There are reasons to choose evergreens for holiday decorating. It’s a familiar tradition, and they look magical all lit up. But too often, seasonal fir, spruce, and pine are laden with toxins and tossed right after the celebrations are over. Instead, this winter learn how to deck the halls with living, organic greenery: You can use well-placed succulents to spiff up your dinner table, add life to a snowy windowsill, and make funky DIY gifts. You can also follow floral expert Mark Kintzel’s step-by-step guide to creating your own living plant wreath at home. (Find more seasonal inspiration every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)
For your next party, create planet-friendly place settings by printing guests’ names on cards and inserting them into tiny pots of succulents. Succulents will take well to almost any vessel (and here's the best way to grow them), so switch up the presentation: Use repurposed wine bottles, mini glass terrariums, vintage teacups, or even quirky coffee mugs. Place pebbles in nonporous containers before topping with organic potting soil to provide drainage.
Or try Kintzel’s minimalist arrangement. “Cut the root system from a small plant,” he says. “Then, using decorative cord, tie the plant to a rolled napkin and attach a name card.” Afterward, the succulent can be replanted; with proper care, it will germinate. Both options double as guest favors.
A decorative succulent pot or arrangement can be a boon for even the novice gardener in your life. Their juicy leaves and enlarged stems allow succulents, like their cousins the cacti, to store water even in dry conditions, such as the desert they come from or a house in the middle of winter in cold climates. A purple or green rosette-shaped Echeveria, for example, makes a good hostess gift in place of the traditional Zygocactus, or Christmas cactus. You can also teach your pals and relatives how to cultivate and propagate their succulents using cuttings and leaves so they can grow a shelf full of them without breaking the bank (Not sure? Here's how to propagate succulents in 4 simple steps.)
Making your own succulent wreath is surprisingly easy. You can pick your favorite shapes and textures from more than 60 plant families. For this wreath, Kintzel chose varieties of the genus Echeveria, which resembles a flower with its geometric leaves; Sedum, a low-growing, rounded green plant; Pachyphytum, whose plump, fleshy leaves have a powdery white coating; Portulacaria, compact, green, and shrub-like; and Gasteria, a spiky tongue-like plant closely related to aloe. Get started with Mark Kintzel's succulent wreath step-by-step.