Living Wreaths for Sun and Shade

A post from Bridget.
My friend Christy recently took a class at our favorite local nursery, Red Cedar Gardens in Stilwell, KS, just south of the KC metro. Red Cedar has a beautiful location, nestled under the trees down a sloping hill. Personally I could hang out there all day admiring the peaceful atmosphere in the shade. Beyond offering a beautiful and unusual assortment of flowers and plants suitable for the Midwest, this family owned business also offers classes, among them a class in making living wreaths.

Christy is a wonderful gardener and talented painter and helps her parents with their orchard and pumpkin patch in Nebraska, so when she told me about her new wreaths I knew they were going to be gorgeous. She allowed me to pay a visit to her garden and just as I expected they are lovely. And heavy! I can’t wait to see how they grow and change as the plants mature.

The wreaths make a beautiful addition to my friend’s shady backyard and hosta garden. In addition to many beautiful plants, she also has a new collection of handcast concrete leaves she made including one she enhanced with watercolor paints. She’s promised to teach me to make my own, so we’ll feature a tutorial on that very soon.

Here are some details on how to make your own living wreaths. I plan to make one of these for another gardener friend of mine – I promise to post the results which will probably not be quite as amazing as the ones Christy created.

Hardware & Misc. Supplies:

You’ll want to pick plants that are “spreaders” especially if you want to hang your wreath. Be sure to include flowering plants so you have color as well as culinary inspiration and variety in texture.

For a sunny herb wreath:

For color — verbena, lantana (spreading variety), dichondra
Foliage and color — alternanthera  (needs to be tucked as the plant grows)
Herbs — rosemary (spreading variety), crinkle leaf marjoram, lime thyme, silver thyme

For a shade-loving wreath:

Ferns — maidenhair fern, rabbit’s foot fern
Moss & Fillers — lysimachia (monkey wort)
For Color — torenia, impatiens, strawberry begonia

How many plants do you need? You’ll need at least three anchor plants, e.g., verbena (sun-loving) or ferns (shade-loving), and then approximately six smaller ones to fill in the spaces.


Dunk sphagnum moss in water – don’t soak, but wet and then wring quickly.  Keep in large sheets and use the sheets to line the wreath form.  Leave extra to overhang the inner and outer portion of the form.  Use small pieces to fill in holes.  Pick up wreath and if you can see daylight, you’ll need to add more moss.  Don’t skimp – you want a solid bed of moss.

Fill moss-lined wreath form from ½ to ¾ full with potting soil, tamping down firmly.

Next, add the plants. Without removing plants from their pots, place plants in wreath form to get a good idea of the overall layout. It is best to identify your three anchor plants and then place them apart at equal distances in the form. After placing the anchor plants, add some of the smaller varieties in the open spaces. Vary texture and color to taste.

Once you’ve settled on a layout, remove plants from pot and place in soil all around the wreath. The crown of the plant should reach top of wreath so you may need to remove soil to make a bed for some of the larger plants so they are seated properly. You may need to use extra potting soil to fill in the gaps around each plant – be careful to tamp down carefully.

Fold excess moss on the inside and outside of the wreath over soil, being careful not to cover crowns of plants. There should be no exposed soil.  Grab those extra bits of sphagnum moss and, if needed, use a floral pin to attach them where needed.

Once the wreath is totally wrapped in moss, run a wire around it to hold everything in place. Be careful NOT to run the wire over the crowns of any of the plants.

Pin down some of the more upright plants to promote spreading and coverage. This is something you may need to continue doing over time depending on the plants you’ve chosen.

Soak wreath in water immediately after assembly to give the plants a good long drink.

Ongoing Care

Water wreath as needed to keep the base moist but not waterlogged. Dead head flowers frequently to promote new growth.  Pin down long trailers and intertwine vines to cover wreath. Enjoy!

Christy, thanks so much for allowing me to visit your beautiful garden!

4 thoughts on “Living Wreaths for Sun and Shade

  1. Pingback: DIY Crafts - an ode to Springtime and Easter

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