Safari company & publisher
Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel
Shenton Safaris

Written by: Megan Blatchford

Spend less money on tinsel and plastic Christmas decorations by opting for indigenous, natural decorations instead! Natural plant cones, foliage, flower heads and seed pods can make spectacular decorations with a bit of spray paint and glitter – if bling is your thing.

©Megan Blatchford
©Megan Blatchford

Here are 4 ideas for creating all natural Christmas decorations using South African plants:

1. An aloe Christmas tree

A Christmas tree can be made using a dried aloe flower stalk. Aloe flower stalks just happen to be dry and ready to pick at the end of November or early in December. One could paint it, decorate it or leave it ‘au naturel’. Care should be taken when hanging decorations from the aloe stalk, as they tend to be brittle and can break at the tips if not handled gently. Ribbons can be tied into bows on each tip to add a splash of colour.

An aloe Christmas tree ©Megan Blatchford
An aloe Christmas tree ©Megan Blatchford

2. Hanging decorations

The bases of dried Protea seed heads can be used to scatter around, or can be hung from the tree as the dried bracts resemble stars.

The stars of dried protea flower head bases ©Megan Blatchford
The stars of dried protea flower head bases ©Megan Blatchford
A protea flower head base ©Megan Blatchford
A protea flower head base ©Megan Blatchford

Leucadendron cones are attractive and can be used fresh or dried, hung from the Christmas tree. Dried agapanthus flower stalk heads can be sprayed gold or silver and arranged in a vase or hung from the ceiling or Christmas tree.

A dried agapanthus flower stalk ©Megan Blatchford
A dried agapanthus flower stalk ©Megan Blatchford

Dried brunsvigia flower heads are also very attractive when sprayed gold and hung from the ceiling. However, they are a bit too large to hang from the Christmas tree.

The dried flower head of a brunsvigia ©Megan Blatchford
The dried flower head of a brunsvigia ©Megan Blatchford

Leaves of the silver tree (Leucadendron argenteum) can be dried and scattered around, or other decorations can be made from these beautiful shimmering leaves. As an activity for children, decorative leaves can be glued onto circular pieces of cardboard to create hanging stars.

4. Plant wreaths and banners

Pyramidal oasis can be purchased and decorated with various indigenous foliage and flowers. Winddringtonia nodiflora, Podocarpus falcatus and Asparagus densiflorus as well as Stoebe plumosa make excellent foliage decoration as they dry well and add a variety of textures and colours. Wreaths can also be made using this foliage and decorated with dried cones.

Bauhinia seed pods tend to curl outward as they open and dry out to release seeds. Using florist wire and spray paint, these pods can be turned into a glistening banner to hang around the family room.

Bauhina seed pod decoration ©Megan Blatchford
Bauhina seed pod decoration ©Megan Blatchford
Bauhina seed pod decoration ©Megan Blatchford
Bauhina seed pod decoration ©Megan Blatchford

Some succulent leaves of cotyledon or even exotic echeveria add grey foliage, interesting shapes, and as decorations they last forever. Speaking of lasting forever, ‘everlastings’ (Helichrysum, Phaenocoma and Syncarpha) have gorgeous flowers that maintain their colour and shape for lengthy periods and also make wonderful material to make decorations from. Flowers can be added to wreaths for colour or be glued onto cardboard to make other decorations.

Leucadendrons and everlastings add a splash of Christmas colours ©Johan Latsky
Leucadendrons and everlastings add a splash of Christmas colours ©Johan Latsky

Using plant material as decorations is fun as it provides a enjoyable activity for the kids at home during the school holidays. These decorations are also biodegradable and create an earthy, natural charm to the home.

©Megan Blatchford
©Megan Blatchford

Please note that no plant material should ever be collected from the wild without permission from the local authorities. Always opt to grow your own indigenous plants so that you have your own supply of material.

These great ideas are brought to you with festive wishes from the Botanical Society of South Africa. A Botanical Society membership for your loved ones is a great Christmas gift that they can enjoy all year through, knowing that their membership is supporting conservation and environmental education. The Botanical Society of South Africa membership has great benefits – you can read about them here.

Botanical-Society-MyPlanet

Support the Botanical Society with a MyPlanet card – simply swipe when shopping for your holiday goodies. It’s easy, free and supports the society and the work that they do.

MyPlanet card woolworths

Travel with us
MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet

MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet is one of South Africa's biggest fundraising programmes and allows you to make a difference, just by shopping. Every time you swipe your card at any of our partner stores they'll give back a percentage of the purchase value to your chosen school or charity. The programme allows cardholders to make a difference to worthy causes without it costing them a cent. More than 1 Million South Africans carry a MySchool card. Thanks to you more than R1 Million is donated every week to help over 8 000 schools and charities. Get your free card today. Every swipe counts!