If you have a sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua), you know the problem it poses – those prickly pods! They cover the ground and make it difficult to walk, not to mention the damage they can cause to lawn mowers.

Sweetgum Potpourri

Add some essential oils to your seedpods for seasonally scented sweetgum potpourri.

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Sweetgum Candle Ring

Create a stunning candle display by simply stacking the pods around it.

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Securing Seedpod

Use a pipe cleaner to attach the pod to your wreath.

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Finished Sweetgum Wreath

Decorative sweetgum wreaths make for a homey Thanksgiving welcome.

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Painted Sweetgum Pods

Add holiday sparkle by spray painting the pods a festive hue.

Photo Credit: Amy Dee Stephens

Don’t know what to do with all those pods? Well, after placing them around those prized plants to ward off the munching rabbits and slugs…and after piling them up to create a great food source for squirrels, chipmunks, finches, mallard ducks, quail, doves and cardinals, you can use the leftovers for crafts. Sweetgum pods make especially great décor for Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Before you begin any of the projects below, make sure you pick only those pods that are the least dirty and decomposed. If necessary, shake the dirt off, lightly rinse the pods in water and allow them to dry overnight. To kill off any lingering bugs, bake the pods at a low temperature in the oven, or microwave them for about 20 seconds.

Candle Ring

Materials

  • About 20 sweetgum pods
  • 1 pillar candle
  • Craft or hot glue (optional)

Directions

Making a candle ring is incredibly simple, and you’ll love the results. You basically just stack the pods around the base of a candle. (I’d recommend an orange candle in fall or a red one in winter.) Cut the stems off and place the larger pods in a circle around the candle’s base, then stack smaller pods on top to make an upper row. Yes, that’s it. The only big choice you have to make is whether to glue or not to glue the pods. If you’re making a table decoration for a special event, skip the glue and knock out this project in approximately 45 seconds. But if you want to display your candle ring throughout the holiday season (or if you plan to move it for dusting), take the time to secure the pods with glue. As easy and beautiful as this natural decoration is, be careful – don’t let your candle burn too low, or your small flame may turn into a bonfire!

Rustic Holiday Wreaths

Materials

  • Sweetgum pods
  • Grapevine wreath
  • Brown pipe cleaners
  • Craft or hot glue
  • Ribbon and other adornments

Directions

Sweetgum pods are easy to attach to a grapevine wreath. Cut off a 1½-inch piece of pipe cleaner and poke it into one of the pod’s many holes. (A dab of glue at the end of the pipe cleaner will make the decoration sturdier.) Next, poke the other end of the pipe cleaner into the wreath until it feels secure. (You may need to bend it slightly to “hook” it into place among the vines.) Add as few or as many pods to your wreath as desired.

Be creative when adding your decorative touches. I prefer a more natural look with sweetgum pods, so I tend to select natural materials, like dried leaves or feathers. But if you spray paint your pods a more festive color, they’ll look more whimsical and less “earthy.”

Scented Seedpods

Materials

  • Sweetgum pods
  • Scented oil
  • Paintbrush
  • Plastic bag

Directions

Sweetgum pods soak up oils, much like pinecones. Once your pods are clean and dry, “paint” scented oil (like cinnamon) onto the pods. Place them in a plastic bag for at least a week, being sure to shake the pods every few days. For a stronger scent, leave the pods in the bag for up to a month. To display, just remove them from the bag and place them into a nonporous bowl and enjoy the scents of the season.

Pretty Painted Pods

Materials

  • Sweetgum pods
  • Gold or silver spray paint

Directions

Although sweetgum pods piled into a wooden bowl make a great (and instant) Thanksgiving decoration, painting them adds more sparkle to your winter holidays. Spray paint your pods with a metallic color and dry them overnight. You can also sprinkle glitter on them while the paint’s wet. Then just place them in a festive bowl (a crystal container looks especially nice), and you have an easy, low-cost holiday decoration.

And you thought those pokey, prickly pods were useless! With just a little bit of time and creativity, you can transform those pesky seedpods into unique holiday decorations your friends and neighbors will covet throughout the season!