The Best Ways To Decorate With Magnolia Leaves This Christmas, According to Designers
Magnolia leaves are quintessentially Southern, no matter the season. But when the holidays roll around, these glossy green stalwarts lend an air of sophistication and traditional comfort that is hard to match. Designers agree—they love to bring them indoors in a variety of creative and beautiful ways. Whether it’s with leaves, branches, garlands, or decorative florals, nothing creates a gracious Southern welcome like a magnolia arrangement.
Designer Roger Higgins of R. Higgins Interiors loves using magnolia leaves year-round, but especially during the holiday season. What makes them his go-to? “They are quick to style and provide a huge impact with very little effort,” he says. “They don’t shed like most leafy plants, and the scale of an arrangement never looks too small or too thin, no matter how many limbs you cut."
Atlanta’s Amy Morris of Amy Morris Interiors loves their versatility. “Their leaves and flowers can add beauty to homes in so many different ways,” she says. “During the holidays, I love to create a garland with branches and drape it over the mantel. Magnolia is also beautiful in a vase or clustered on a table.” To accentuate the season, Morris adds ornaments to magnolia greenery for dining table centerpieces and rooms lacking seasonal decor.
If you’re looking for more magnolia decorating ideas, you’re in luck. Capture the spirit and nostalgic beauty of the season with holiday styling ideas from some of the South’s top designers.
See the Beauty in Simplicity
Art Director and Designer, Heather Smith, of Charlotte’s Circa Interiors believes the magnolia’s beauty is best displayed through the creation of simple, organic arrangements. “Magnolia is a Southern staple whose glossy leaves and striking fragrance add an elegant charm to any setting,” she says. “Few trees can match its iconic year-round beauty. Nothing can beat a tangle of sculptural limbs or floating a single blossom in water.”
Gather Leaves Close to Home
Rather than purchasing magnolia leaves, Dallas-based designer Lindley Arthur of Lindley Arthur Interiors uses branches found near her home to design a simple magnolia and evergreen garland for her mantle. “Our neighborhood is blessed with several old magnolia trees,” she says. “Every Christmas, I gather their leaves and wire them into my fresh greenery, which I drape over our mantle and dining room buffet.”
Enjoy Magnolia All Season
In early November, Sean Anderson of Sean Anderson Design works with a local florist to create lush magnolia garlands for his home. “They can be used as a beautiful Thanksgiving tablescape, and they’ll last well until Christmas,” he says. In December, Anderson drapes garlands along banisters, tables, and around doorframes. He suspends garlands vertically behind artwork, too, for a polished holiday look. “The art hung on top of the garland provides a nice focal point in front of the black shutters,” he says. “Layers like these are what elevate a space from simply decorated to truly designed.”
Add a Simple Red Bow
Houston’s Katie Davis of Katie Davis Design loves decorating with magnolia leaves during the holiday season — or any season, for that matter. “We love adding fresh greenery to a space to bring in warmth, texture, and something alive,” she says. “Magnolia, a true symbol of the South, elicits a sense of place in our projects. We certainly use their branches and leaves in styling for the holidays, but would argue that they are appropriate year-round.” Davis appreciates the plants sturdy, ‘hard-wearing’ nature as well, which makes them easy to arrange. “Also, there's nothing better than a magnolia wreath, simple and structured,” she says. “During the holidays, just add a red bow."
Drape Banisters in Garland
Ashley Gilbreath of Ashley Gilbreath Interior Design loves to incorporate Magnolia leaves, calling them a true Southern staple. “Using it around the holidays, or anytime for that matter, gives you all the warm and fuzzy feelings of home,” she says. “Our favorite way to use magnolia leaves is in a show-stopping garland. Having the leaves in your garland lets you see both the beautiful brown and rich green tones, which make these leaves so unique and versatile!”
Bring Magnolia Wreaths Indoors
Magnolia wreaths are lovely on the front door, but don’t be afraid to bring them inside, too. “I love using magnolia wreaths around my house and think they're beautiful both when they're fresh and green and once they've dried,” says designer Lauren Liess of Lauren Liess & Co. “I love hanging one over my bed during the holiday season.”
Create Warmth From Room to Room
Roger Higgins of R. Higgins Interiors recommends using magnolia leaves and stems artfully throughout your home. “For an organic, textural touch for the holidays, we like to mix magnolia leaves into garlands and wreaths, arrange limbs in baskets on top of armoires or place branches in glass cylinders,” he says. “It immediately makes the room feel warmer and more finished, simply by adding the dramatic warmth of green and mossy brown.”
Paint Leaves To Match Your Decor
“Magnolia leaves are a great, Southern way to bring the outdoors in during the holiday season,” says Dana Wolter of Dana Wolter Interiors, who often paints magnolia leaves to match her holiday decorations. “Depending on my color palette, I generally spray paint them either white or gold,” she says. “They can then be used as a wreath or intertwined with ornaments and other organic materials on the mantle.”
Use Garland as a Centerpiece
For those looking to add beauty to the dining experience, magnolia garland stands out beautifully when placed along the center of a table and mixed with white florals and other leafy sprigs. Ashley Moore of Moore House Interiors, agrees. “One of our favorite ways is using them in Christmas garland,” she says. “Intertwining the leaves with classic garland (real or fake!) adds an interesting and special Southern twist to holiday greenery.”
Combine Magnolia With Blue And White
Magnolia branches in blue and white vessels are always in season. Dallas designer Cheri Etchelecu of Cheri Etchelecu Interior Design does just that as the holidays approach. “I love the way magnolias bring a natural feel to holiday décor,” she says. “I use branches in my antique blue and white vases in my entry each Christmas season. They bring height and texture to the space, plus green is my favorite holiday color!”
Floral Designer Shane Friesenhahn of The Botanical Mix agrees, the use of magnolia sprigs makes for an elegant centerpiece arrangement. “I have fond memories of magnolia leaves from my childhood,” he says. “They would always flood our backyard as the trees shed. I love the contrast of the dark green on the top of the leaves and brown shade on the bottom. To me, they symbolize new and old. For holiday design, they are rich and full, perfect for any centerpiece.”