Holiday Decorating With Transitional Plants

Incorporating plants into your holiday decorating scheme is a wonderful way to bring a little bit of gardening into the season. Because the holidays can be demanding on our time and our budgets, decorating with plants that can transition from one holiday to the next makes good sense. Here are some ideas for plants that are happy to perform double duty for the holidays.



This versatile houseplant can be mixed into all types of seasonal displays, easily taking your décor from one holiday to the next. Mix them in with fall baskets, with evergreens on the mantle, or mixed in with poinsettias. Decorate ivy topiaries with tiny white lights and add decorative ribbons that can be changed according to the holiday.

Creche Herbs

Also known as the "Manger Herbs", these fragrant herbs (and their legends) have been traditionally incorporated into nativity scenes during the Christmas season, but they also make attractive wreaths, table decorations and pressed ornaments all winter long.

Thyme, pennyroyal and horehound: These herbs grown on the hillsides near Bethlehem. They were harvested for use in the stables, where they helped to eliminate insects and disease, as well as being offered in the animals' forage.


Our Lady's Bedstraw (Cradlewort): This perennial herb is considered an herb of protection and is thought to have provided cushion for baby Jesus. Legend also says that a crown made from this herb burst forth with gold blooms when placed on baby Jesus' head.

Rosemary: The holy family was said to have taken shelter under near a rosemary bush. After Mary washed Jesus' swaddling clothes in a nearby stream, the clothes took on the pleasant smell of the rosemary bush that she hung them on to dry.

Norfolk Island Pine

The living holiday tree. These beautiful evergreens are perfect for decorating apartments or office spaces and make a beautiful, lasting houseplant once the holidays have passed. Decorate smaller trees with lightweight paper ornaments or ribbons to avoid causing damage to branches. Norfolk pines need occasional misting to prevent dry winter air from turning their needles brown, this is especially true when decorated with small holiday lights, which can easily scorch their tender needles. Avoid leaving decorations on any longer than necessary.


Ruscus (Christmas Berry Bush)

This British evergreen shrub is grown in full to partial shade in zones 7-9 in the United States (elsewhere in containers). With prickly, dark green foliage and masses of bright, Christmas-red berries, depending on it's size, this slow growing shrub looks wonderful on table tops or along walkways and will last for years. Don't worry if you're spending part of your holidays on the road, this low maintenance plant is drought tolerant and can withstand your seasonal vacation.


Late fall is a good time for pruning arborvitae. Snip off a few sprigs here and there and mix them in with fall leaves or colorful gourds for a fragrant Thanksgiving centerpiece. After Thanksgiving, swap the gourds for pinecones and lights and transition the boughs to the mantle or attach small sprigs to gift packages for Christmas, Hanukkah or New Years.


Traditionally thought of as Christmas plants, Poinsettias of the past were only available in scarlet red. Today's Poinsettias are available in white, purple and every shade of red, pink, cream and peach you can think of. A non-traditional color like purple or white makes an easy transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas or from Christmas to New Years, etc. Color patterns vary, too. Poinsettias now come with splashes and speckled bracts (leaves), scalloped bracts and bracts shaped like rose petals. If space is a limiting factor for you, no problem. Dwarf-type poinsettias come as small as 6 inches.

Holly branch.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at


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