Adding living plants to your holiday Christmas decor is easier than it might seem. Incorporating live plants into your holiday decor brings a sense of vibrancy and natural beauty that you just can’t get with artificial plants. We’ve put together a festive list of our favorite ways to decorate with live holiday ornaments in Iowa, and two tutorials for fun holiday decor with houseplants.
Houseplants on a Christmas Tree
We think adding houseplants to the Christmas tree gives it a unique and elegant look. Here are a few innovative ways to add some of your favorite houseplants to your tree decor. The very best part about all of these ideas is that you can keep them out well after Christmas.
Glass ornaments with openings can act like tiny terrariums. You can find open-sided glass ornaments in a variety of sizes and styles at our garden center. You can keep them super simple, popping a single air plant or a sprig of evergreen into each one, or get more creative by crafting a miniature ecosystem.
Get the kids involved and create tiny Christmas fairy garden terrariums. Using sphagnum moss as a base, you can create a tiny holiday scene in each one. Small pieces of an evergreen branch can stand in as a tiny Christmas tree. Hanging these on your Christmas tree, or placing them around the house, adds understated elegance and simplicity to your decor.
Simple metal or wire ornaments in classic holiday shapes, like stars or bells, are very trendy right now. Using wire, attach a grouping of air plants or succulents to one of these ornaments, and you’ve got a beautiful mid-century modern living ornament for your home.
Terra Cotta Pots & Macrame
Macrame has come back in a BIG way in the last year or two. Our favorite versions for the holidays are tiny macrame hangers for 1-2″ terra cotta pots. You can hang these on your Christmas tree for delightfully unique ornaments. If you’ve never done macrame before, don’t be intimidated. There are numerous videos online on how to make simple macrame plant hangers. Pop a tiny bit of soil and a mini succulent, “baby” spider plant, or other small plants into the terra cotta pot, and you’ve got some super cute living ornaments for your Christmas tree.
Our Favourite Live Christmas Decor
Evergreen boughs are a classic living Christmas decoration. There are so many different kinds of evergreens available, you can never go wrong with adding some branches to your holiday decor. Whether you add some to pots on the front porch, arrange them in vases on the table, draped over the mantle, or made into a wreath, evergreens always add a traditional Christmas feel to your home.
Amaryllisis a perennial favorite holiday plant. They’re elegant and simple with dramatic flower bracts, which makes them a classic central element for a Christmas centerpiece. Because their stems and leaves are tall and slender, amaryllis won’t block your view of the happy faces around the table!
Paperwhites are another classic Christmas bulb that compliments amaryllis well. They’re also tall and slim, but they feature beautiful bunches of white star-shaped flowers that complement the voluptuous, colorful blossoms of amaryllis.
We often associate floral arrangements with warmer days, but there are tons of beautiful flowers that work very well with Christmas decor. Classic red and white roses, or red and white carnations, have a decidedly Christmas-y feel when paired with greenery. Holiday floral arrangements combine nicely with sprigs of eucalyptus, ivy, or holly.
Tiny potted living evergreen trees are delightful both indoors and outdoors. You can get different varieties and place one in each room of the house, or use them to line your front walkway. It’s fun to decorate each tiny tree with a different theme. Strings of tiny fairy lights make them just as romantic as a full-sized tree.
Our absolute favorite live decor has to be our Table Top Grinch Trees. Combining living cedar greenery, a cute pot, and some adorable ornaments, these fun evergreen designs are always a bestseller. We also hold seasonal workshops in which we show you how to create your own unique Whoville tree. These stunning arrangements keep on living right into the new year if you keep them watered. Sign up for our upcoming class on December 4th to learn how to make your own. If you can’t make it to this class, we’ve got so many others coming up featuring ideas for live holiday decor, including:
You can sign up for any of our workshop classes online or in person at our garden center. By the way, if you’re really set on making a Grinch Tree but can’t make it the workshop on the 4th, let us know! You can always come to the Holiday Creation Station workshop on the 3rd instead, but if we get enough interest, we may consider adding in another Grinch Tree workshop for our friends in Des Moines!
Festive evergreen boughs are the foundation of so many gorgeous holiday arrangements. They show up everywhere in your seasonal decor—from bouquets to wreaths, planters to garlands. Not only are evergreen cuttings beautiful, but their scents are hallmarks of the season. The only downside is they tend to dry out extremely fast and start dropping needles all over your floor.
So, how can you keep your beautiful natural Iowa evergreens vibrant and crisp all season?
Here are a few quick tips:
Buy them fresh. The sooner you can purchase greenery after it has been cut, the better. The longer boughs sit in the open air without water, the faster they dry out.
Choose boughs from evergreens that grow easily in Iowa. Try Eastern White Pine, Red Cedar, Balsam Fir, Common Juniper, and Yew.
Keep them outside as long as possible. The cold weather will help maintain their dormancy and keep sap moving through them as slowly as possible, helping your greenery to stay greener!
Soak cuttings in water before you create your arrangement. If you’re going to create an arrangement with fresh boughs, give them a good soak first. Cut evergreen stems like you would fresh flowers, then let them sit in a bucket of water for 24 hours so they can soak up as much water as possible. Even wreaths should be soaked. If you can, lay your wreath flat in a few inches of water overnight.
Spray greenery with an anti-desiccant. Anti-desiccant spray, also known as anti-transpirant, helps to lock moisture into needles and branches. You can pick up an anti-desiccant at our garden center. Giving your greens a good spray before you start arranging will help them retain moisture as long as possible.
Keep arrangements in water. If you’re creating an arrangement in a container, make sure the stems of the evergreens are submerged in water. Keep them in a vase or a bucket of some sort inside your planter. Check the water level daily; evergreens are thirsty things.
Mist evergreen cuttings daily. Especially indoors, evergreens will dry out much faster than outside. Give them a good spray over every day so they can soak in a little extra moisture.
Keep your finished arrangements in the shade, away from heat and direct sun. Direct sunlight will cause them to dry out faster. Being too warm, or located too close to a heat source, will also accelerate dehydration.
If you’re using lights in your arrangement, use LEDs. LED lights don’t produce heat, whereas incandescent lights get very warm and dry out your evergreen needles.
Consider adding non-traditional greenery. Rosemary, boxwood, and potted ferns can add a touch of brilliant greenery to your winter decor, and they last quite a bit longer than traditional evergreens. You could also use potted evergreen trees and shrubs in your decor, which could then be potted out into your yard in the spring.
If you’re not quite sure how to get started making an evergreen holiday arrangement, join us for one of our upcoming classes! You’ll learn from the pros how to make a variety of different Christmas-themed arrangements. You won’t believe how easy it is to create a stunning holiday arrangement for your home!
We like to imagine that our evergreens will stay green forever, but that’s sometimes not the case. While your tree isn’t likely to go entirely bald in preparation for our chilly Des Moines winter like deciduous trees do, it isn’t unlikely to see a few needles shed to make room for new ones, especially in the fall.
Any time your evergreen starts to turn a shade of yellow or brown, we’re quick to be concerned— there are several diseases, pests, and illnesses that could be affecting your tree. If you are noticing discoloration and needle drop, pay close attention to your tree. If the needles are mostly yellowing and dropping from the older branches closer to the trunk, then it is likely to be normal seasonal needle drop, also known as fall needle drop, and it is a natural part of your tree’s life cycle.
Seasonal Needle Drop Sometimes needle drop occurs so slowly that the aesthetic of your tree and landscape is never compromised, and you won’t even notice the exchange of older needles to newer. Needle drop is most noticeable when several of your trees start to lose needles at the same time– as a seasonal process, this isn’t unheard of. As a natural part of the life cycle, there isn’t much that you can do to fight it, and you’ll have to tolerate the yellowed (or reddish-brown) appearance of your trees for a few weeks to months.
Throughout normal seasonal needle drop, you may notice color changes on the inner areas of your evergreen, and some bareness with needles carpeting the landscape under and around the tree, all before new needles emerge to take the place of the old.
When Yellowing Needles Are a Sign of Trouble Not all yellowing needles are a sign of seasonal drop, and knowing the difference can help to alleviate your concerns or direct you towards taking proper care for your evergreen.
Yellowing early in the season or the yellowing on newer growth might be a cause of concern. Look for other causes like drought, pests (such as spider mites), or other symptoms in the needles, bark, or roots that could point to an alternative cause for the needles to be dropping out of season. Normal seasonal needle drop happens across the whole tree in the fall, so if you see yellowing in isolated parts of the tree, or discoloration starting in one area and spreading, it could be a sign of distress. If in doubt, our experts are willing to help diagnose tree issues if you have concerns.
Not every cone-bearing tree or shrub is an evergreen, and different evergreens may drop their needles at different rates. Some deciduous conifers that grow in Des Moines, such as bald cypress, dawn redwood, larch, and tamarack, seasonally drop all of their needles in preparation for the fall, so yellowing and dramatic needle loss can be expected.
For evergreens, each species has its own life cycle. Pine trees can be expected to shed every two to five years, while spruce might only shed every five to seven. Others, like the Eastern white pine, tend to have a dramatic shed every two or three years, dropping an entire year or two of needles at once before winter. You might have a sparse looking tree, but it’ll recover in the spring. The Austrian pine and Scotch pines are on the other end of the spectrum, easily covering the loss of their needles so that their seasonal needle drop is barely perceptible.
It can be alarming to discover your evergreen, a stand-out star in many yards here in Des Moines, is dropping needles and looking sickly in the fall when you expect it to be green all year. Keep an eye out for the telltale signs of seasonal needle drop to explain the loss in needle coverage, or possibly for signs of illness that might be affecting your tree. With seasonal needle drop, it’s all part of a natural cycle intended to have your tree looking fresh and full again in the spring.
Some gardeners are intimidated by the idea of planting a tree in their yard. While it can seem like a big project, planting trees is actually quite simple, and a great investment in a living legacy that will continue to grow in your yard and with your family for years to come. Trees are the ultimate statement-maker in outdoor decor, providing a number of benefits to your yard and home, while providing a dramatic, stately look that will endure the seasons and years.
The best time to consider adding a new tree are the temperate seasons of spring and fall. With autumn fast approaching, we’re getting close to tree-planting season, making this the ideal time to start planning for your new addition. Back-to-school season is full of new beginnings, why not start your property with a gorgeous upgrade, too?
Trees can manage in our mid-summer heat waves, but they truly thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. Planting when it’s cool gives your tree all the low-stress weather it needs to get established before the mercury drops further.
Planting isn’t complicated, but approaching it with the right steps is a sure way to succeed. If you’re nervous about taking the project on yourself, though, our landscaping teams are always happy to help make your property dreams come true. For the do-it-yourself crowd, follow these simple steps to get your yard looking perfect with the ultimate classy upgrade.
1. Getting your yard ready:
You’ll want to plant your tree as soon as you get it home, so preparing your planting area beforehand saves time and will have your tree looking its best sooner. If you can’t plant right away, you’ll want to make sure the tree is shaded and that the root ball stays moist until you do plant.
2. Pick the perfect location:
Choosing a spot for your tree is a compromise between your tree’s needs and your aesthetic vision. Match your location to the needs of your tree so it will get the moisture and light it craves – and make sure you plan for your tree to grow over the years, too.
Your house relies on an amazing foundation to stand the test of time and your tree does, too. Start your tree right with a good hole and you’ll be sure to have a healthy and vibrant addition to your home. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball, making sure that you’re planting in good soil. If by chance the hole is dug out deeper than the root ball, make sure to add more dirt to the correct level and tamp or pack down the dirt. This will ensure the tree does not sink past the existing soil level. If your dirt isn’t up to the standard, add some black earth, compost, and peat moss to help it get established. If your yard doesn’t have ample soil on top of a largely useless layer of clay or rock, just dig the hole for your tree wider to give it the space it craves to perform its best.
Once you’ve planted, water generously to help the roots get established as quick as possible. Water near the edge of the root ball and be sure to pack the dirt down as you water. This will help to remove any air pockets that are near the root ball. A sufficient amount of water should saturate the dirt and begin to puddle near the surface
A layer of mulch – a simple wood mulch, like cedar – is an absolutely crucial step. Not only does it look polished and professional, but the mulch will help to regulate temperature at the roots for your tree, providing shelter in the cold months of winter, and shading from the hottest days of the summer. Take care not to let the mulch directly touch the tree’s trunk, though. Leave a space between the two to prevent any rotting.
Planting a tree is simple and doesn’t have to be a chore. Choosing a tree to be your home and family’s companion for years to come is an investment in your future that will grow with you. It’s the ultimate classy addition to your home’s aesthetic and will weather everything to come with your family – promotions, new schools, graduations, new pets, new family members – all with a lush and green flair of style.
If you would like more detailed instructions or have any questions, make sure to contact our experts at Ted Lare Garden Center and we’d be happy to help with any concerns!
For such large statement-makers, evergreens certainly get forgotten a lot. These reliable and foolproof additions to your yard bring more than just aesthetic to the table. While it is easy to just plant them and forget them, let’s take some time to get to know these beautiful plants:
Evergreens suffer from the curse of being so good at their job that they scarcely get noticed. For many of us, they are simply just “there” in our gardens, and don’t get many kudos beyond their ornamental purpose. Not only does an evergreen add year-round style and color in an easy and foolproof way, but they could be one of the most beneficial additions you could make to your yard and home.
We love to enjoy our outdoor space at home, but most of us prefer to do so with a little bit of privacy. Using plants as a natural barrier and screen can make your home and yard more comfortable to enjoy while adding to your backyard aesthetic, instead of distracting from it. Deciduous trees are delightful in the summer to provide a lush screen for your home but with our long Iowa winters leaving them bare for months on end, they just don’t do the job. Cold weather shouldn’t make you feel like you need to live life with the blinds closed. Evergreens provide beautifully lush coverage every day of the year. With so many species available, you can choose a natural screen that is as large or small as you need – either as a bold statement plant, or a modest and small-footprint privacy screen.
It’s common knowledge that bigger canopy trees, like Elms and Willows, help to shade and cool our homes in the summer when the sun is harshest. But in our sometimes frigid winters, we find ourselves begging for some extra warmth. The truth is that the winter wind pulls heat from our house and makes our furnaces work on overtime to maintain a comfortable temperature. Our gas bills are higher and houses are left less cozy.
Evergreens provide all the same summer-shade benefits that we crave on the hottest days of the year, but they also do an amazing job of protecting our homes in the winter when the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves to hibernate. This makes them a great choice to block the prevailing winds we know so well in Iowa. Plant close enough to your home to be effective, but still far enough (15-20 feet away) that the roots have room to grow.
In Midwestern states that take a temperature dive in the winter, it’s smartest to plant evergreens on the North side of your home. A towering, lush tree on the South could block the sun from naturally warming your house, while a northern placement will them block the majority of the coldest winds. A deciduous on the South will let the sun in when the temperatures are coldest but will provide shade in the summer.
We’re realizing that dousing our yards in chemicals can not only make our yard problems worse in the long run, but they also pose a hazard that prevents us from enjoying all our outdoor space. Natural yards that have healthy predator populations will keep the pests in check for you and, like anything that we want to keep around, our helpful predators need some protection, too.
Evergreens help to sustain populations of birds and other creatures that help to maintain a balanced yard ecosystem. Animals use their consistently green branches to find shelter in the winter and protect themselves from bigger predators, all while making a home close to your garden to keep pests in check. By keeping your tree growing close to the ground, you’ll be maximizing its benefit as a shelter to the best predators for a healthy yard – while also hiding the patch of grass under the tree that notoriously struggles to grow.
Trees are the earth’s lungs, and they work hard to strip the air of pollutants, replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. In the summer, our deciduous trees help to guard our yards from the pollutants and smog that might creep into our homes, but their abilities are limited in the winter when air pollution is at its worst.
While barren deciduous branches don’t do much for air quality, the needles on your evergreen do. They aren’t perfect at removing all pollutants, but they are able to help you and your home all year while your deciduous trees are sleeping. And while they won’t remove all the pollution, their fresh pine scent will certainly help your home feel a little fresher. There’s a reason so many household cleaners smell like pine!
Evergreens are so reliable that we often forget about them and neglect to give them credit where it is due. While we often consider them as the background plants, they are often the unsung heros. They offer tons of benefits to you, your family, your home, and even your bank account. With so many benefits, we’re lucky that they are also such a stunning addition to any home. Not just a pretty face, beautiful evergreens are ready to work to make your home and yard easier to enjoy.
Ted Lare Design Build specializes in Des Moines Landscaping Design and Installation.
We cover a wide range of Central Iowa. We have installed landscapes for many years in all areas of the Des Moines metro, including West Des Moines, Des Moines, Waukee, Clive, Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny, Altoona, Indianola, and Norwalk.