7 Festive & Eco-Friendly DIY Natural Christmas Decorations

Let Nature be your designer this year. Making natural Christmas decorations is fun and sustainable.

Evergreen boughs in a vase decorated with orange slices and cinnamon sticks
(Image credit: Viktoriya Telminova / Getty Images)

The holidays are looming and for many of us, it’s time to get cracking on those decorations. Instead of buying their decor, many folks are thinking about the planet and opting for earth-friendly holiday decorations. The good news is that most of the materials you may need are all around you – a win/win for your pocketbook and the planet. Your backyard, local park, or hiking trail may provide you with natural Christmas decorations that, with very little tinkering, will warm the hearts of your friends and family.

DIY Sustainable Christmas Decoration Ideas

The concept of sustainability has been around for about 50 years and is more important today than ever. It is practiced in nearly every field and you too, can be a part of the movement. One way you can minimize your impact on the environment is by making your own sustainable Christmas decorations. So find your inner artist, get out your glue gun and pick one (or more) of these 7 fun natural Christmas decoration ideas.

1. Festive Fruit Garland

A dried fruit garland can be hung over a mirror, along a mantle, outside on a porch railing, or even on your Christmas tree. Use pears, apples, oranges and cranberries on your fruit garland.

You can dry the fruit either in the oven or with a food dehydrator. To dry it in the oven, cut the fruit into ¼ inch (6 mm) slices. Lay the slices out on a cookie rack set atop a cookie sheet. Pop into a 150 F (40.5 C) oven for 5-6 hours to dry.

Remove the dry fruit from the oven, allow it to cool, then string it together with thin twine or fishing line. You can also alternate with bay leaves, sprigs of rosemary tied together, or even walnuts, though you’ll need a hammer to thread that last one onto the garland.

2. Pretty Pinecone Kissing Ball

A tradition begun during the Middle Ages and then revived during the Victorian Era, kissing balls have since become symbols of romantic love, often included at weddings. At Christmas, a pinecone kissing ball can be used with or without mistletoe to symbolize your love and devotion.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pinecones. Pinecones on the smaller size are best unless you want an enormous kissing ball. You can leave them their natural color or spray paint them and even add glitter if you want.
  • Styrofoam ball, any size will do (it just depends on where you want to hang it and the size of your pinecones).
  • Ribbon for hanging
  • Greenery like pine or fir, holly or other decor
  • Hot glue gun and wire cutters (for fake greenery) or good sharp pruning shears.

Here are the steps:

  1. Cut a length of the ribbon and wrap it once around the diameter of the ball, leaving enough at one end to form a loop.
  2. Secure the ribbon and loop with hot glue.
  3. Then begin to add the pinecones and greenery. There isn’t a set pattern except to follow the curve of the ball and fill in all available space on it.
  4. Finish the kissing ball off with a pretty ribbon, some bells or nothing at all. Hang it above your door, in an archway, or group several along your porch entry.

3. Fabulous Foraged Holiday Centerpiece

This is another fun holiday DIY project, one that will have you outside collecting a variety of foraged greenery. You can also use trimmings from a real holiday tree or go to a place that sells real Christmas trees, wreaths and garlands; they will often let you have their cuttings for free.

Winterberry, pinecones, holly, evergreen boughs, rosehips, Oriental bittersweet, and even grapevines can all be foraged to create the most beautiful holiday centerpiece.

For the base of your centerpiece, you can use a basket, plate, tiered dessert stand, decorative or vintage glassware, candle holder, vase, styrofoam form, or even nothing at all. There is no right way to make a centerpiece, but there are some tips and tricks that can help make yours fabulous.

Consider the size of your table and don’t make a centerpiece that will take up the entirety. Keep it low enough that conversation and eye contact can occur between guests. Stick with a color theme and keep it interesting by adding different shapes and textures. Light it up with votives, pillar candles, or battery-powered fairy lights.

4. Simple Succulent Ornaments

Succulents have been trendy for years and it’s no wonder, with their various shapes and colors. Simple succulent ornaments are about as easy as it gets, plus they make terrific gifts and double as home decor after the Christmas tree comes down.

All you will need for this simple DIY is 2-4 inch (5-10 cm) succulents, hot glue gun, 16 or 18 gauge jewelry wire, Spanish moss, needle nose pliers, scissors and the handle of a socket wrench or other approximate diameter to bend the wire around.

  1. Cut a length of wire to 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in length. Wrap the wire around the socket wrench handle twice, holding it taut with your thumb. Bend the remaining length of wire straight up the handle.
  2. Slide the wire from the handle and pinch any rough edges with the needle nose pliers. Make a tiny loop at the loose end of the wire and pinch it tight. Bend the wire near the loop to form a hook.
  3. Remove any loose leaves and root ball from the succulents but leave the stem intact. Put hot glue around the stem and slide the coiled end of your wire over the stem and into the hot glue. Add more hot glue and tuck in moss to cover the back of the succulent.
  4. Allow the glue to dry and trim off any errant moss. Hang on the tree and enjoy!

5. Mini Rosemary Wreaths

All you need for this simple project are young, malleable sprigs of rosemary, floral wire, wire cutters, and a hot glue gun.

The simplest way to form these mini rosemary wreaths is to take the sprigs of rosemary and bend them gently into a circle.

  1. First, remove the leaves at each end of the sprig(s) so you have a place to tie the wreath together.
  2. Form a circle with the herb, cross the ends together and secure with floral wire.
  3. Next, glue a small bow to cover the connected ends of the wreath and that’s it! You have the easiest, adorable mini wreaths to decorate your tree, use as place cards, or even as napkin rings. And they smell so good!

6. Gorgeous Pinecone Garland

For those with a glut of conifers in the surrounding area, this next project is right up your alley. You can make a pinecone garland by stringing together your own pine boughs or buy an artificial garland.

Once you have the base for your pinecone garland, simply attach the pinecones with floral wire or other light gauge wire. You can keep it as simple as that or add in ribbons, ornaments, other natural or artificial berry clusters, dried pomegranates or oranges – really anything your creative mind can conjure up. Be sure to secure everything with wire.

Once you're done, you only have to decide where to hang your creation. Over the mantel, on a balustrade, over the front door, a mirror or wherever you want a little holiday cheer.

7. DIY Dried Citrus Wreath

This DIY holiday project is another way to use dried fruit like the festive fruit garland above. Again, your fruit can be dried in the oven or using a food dehydrator. Large fruit like oranges should be cut into ¼ inch (6.35 mm) slices, smaller fruit a bit thinner. Whole small citrus can be dried by making eight evenly spaced vertical cuts in the peel. Make a hole in the center of the slices before drying if you plan on stringing the fruit.

If you want the fruit to look like it's dusted with sugar, sprinkle it with clear glitter just as you are removing it from the oven when it is still warm.

To make a sliced fruit wreath you will need about 14 grapefruit or large oranges and around 8 lemons or limes. Attach the fruit to an 18 inch (46 cm) foam wreath form with straight pins. Fill in with real or artificial greenery, succulents, ornaments, bows, cinnamon sticks and whole nuts.

For a wreath strung with dried fruit you will need 60-70 slices of dried fruit and 5-7 whole lemons or limes. Bend a wire coat hanger into a circle then string the fruit on it, spacing evenly. Wire the ends of the coat hanger together.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.