The holiday season is my favorite time of the year. It is the only time where I go all out with decorating. If you want to learn how to hang garland on stairs in your own home, this is the best post to read before you go just for it.
While it’s tempting to just go buy all the things for stairway garland, there are nuances to hanging garland on a staircase you might not know about. In turn, this may affect the materials you buy or how much garland you need for a staircase banner.
Because I wanted to decorate the staircase banister for Christmas this year, I put this together to help others like you do so as well.
This is how to hang garland on stairs, complete with pretty pictures of the results!
How to Measure for Garland
The first step is the most tedious and requires doing a little math, but will ultimately ensure you have enough material on-hand. Luckily for me, my husband is a mathematician and engineer, so he did the heavy lifting while I ate chocolate, naturally, and jotted down some figures.
Christmas garland typically comes in strands of 6 feet. Depending on how much swag you want in the garland, you’ll need to measure to know how many strands to buy.
Ask yourself the following questions as you plan for hanging garland on stairs:
- Do you want the garland to swag or swoop at all?
- Do you like a tighter to the railing garland look?
- How will you hide the garland staircase attachments and add interest? Will you use ribbon, decorative attachments or greenery?
- What holiday decorations do you intend to hang with the garland, if any?
Unless you know how you want the garland to look, I recommend conducting an image search to find inspiration pictures. (Perhaps that is even how you found this post.)
A tight garland follows the handrail, while a swagged garland swoops or dips below the rail, creating a swagged effect.
A few staircase decorating ideas I think are stunning are Monika Hibbs Christmas home tour on Lark & Linen, Sanctuary Home Decor’s lovely decorated staircase and Growing Up Kemper’s simple garland design.
Once you decide on the design you like, measure your staircase as follows:
- Newel post - Measure from the top to the floor
- Handrail - Measure from the inside of the newel post up the handrail to the next newel post or terminating end
- Sections - Repeat for additional sections of stairs
For our stairs, I wanted a mostly slight swag. Taking our measurements, I would need to cover over 33 feet of handrail.
Keep in mind, the deeper the swag, the more strands of garland you will need. To cover over 33 feet of our stair railing and newels, I needed seven garland strands.
Where to find the best faux Christmas garland?
Whether you want cedar, eucalyptus or pine garland, there are a plethora of options today.
If you are going for a specific look, head into the store to look at the garland in person. I find that garland looks significantly different in-store than online.
Here is a list of places to find the best faux garland:
- Kirklands carries nice looking garland for a reasonable price, especially if you can get it on sale.
- McGee & Co has beautiful home decor, including curated holiday garlands.
- Etsy is a great place to find garland and not just the evergreen variety, but eucalyptus and olive tree garland as well.
- Michael’s, like Kirklands, is a go-to source for many different styles of garland.
Your local nursery or farm may sell real garland. Read on for the section where I discuss the reasons to buy faux over real garland.
How to Hang Garland on Staircase Banister Handrail
The next step after measuring is to hang the garland on the staircase.
There are a few different ways you can attach garland to a stair handrail.
- Garland ties - Specialty garland ties are available in many, many different varieties. Greenery garland ties match the style, while more decorative garland ties add interest. Target, Grandin Road, JoAnn, and others carry an assortment to choose from.
- Floral wire - Typically sold at craft stores like Joann, floral wire is sold in pre-measured individual wires or in spools. To blend in with the greenery, purchase green floral wire.
- Zip ties - Effective at securing heavy garland, zip ties come in various colors and ensure a tight grip to hang garland.
- Ribbon, twine or rope - Depending on the type of material, ribbons, twine or rope can be used to attach garland to a staircase. Make sure it’s secure to avoid falling garland.
Neutral is more my style, so I went with this gorgeous nude satin (a taupe-pink color) 2 ½ inch wide ribbon from the Park Lane or Save the Date ribbon collection at Joann.
Tip: You will need at least one other person to help you hang garland on stairs. Make them a batch of my delicious subtly sweet brownies as a thank you.
For our staircase, we started at the top of the first section of stairs that leads up from our kitchen dining area. It’s a short run of handrail, terminating at a landing newel. You can start wherever you prefer.
With one strand of faux cedar garland, I held it at one point, while my husband secured the garland with a zip tie at the end near the wall.
We then secured the other end with a zip tie and let go of the garland so it could hang freely.
After adjusting it to the desired swag or swoop level, we moved on to the longer length of handrail that leads down to our kitchen dining area. This section required two strands of garland.
The newel was the last part, which only required one zip tie where the handrail met the newel.
When I was looking for inspiration, I fell in love with the cedar mixed with eucalyptus and knew that was the design I would go for. After the cedar garland was already hanging, I weaved in the eucalyptus strands. This order of operations allowed me to adjust where each strand or leaf would be.
To hide the garland attachments—zip ties, in this case—and be the decorative element to our staircase garland, I wanted dramatically long, draping ribbon with bows. Measuring the ribbon is more difficult than the garland, because it requires taking into account the length of ribbon that will hang and the length of ribbon to make the bows.
In the end, the look I wanted was long strands of ribbon at two of the newel posts and nearly to the stair tread everywhere else.
Tip: Consider how you want the ends of the ribbon to look. I cut mine at a slight angle, while a dovetail is also popular. You can also buy scissors that cut to a certain shape, like scalloped or waves.
Not only do the long, dramatic ribbons with bows give the Christmas stairway garland a romantic feel, but they add a touch of whimsy and imperfection that I just love.
How to Decorate Staircase Garland
The days of traditional Christmas colors of shades of red and green are still the most popular, but you don’t have to do that.
Today, anything goes when it comes to decorating for Christmas holidays. Neutral holiday decor, Scandinavian holiday decor and non-traditional colors of blues and pinks, are increasing in popularity.
To decorate your staircase garland, use such things as
- Pine cones
- Pine stems/sprays
- Holly berries
- Other holiday decorations
Do you like popcorn garland? Use it. Paper airplanes? Hang them up!
You can use whatever makes you happy on your staircase garland.
Why You Should Use Faux Garland
There are some people who will die on the hill for the battle of real Christmas trees versus a faux tree. Chances are they may be the same people who prefer using real garland for stairs. I am not one of those people.
Growing up, we only had a real tree and a real wreath at the holidays, but when I started decorating our own home for Christmas, I was all for buying faux. I only wanted to buy things once or twice, not every. Single. Year. Again. And. Again.
From a practicality standpoint, here are a few considerations to help you decide between real or faux garland:
- Real garland dries out and lasts only a few weeks
- Needles will fall off real garland, making maintenance more difficult
- Faux garland, if taken care of and stored properly, will last for a very (very) long time
- It’s easier to adjust and manipulate most faux garland
In the end, it’s up to you whether you buy real or faux garland.
Ways to Make Faux Garland Look Real
The first step to make faux garland look real is to buy garland that looks as real as you can get within your budget. Then, layer, layer, layer! Layer in other types of garland like I did with eucalyptus or use two strands of evergreen garland to make it look fuller.
Hide areas that don’t look as nice with decorations mentioned above (i.e., pine cones, ribbon, bells).
For instance, I tried to hide the “branches” of the cedar garland with the eucalyptus. Not only does it look better, but it tends to look even more real.
Frequently Asked Questions
Garland is typically sold in strands of 6 feet. Depending on how much swag or swooping effect you want in the garland, you’ll need to measure to know how many strands to buy. A tight garland follows the handrail, while a swagged garland swoops or dips below the rail, creating a swag.
Once you decide on the design you like, measure your staircase as follows:
1. Newel post - Measure from the top to the floor.
2. Handrail - Measure from the inside of the newel post up the handrail to the next newel post or terminating end.
3. Sections - Repeat for additional sections of handrail and newel posts.
The deeper the swag, the more garland you will need.
If you want a tight to the handrail garland, buy enough 6 foot garland strands to cover that distance. If you want the garland to swag, multiply your measurement by at least 1.2 to ensure enough garland to create swags.
There are many different ways to attach garland to a staircase handrail. You can use zip ties, floral wire, specialty ties that look like greenery, ribbon, or you can get creative.