B. Rosie Lerner
Purdue Extension


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Harvest Holiday Greenery from Your Landscape

Give your home the festive mood of the holidays by bringing a bit of your landscape evergreens indoors. Wreaths, swags, garlands and centerpieces can all be made from plants that are commonly found in the home landscape. 

Some of the best materials to cut include balsam and Douglas fir, yew, holly, boxwood and juniper. Pines boughs are attractive in arrangements, but this is not a good time to prune them. If pine branches cannot be cut from your tree inconspicuously, look for boughs at nurseries, garden centers, florists or Christmas tree sales.

Needles of hemlock and spruce drop easily and should not be used for indoor decorations. Privet, barberry, English ivy and rhododendron provide an attractive contrast to the needled foliage. Dried grasses, herbs, berries, cones and seed pods can help add color to a holiday display.

In the warm, dry environment of the home, cut greens will dry out very quickly, so keep the cut ends of the branches in water at all times. Sprays are available to help cut down on moisture loss and somewhat extend the life of cut greens. Plastic and lacquer hobby sprays or plant resin anti-transpirants can be used. However, these sprays leave a very sticky residue and should only be used if decorations will be placed outdoors or out of reach indoors.

Evergreen decorations can be a fire hazard as they age and dry. Avoid placing near fireplaces, heat ducts, televisions, candles or other sources of heat or flame. Commercially prepared flame-retardant sprays are available at many Christmas tree vendors and craft supply stores. A homemade flame retardant of 4 tablespoons of boric acid, 9 tablespoons borax and 2 quarts of water can be sprayed on the foliage. Another recipe calls for 5 tablespoons of borax and 4 tablespoons Epsom salts in 2 quarts of water. These flame retardants are not foolproof, so the best precaution is to discard decorations before they become dry and brittle.

More information on making holiday wreaths and other festive decorations from landscape materials is available online at or by contacting the Purdue Extension office in your county and asking for publication HO-22, "Holiday Greens".


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox