaryllises tend to be thirsty flowers.
  • Amaryllises can be toxic to cats and dogs, so keep them out of reach of your pets.
  • Curious how to get your amaryllis to rebloom? After your amaryllis has bloomed, don't throw it away. With care, the bulbs can flower annually for years. Once all the flowers have faded or dropped, snip the stems to an inch or two above the bulb, leaving any foliage. Grow your miniature amaryllis indoors during winter and spring; give the potted plant plenty of bright light and water regularly (the soil should be barely moist and not soggy). Additionally, give the plant fertilizer about once a month. In late summer or early fall, stop watering and move the potted bulb to a cool (55°F), dry location, away from bright light (such as a basement or garage). The leaves will gradually wither and fall away as the plant goes dormant. Leave the bulb alone and don’t water it. After your amaryllis has rested for two to five months, you can start again. Repot the bulb using a fresh potting mix, water it once, and move the pot into a bright 60º-65°F room until it shows signs of awakening. Water sparingly and your amaryllis bulb will grow once more into a tall, elegant bloom.
4

Winter Greenery

Decorating with wintry evergreen boughs is a beautiful (and affordable) way to spruce up your space for the holidays. Here are a few favorite varieties:

  • Juniper: Features fragrant branches and wintry blue berries
  • Pine: Great for garlands and wreaths.
  • Spruce: A classic Christmas greenery with a wintry blue tone to the needles.
  • Redwood: Often has tiny pine cones attached.
  • Holly: Another classic Christmas greenery, with bright red berries and spiky leaves.
  • Eucalyptus: A year-round option that is often used in wreaths and garlands.
  • Fir: Wonderfully fragrant and long-lasting greenery.
  • Cedar: Lush with a beautiful drape to the branches. Works great in garlands, wreaths, and swags.
  • Ivy: Another classic Christmas decoration, ivy is commonly grown in gardens, which means you may have easy access to this variety!
  • Boxwood: Festive and long-lasting, which makes it great for decorating indoors.
  • Magnolia: Known for lustrous, shiny leaves that are deep-green on the top and velvety copper underneath.

How to decorate:

  • Small sprigs of greenery make perfect present toppers (pair with unique wrapping paper).
  • Wire bundles of fresh greenery together to create a Christmas garland (more on this later in the article).
  • Place sprigs of greenery at each guest's place setting during your holiday dinner.
  • Wire bundles of fresh greenery onto a circular frame to create a wreath to hang on your front door or over the fireplace.

Keep in mind:

  • Many types of greenery will release a sticky sap as you handle them, so wear gloves or try to work near a sink.
  • All greenery types will eventually begin to dry out. It’s best to give your greens a mist of fresh water every other day to maximize freshness.
5

Christmas Cactus

If you're in the market for colorful Christmas plants this winter, consider the Christmas cactus. These hardy plants have flat, glossy-green branches with flowers that bloom right in time for the holidays. The flowers come in many vibrant colors, including holiday red, as well as magenta, orange, coral pink, fuchsia, orange, and yellow.

How to decorate:

  • If you purchased your Christmas cactus from the store or nursery, remove the plastic or foil packaging. Keep it in its plastic pot, then insert it in a properly sized decorative pot to display in your home. Consider wrapping a colorful bow around the pot or even a strand of holiday lights that can be illuminated at night!

Keep in mind:

  • Place your cactus in a spot that receives bright, indirect sunlight.
  • Water when the top layer of soil feels dry. Watering once or twice a week should suffice. If your home is particularly dry (or if you have the heater on a lot during the winter), then place a shallow bowl of water nearby to help humidify the air.
  • Make sure your pot has drainage holes. Don't let your cactus sit in a saucer full of water because that might lead to root rot.
Holiday card

Poinsettia Pretty in Pink wrapping paper designed by Erika Firm

6

Paperwhites

Paperwhites are another popular Christmas plant known for their perfume-like fragrance and delicate white blossoms. Similar to amaryllis plants, paperwhites are also grown from bulbs and are a popular plant to grow indoors during the wintertime. Paperwhite plants also make a wonderful holiday gift idea! Wrap the blooming plant in kraft paper and tie it with ribbon. Or you could gift a paperwhite-growing kit that includes paperwhite bulbs, small river rocks, and a decorative vase.

How to decorate:

  • To grow paperwhites, fill a container with small stones (small river rocks, washed gravel, pebbles). Aim for a fill of 2" deep in a small vase or about 4" deep in a larger container. Next, place a layer of paperwhite bulbs close to each other, with their roots facing down. Nestle a few stones around and in between bulbs to help anchor them in position. Fill the container with water until the level reaches just below the base of the bulbs. Leave the tops of the bulbs exposed. The roots will anchor themselves by growing around and under the stones. Plant the bulbs in a clear container if you want to see the beautiful formation of the roots! These unique Christmas flowers are equally stunning at both ends!
  • Place the vase in a cool spot in your home (50-60°F is ideal), away from direct sunlight. Add water when the water level is more than 1" below the stones or glass in your vase. Once a week, tug gently on the bulbs to see if they have begun to product roots (if you're using an opaque container). When your tug meets with firm resistance (usually after about three weeks), move the container to a sunny window.
  • For a lush, full look, plant paperwhites in groups of five to seven bulbs. Groupings of several bulbs look more balanced and full compared to just two or three bulbs.

Keep in mind:

  • Paperwhite stems tend to get tall and leggy when grown indoors. You may need to stake your paperwhites at some point to help them stay upright. Stake them with twine and bamboo stakes or cut branches from your garden.
  • Once your paperwhite plant has finished blooming, you can toss them in your compost bin as they won't bloom again.
  • Paperwhites have a strong fragrance, so keep that in mind in case some folks in your household are sensitive to scents.
7

Mistletoe

Every holiday season, couples hang sprigs of mistletoe and kiss beneath it to celebrate their love. But have you ever wondered how the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe began? Historians are a little fuzzy on the origin story, but some believe the connection between kissing and mistletoe comes from ancient Norse mythology. Legend has it that Ggod Baldur was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe. His mother wept on the arrow and her tears turned into white berries, which she placed on Baldur's wound, healing him and bringing him back to life. Amazed and overjoyed, his mother blessed the mistletoe plant and vowed a kiss to everyone who passed beneath it. Fast-forward several centuries later and the tradition of kissing underneath mistletoe has become ubiquitous with Christmas cheer. Learn more about unique Christmas traditions practiced around the world.

How to decorate:

  • You might be able to find fresh sprigs of mistletoe at your local flower shop or Christmas tree farm. Otherwise, it's perfectly fine to use faux branches, which won't wilt or drop berries.
  • Hang your ball of mistletoe with a red and white ribbon in your home in a spot that gets a lot of foot traffic, so you can frequently steal kisses! Some popular spots in the house include the doorway into the dining room or kitchen.

Keep in mind:

  • Fresh mistletoe can be toxic to pets, so keep your decorations out of reach (or just opt for faux!).
christmas tinsel

Merry Christmas designed by Anupama

8

Pine Cones

Decorating with pine cones is an easy and affordable way to bring nature indoors this holiday season. Collect a variety of pine cones on a winter walk and then recycle them throughout your home in various locales. You could also purchase pine cones from your local craft store or flower shop.

How to decorate:

  • Create a similar swag of pine cones and fresh greenery (as pictured above) by using floral wire to bundle everything together. Hang the Christmas arrangement above the bed or fireplace and enjoy the holiday scent for nights to come.
  • Place small pine cones at every place setting to create a festive tablescape for your holiday dinner.
  • Fashion a holiday wreath of pine cones to display on your front door.
  • Fill a rustic basket with pine cones to display by the fireplace.
  • Top off holiday gifts by tying a miniature pine cone to the gift tag with twine.
  • Decorate the Christmas tree with pine-cone ornaments using velvet ribbon or twine.

Keep in mind:

  • Pine cones can release a sticky sap, so if yours are foraged, give them a good rinse before decorating with them. Fill a basin with warm water and half a cup of vinegar. Let your pine cones soak for 30 minutes and then dry on newspaper or dish rags.
9

Citrus

Citrus fruits are juicy and plentiful this time of the year, which makes them an unexpected yet festive way to brighten your home this winter season (not to mention they smell absolutely wonderful!).

How to decorate:

  • Create a festive dried orange-slice garland (similar to above): Cut several types of citrus into thin slices and then dry them in the oven at a low temperature. String the slices using twine to create a garland for your mantel or tree.
  • Hang dried orange slices on the Christmas tree as ornaments. Pair them with garlands made of fresh cranberries for a rustic, nature-inspired theme.
  • Order a Christmas centerpiece from a local florist that incorporates fresh evergreen branches as well as citrus fruits. Or, you can make your own using foraged greenery branches from your yard and the best citrus you can find at the supermarket. To incorporate oranges and lemons into a vase arrangement, poke a skewer or a sturdy branch into the base of the arrangement and insert the skewer into the vase

Keep in mind:

  • Fresh fruit will, of course, go bad at some point, so keep an eye on any citrus that looks like they're on their way out.
10

Hellebores

Sometimes called "Christmas roses," hellebores are a popular winter-blooming flower that features delicate cup-shaped petals. Despite their nickname, hellebores are not related to roses; rather, they belong to the buttercup family. The flowers come in a wide array of colors, from whites, creams, and pinks, to lavender, green, and nearly jet-black.

How to decorate:

  • Cut hellebores work well in Christmas flower arrangements, either on their own or mixed with other blooms and Christmas greenery.
  • Potted hellebore plants are widely sold in the wintertime, especially right around the holidays. They are lovely Christmas plants to give as gifts. While they will fare well indoors during the winter, hellebores will thrive if they are planted in-ground in a shady part of your garden.

Keep in mind:

  • Due to the cupped-shape of their heads, hellebores tend to droop downwards. If yours are looking a bit droopy, snip the heads and float the blooms in a pretty dish filled with water.





A GUIDE TO CHRISTMAS GARLANDS

There's nothing more festive than decking the halls of your home with lush and fragrant Christmas garlands. Whether you decide to hang the greenery garlands over the front door, draped over the mantel, or wrapped around the staircase banister, decorating with greenery has endless possibilities. Not sure how to pull it off? We've got answers to all of your greenery garland questions.

What kind of greenery should I use for my garland?

If you're making a garland yourself, it's best to work with what you've got and forage greenery from your own property. Or, you could purchase bundles of winter greenery from your local flower shop. Ask for cedar, pine, or fir to create garlands with that perfect holiday look.

How do you make Christmas garland?

Turning freshly cut greenery into a lush Christmas garland is easy. Follow these step-by-step instructions to create a lush and fragrant decoration for your dining table or fireplace mantel.

  • Supplies: Bundles of fresh greenery of your choice, paddle wire, and wire cutters. Use one type of greenery if you like a more uniform look, or mix two or three different types for additional depth and visual interest.
house with christmas lights

Photo: Anna Williams

  • Instructions:
    • Step 1: Start by creating bundles of your greens. If you're using multiple types of greenery, stack different varieties on top of each other in uniform layers. The size of the bundles depends on how thick and wide you'd like your finished garland to be. For a more minimalist, wispy look, make smaller, not-as-densely packed bundles. For a wide and more lush garland, you'll want to make thicker bundles and will need more greenery as a result.
    • Step 2: Continue to make bundles (start with 10 to 15 bundles) and try to make them look as uniform as possible.
    • Step 3: Once you're ready to begin wiring, take your paddle wire and tightly wind the wire around the stems of your first bundle. Go around the stems several times, pulling the wire taut, making sure it's secure. Next, take your second bundle and place it about halfway down the first bundle so that the greens overlap and cover the wired section of the first bundle. Wrap the wire around the stems of the second bundle several times to secure.
    • Step 4: Continue to repeat this process until you've reached your desired garland length. Make sure that you don't cut the wire. Just continue to wrap and pull the wire tight as you're adding length to the garland.
    • Step 5: Once you've reached your desired length, take your last bundle of greenery and place it over the end of the garland, with the stems facing the opposite direction as the line of bundles you've already created. Wire the final bundle to the garland. This will create a more "finished" look to the end. Tuck the stems under so that the greenery looks seamless.
    • Step 6: Fill in any sparse areas or exposed stems by tucking in single sprigs of greenery (poke and wedge the sprigs beneath existing wire) until you've reached the fullness you want.

What length should the garland be?

Follow these tips to ensure that your Christmas garland is the perfect size and scale for your holiday decorations.

  • Doors: For the height, measure from the floor to the top of the door, then double the number to account for both sides. For the width, measure from the outside trim of the door across to the other side. Add the height and width measurements for the total amount of garland needed. For example, if your front door is 10-feet tall and 4-feet wide, you'd need 24 feet of garland. If you'd like the garland to "dip" a bit across the top of the door, or would like to have longer garland "tails" extending from both sides of the door, add a few extra feet to accommodate.
  • Mantel: Measure the length of the mantel, then calculate one-and-a-half times that length to accommodate some extra decor at each end.
  • Staircase banister (draped): Measure the length of the banister handrail, then calculate one-and-a-half times that length to accommodate some extra at each end.
  • Staircase banister (wrapped): Measure the length of the banister handrail and the height of the vertical post at the foot of the stairs. Add the two dimensions, then double that number (to account for wrapping the garland around the entire banister).
  • Where can I buy a premade garland?

    If you prefer to purchase your holiday garlands, you can order them in any length you'd like from your local flower shop. You might be able to buy them from home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's, as well as Costco (usually in pre-made lengths). You can also check with local Christmas tree farms and nurseries, which usually have plenty of garlands available in a variety of greenery types and lengths.

What are some ways to dress up and accessorize my Christmas garlands?

Once your garland is set in place, personalize the greenery with some creative embellishments:

  • Holiday lights: Give your garland some twinkle and glow by weaving in strands of string lights. You could use plug-in string lights or LED versions that come with a battery pack, which you can discreetly tuck behind the garland.
  • Ribbon: Add some colorful, elegant ribbon to your garlands by weaving it through the entire length of your garland or tying long ribbons to each end.
  • Flowers: Since fresh blooms will need a water source, it's best to go with faux flowers for your garland decor. Wire and tuck faux wintry blooms into the garland to give the greenery a festive look.
  • Pine cones: Affix pine cones to your garlands using floral wire to add a rustic, woodland touch.
  • Christmas cards: As you receive holiday cards in the mail from loved ones, pin them to your indoor garlands using mini wooden clothespins to create a personalized display.





6 WAYS TO FEATURE CHRISTMAS GREENERY IN YOUR HOLIDAY DECOR

Love the look of Christmas garlands but not sure where to place them? Here are our favorite spots in the home to spruce up and adorn with fresh greenery. Be creative—the decorating possibilities are endless!

1

Fireplace Mantel

If you're lucky enough to have a fireplace mantel in your home, make it the focal point of your living room. Drape a lush garland over the mantel or ledge. For a more traditional look, have the ends drape down in a symmetrical fashion. Or, for a more modern look, have the garland cascade down on just one side. Add pine cones for texture and candles (or LED candles) for extra glow. Want even more ideas? We have a full post dedicated to Christmas mantel ideas.

house with christmas lights

Photo: Erin Francois

2

Dinner Table Centerpiece

For your holiday dinner table, place a garland of fresh evergreens down the center of the table. Accent the greenery with candles at varying heights. Make sure you don’t take your eye off the candles, as combining an open flame close to Christmas greenery can quickly turn disastrous. You could also opt to substitute in electric candles.

3

Front Door

Welcome visitors with a festive and inviting entrance. Hang a stylish wreath from your front door using a brass hook. Accent the entry with large, oversize modern urns overflowing with fresh evergreen boughs, branches, and pine cones.

4

Staircase

Make your staircase banister a major focal point by adorning the entire railing with lush garland swags of cedar and eucalyptus. Add in complementary elements such as pine cones, satin ribbon, and bows.

5

Windows

Hang a grouping of simple, miniature greenery wreaths at varying heights to create a beautiful window display.

6

Doorways

Frame the doorway to the living room by affixing garlands overhead to create a festive and inviting entrance.

Holiday card

Photo: New Darlings