Here’s a guide to using specific types of greenery in holiday decorations.
White pine: Readily available as pre-made garland and wreaths, white pine has excellent needle retention but wilts visibly if dry. White pine is soft, bluish-green, and long-needled.
Virginia pine: This readily available native pine has shorter, coarser needles, and is long lasting, with excellent needle retention.
Firs: All firs have a wonderful scent and will tolerate hot, dry indoor conditions well. The needles are short and flat with excellent color and needle retention. Stores frequently carry Fraser fir wreaths and swags.
Junipers: Junipers have fragrant green or silver-blue foliage that may be adorned with small blue berries. The short needles are often sticky. Red cedar, a native juniper, is readily available.
True cedars: Cedars have a wonderful fragrance, but, if small male cones are present, spray them with lacquer or acrylic to prevent the messy release of pollen when the greenery is kept at room temperature.
Spruce: With stiff branches and short, sharp needles, wreaths are the main use for spruce greens. Blue spruce holds its needles better than other spruce and is especially attractive because of its color. Other types of spruce will have poorer needle retention than other conifer greens.
Holly: The most traditional holiday green, ivy comes in both green and variegated varieties. The female plants display bright red berries. Be sure that holly does not freeze after cutting, or the leaves and berries may blacken.
Mountain laurel: Traditionally used in the South for wreaths and garlands, but will hold up best when used outdoors.
Magnolia: The large glossy, dark green leaves contrast well with the velvety, brown undersides and make lovely wreaths and bases for large decorations. The leaves hold up very well even without water.
Ivy: Readily available in many yards, ivy makes an excellent green for holiday arrangements. Keep the cut ends in water, or the ivy will quickly wilt.
Boxwood: A longtime favorite for fine-textured wreaths and garland, boxwood has an aroma that is either loved or hated. Be sure you know if you like it before using it indoors.
Some other evergreens that can be used for holiday greenery include arborvitae; viburnum; nandina; japonica; and hemlock.