How to Keep Holiday Evergreens Fresh

Fragrant and festive evergreen cuttings make for sustainable decor

Spruce boughs

Evergreens make gorgeous (and compostable!) holiday decor. Wreaths, swags, table runners, or even just a simple vase of fresh pine boughs can be used to brighten your home both inside and out.

How to Harvest Greens For Holiday Decor

Ask first: Unless you are harvesting on your own property, be sure to get landowner permission prior to cutting boughs.

Wait for frost: Don't harvest evergreens until your region has had at least one hard frost. Cold temps tell the tree that it is time to go dormant — this helps retain needles.

Make the right cut:

  • Sharp pruners will give a clean cut and minimize damage to both the bough and the main tree.
  • Cut just above a node (where branches and leaves/needles join together on a bough) to encourage future growth on the tree.
  • Avoid nicking the branch collar (the swollen area of the truck where a new branch forms) to prevent disease from entering the rest of the tree.
  • Make cuts at a 45-degreee angle, then place the cut bough in a container of fresh water. An angled cut ensures the bough will be able to take up water and stay hydrated in your container

Add accents: Don't be afraid to experiment! Gather pinecones, berries, red-osier dogwood stems, and seedpods to add texture and colors to your gorgeous greenery.

Tips for Extending the Life of Evergreen Cuttings 

  • If you receive a wreath or other evergreens by mail, unpack them immediately.
  • Mist the evergreens with water; repeat every week or so.
  • Evergreens will deteriorate more rapidly in warm temperatures. Try to display them in a cool place. Indoor displays should be away from heat sources and direct sunlight. The ideal temperature range is 32 to 60 degrees F.
  • Holly is more fragile than other evergreens. The leaves will discolor if exposed to very warm or cold temperatures.
  • Save cuttings that have a short vase life for arrangements that only need to look good for a few days. For instance, blue spruce (Pinus pungens 'Glauca') is especially beautiful, but it drops needles within a short time.

Good Evergreens for Cutting

  • Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris)
  • White pine (Pinus strobus)
  • Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta)
  • Balsam fir (Abies balsamea)
  • Fraser fir (Abies fraser)
  • Noble fir (Abies procera)
  • White fir (Abies concolor)
  • Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
  • Boxwood (Buxus)
  • Western redcedar (Thuja plicata)
  • Juniper (Juniperus spp.)
evergreen cuttingsFrom L to R: juniper, white pine, and balsam fir make for excellent fresh cut evergreens.

Last updated: 12/12/2023