How to make fresh-cut holiday decorations last


Now that Thanksgiving is over, along with the shopping holidays that follow and December is officially starting this weekend, Christmas decorating is in full swing. My daughter has been asking me when we can get started since returning from her dad’s house Sunday — where they have two Christmas trees and a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation-worthy lights display.

I try to avoid competing with Vayda’s dad, especially when it comes to Christmas. Our tree won’t be matching from skirt to star. Our lights won’t be visible from the international space station. But we’ll do the best we can with our hand-me-down decorations and popsicle-stick ornaments. And to spice things up, I thought we might add some live wreaths, swags and garlands to the mix. Chances are she’ll be just as delighted with our hodgepodge display.

Decorating with live greenery

Incorporating live greenery into your Christmas decorating has a special appeal. The vibrant natural colors of fresh wreaths, swags and garlands can brighten any display, filling the air with crisp, piney scents. They create the kind of environment that can encourage even the most reluctant among us to take to the holiday spirit.

However, the appeal of fresh greenery can be lost just as quickly as its gained without proper care. And with people decorating earlier and earlier every year, it can be even more challenging to prevent wilting, drooping and decay before Christmas.

Fortunately, there are some tricks and tips that can keep live wreaths, swags and garlands beautiful throughout the holiday season.

How to keep holiday greenery fresh

  1. Purchase greenery as close to when you will use it as possible. If you’re just planning to add some elements to the inside of your home for a Christmas party, purchase them right before.
  2. Pick evergreens that last longer after being cut. Pine, fir and cedar last the longest after being cut. In general, choose native evergreens as they are likely to last the longest.
  3. Use the freshest greenery available. Pick wreaths, garlands and swags with flexible stems and minimal needle drop. You might also think twice about where you’re getting your fresh-cut greenery. What’s available at a local retailer may have been cut a while ago. A fresher option would be cutting your own at a local farm or even from your yard if you have the evergreens available. If you decide to cut your own, wait until after frost to do so.
  4. Cut fresh greenery with sharp, clean cutters in the morning when plants are fully hydrated.
  5. Soak your greenery before arranging. After you’ve cut your greenery, crush the ends of any woody stems and completely immerse and soak the branches in a bucket of water for at least 24 hours to ensure they’ve absorbed as much water as possible. If you can’t immerse the entire branches, soak the cut ends.
  6. Mist greenery periodically. Misting your fresh-cut decorations every day or two will help keep them hydrated so they last longer. You may also consider using a humidifier to keep the air moist if your home is typically very dry.
  7. Allow foliage to dry completely and coat with an anti-transpirant or anti-desiccant spray to help seal in moisture.
  8. Display in a cool location. Keep your greenery away from heat and out of sunlight. Your decorations will deteriorate quicker in warm temperatures. Moving the decorations outdoors or into a cooler area at night can also help them stay fresh for longer.
  9. Use your live wreaths, swags and garlands in outdoor displays only. In northern climates, outdoor conditions are much more conducive to keeping live decorations fresher for longer. You might choose to only use fresh-cut decorations outside for minimal maintenance and maximum longevity.
  10. Replace dry limbs as needed during the season.



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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.



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