Getting In The Spirit—With Plants

A fun way to enhance the holidays is by using your houseplants to create festive displays or tabletop vignettes.

Many people decorate their homes and yards for the holiday season—after all, who doesn’t love the blow-up, air-powered Santa Claus on a Harley inflatable? 

Plant people like to decorate, too. From the tried-and-true collection of cheerful poinsettias by the front door to the magnolia ropes on a staircase to a blue fir tree sparkling with holiday decorations, there are fun ways to invoke the winter and holiday spirit by using your houseplants and bringing parts of the yard into your home. 

Here are some ideas gleaned from area decorators, garden shops and family traditions. Fair warning: I’m a minimalist, so most of my suggestions will veer into a conservative/tasteful–some would say kinda dull–style. If you’re a maximalist, then you know that too much is not enough and way too much is just right. Decorate for yourself; whatever makes you smile is terrific.

Container displays are a fun decorating idea that can incorporate lively greens, cheerful reds and whites, or other color combos. Silver and blue create a great winter vibe, too. Start by grouping your houseplants together so the sheer volume of the green makes its own statement. Then, dress up a tall, sturdy plant (a rubber tree, ficus or corn plant could work) with some potted azaleas in red and white at the bottom and hang some delicate white lights among the plant’s sturdier stems. Add some candy canes and finish up with a few gold Christmas tree ornaments in the plant’s branches and its pot. 

Another instant fix for houseplants is to wrap the pots like presents, with gift wrap and bows. You can go minimalist by using all one color for wrap and one for bows or go maximalist and wrap all of the pots in differently patterned paper. Since most indoor plants don’t need a lot of water in winter, you can get by with the paper wrapping for a few weeks and not worry about it getting stained. Come January, recycle the paper and bows and you’re good to go. 

Multiple green houseplants all wrapped in white paper with red and/or green ribbons and bows would make quite the Christmasy statement. Add some ornaments and color-coordinated candles and you’ll have a charming display. If you want to go for more of a winter vibe, pick silver paper, blue ribbons and bows and add a touch of sparkling lights to evoke a holiday spirit. Gold and white also gives a seasonal touch, mimicking snow-covered footpaths through the woods and the warmth of a family fireplace. I’ve also seen striking silver and turquoise combinations, as well as gold and pink displays that were enchanting. 

Consider using your houseplants as part of a festive centerpiece. Grab a tray to contain the display. Start with a houseplant in its pot, add a couple of white candles, fill in with some holly branches or magnolia leaves and, voila, you have a charming vignette. This is a good opportunity to use some of Grandma’s old silverware, too. Fill things up with some greenery from the yard, add Christmas tree decorations or candles, then add pine cones, spray painted silver or gold. 

For years, I had a red and green Christmas themed scarf that I used to wind in between a half dozen gold candles, then filled gold-rimmed wine glasses with white sand and added small red votives. (The scarf got ruined one year when a cat “helped” redecorate the table by spilling lit candles and wax, plus gravy, on it. Sigh.) Check your closet and jewelry box for gold and silver belts, scarves, pins and necklaces to add to your plant centerpieces. 

You can also spray paint interesting branches from your yard with silver, gold, red or green. Bare branches interspersed in a display have a sculptural impact and, when backlit with an up-light, give a stark, wintery feeling. 

You can go shopping in your own house, or, if you want to make it a social thing with friends and neighbors, host a holiday exchange party. Everyone brings décor items they want to swap, everyone drinks a little wine, folks swap and everyone goes home with new inspiration and new ideas! 

Celebrating the holidays should be thoughtful and fun for you and your family. Pick items and colors that evoke the holiday spirit and enjoy these special few weeks of the year. OS

A native Floridian and lifelong gardener, Belea spends her time off fostering cats and collecting caladiums. You can send gardening questions or column suggestions to her at

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