Keeping Decorative Greens Fresh

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
en Español

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Closeup of Christmas Tree branches

Who doesn’t enjoy the natural beauty and wonderful smell of fresh pine or cedar in homes and offices during the holidays? Heat and dry air present in most homes and offices work quickly to rob evergreens of their moisture causing them to lose their lush green color, their fragrance, and their leaves/needles much too soon.

All plants transpire, that is, they give off water through their leaves. When we cut evergreens for decorations, they are severed from their water source. Plus, the warmth from heat when they are brought inside speeds up transpiration. To keep cut greenery fresh, you must provide a source of water and moderate the effects of heat and dry air. Those without a water source will not last as long and may need to be replaced before the holiday season ends. Here are a few suggestions for prolonging the life of cut greens:

  1. Cut boughs when the tree’s limbs are turgid (full of water) in the late afternoon or early morning.
  2. Stems of woody plants should be crushed and splayed open or split and peeled back one to two inches if the stem is to be submerged. Cut floral stems on an angle. Remove all needles or leaves that will be submerged in water in the final arrangement.
  3. Treat stems or boughs in a floral preservative that you can purchase from a florist or craft store.
  4. A water-holding material, such as florist’s foam, can prolong the life of fresh greens. Soak the foam in water, then stick the pieces of greenery into it. Natural materials such as potatoes, apples, and Osage oranges can be substituted for the foam.
  5. Arrange large branches of evergreens in buckets with pebbles to keep the stems upright, then fill the container with water.
  6. Keep arrangements away from heat sources like registers, lights, and fireplaces and when not being displayed store them outside or in a cool location such as an unheated garage or refrigerator.

Cut greens can last two to three weeks and maybe longer if properly cared for.

Happy Holidays!