How to Decorate With Holiday Greenery and Keep It Fresh All Season Long


By early December, our homes are overflowing with bushel baskets full of evergreen boughs, pinecones, and winter berries—just the items you need for holiday décor.

From tall conifers to dwarf evergreens, many varieties come in a range of silvers or golds that work well in holiday arrangements. Traditional options, like trimmed boughs of Colorado blue spruce, look great in wreaths and tabletop decorations. The flexible branches of juniper are ropey and—with its silvery berries—add a nice texture to evergreen garlands. Fancy leaf begonia (one of Martha's favorites) has foliage that looks as if it's been painted metallic. Snip the stems of individual leaves and place them in a floral bouquet.

Among the many choices, the most commonly planted evergreens are cypress, pine, cedar, spruce, hemlock, and juniper. Before incorporating them into your holiday decorations, you'll want to know where to find each variety and which arrangements they work best in.

01 of 09

Where to Buy Holiday Greenery

evergreen arrangements
Anna Williams

For the freshest greenery, our editors shop the farmers' market. Seek out natural holiday décor at your local markets, farm stands, and garden centers. There are more than 3,000 such open-air forums across the country where farmers and their families do their own selling. You can also try foraging for these items—take a walk through your neighborhood and scoop up fallen pinecones, branches from evergreens or holly bushes, and use them in your arrangement.

02 of 09

How to Condition Greenery

Kathryn Barnard

Since many of these plants go without water at the market, you'll want to condition them to rehydrate the branches. This step helps your greenery last longer. Before making wreaths or garlands, fill buckets with room-temperature water. Using a hand pruner, make diagonal cuts through the stems (this allows more water to be absorbed), then gently crush the exposed end with a small hammer. Set them in water for a few hours before working with the plants.

03 of 09

Use Varieties That Last the Entire Season

Kathryn Barnard

After they have been cut, some varieties stay fresh longer than others. Short-needled pines, such as spruce and hemlock, are very attractive, but a few days after they are cut they will begin to lose leaves. If you need something that will last from late November until Christmas, buy long-needled pines, such as princess pine or cedar.

04 of 09

How to Care for Greenery

metallic garland with birds
Anna Williams

Whether greenery is hung in the heat of your house or the cold air outside, these winter environments are intensely dry, and the plant has no source of moisture. Once you've conditioned the cuttings, treat them with an anti-desiccant spray, which is available online and at local garden centers and nurseries. This seals the pores on the leaves and bark and helps the foliage retain moisture.

Fresh greenery will last indoors for about two weeks, and longer outdoors in cold climates. Display greenery out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources; mist with water daily to help the cuttings last.

05 of 09

Select Greenery That's Fragrant

citrus wreath on a marble mantel
James Merrell

If fragrance is of the utmost importance to you, select a combination of aromatic evergreens for your garlands and wreaths. A mix of pine, cedar, eucalyptus, balsam, and juniper will result in a uniquely wintry scent. A daily misting of water will help keep evergreens smelling fresh.

06 of 09

Types of Evergreens


1. Eastern Juniper: The evergreen is especially good for use in outdoor garlands as it won't survive long indoors—heat makes its needles turn brittle. It's commonly found in the eastern United States and the Rockies.

2. White Pine: Ideal for outdoor decorations, garlands, and arrangements, white pine is available across the country. Though beautiful, it's not very supportive, so avoid hanging heavy ornaments on its soft branches.

3. Blue Spruce: This variety is good for outdoor garlands and wreaths. Take care when hanging ornaments, as the needles are sharp. It's common in the Midwest and the Northeast.

4. Redwood: It dries out quickly, meaning it's favored for cut arrangements and outdoor displays. It's found out West.

5. Burford Holly: Less prickly than English holly, this type is nice in cut arrangements, as well as garlands and wreaths. It lasts up to a week indoors and is available throughout the South.

6. Eucalyptus: It dries quickly but makes attractive, scented cut arrangements and outdoor garlands. It's mostly found in Western coastal areas.

07 of 09

7. Non-Variegated English Holly: A prickly holiday standard that's ideal for use in garlands and wreaths, this variety lasts up to one week indoors, longer in cut arrangements. It's available nationwide.

8. Fraser Fir: A favorite cut tree, frasers are also a popular choice for garlands. It's common east of the Mississippi River.

9. Black Pine: This type of evergreen has graceful, long-needled branches that are dramatic in outdoor garlands and cut arrangements. It's limited to parts of the Eastern Seaboard.

08 of 09

10. Variegated English Holly: This one is popular in cut arrangements, garlands, and wreaths. It lasts up to one week indoors. It's available nationwide.

11. Boxwood: A lush addition to cut arrangements, boxwood is ideal for decorating indoors and out. It's available nationwide.

12. White Cedar: Garlands and wreaths hung outdoors are both great decoration ideas for white cedar. It's limited to northern New England.

13. Magnolia: Used in arrangements, as well as in garlands and wreaths, magnolia can be hung indoors and out. It's found in the South and parts of the Northeast.

14. Noble Fir: With its bluish-green needles and sturdy branches, noble fir is a long-lived favorite evergreen. It's found out West.

09 of 09

15. Western Juniper: This hardy, fragrant, longer-lasting evergreen is a good choice for cut arrangements and both indoor and outdoor decorations. It's found west of the Rockies.

16. Princess Pine: Due to its versatility, princess pine is great in garlands, wreaths, and cut arrangements. It's available nationwide.

17. Port Orford Cedar: A delicate-looking evergreen, this variety is versatile and hardy. We like to use it draped in garlands and arrangements. You'll find it most easily in the Pacific Northwest.

18. Incense Cedar: Its fragrance makes incense cedar great in garlands both indoors and out. It's found between the Pacific Northwest to northern California.

19. Bay: Incorporate Bay into your indoor and outdoor displays—its fragrant smell will be welcome no matter where the holiday greenery is placed. It's available nationwide.

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