How to Keep Holiday Evergreens Fresh

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.

Tips for Extending the Life of Evergreens 

  • 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.

Cutting Your Own Greens? 

  • Be sure to get landowner permission first if you plan to harvest greens on someone else's property.
  • Be sure to wait until after frost, or at least until cool weather has arrived. This triggers the tree that it is time to go dormant and helps set the needles.
  • Cut just above a node (where branches and leaves/needles join together on a bough) to encourage future growth on 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.
  • Choose evergreens that are known to last a long time. See Good Evergreens for Cutting, below. When possible, opt for evergreens that grow in your region. They are likely to last longer.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment — gather cones, berries, and red-osier dogwood twigs to use as colorful accents to your greens!

Good Evergreens for Cutting

  • Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris)
  • White pine (P. strobus)
  • Balsam fir (Abies balsamea)
  • Fraser fir (A. fraser)
  • Noble fir (A. procera)
  • White fir (A. concolor)
  • Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
  • Boxwood (Buxus)
  • Juniper (Juniperus spp.)

From L to R: juniper, white pine, and balsam fir all make excellent fresh cut evergreens.

Last updated: 07/26/2023