Keeping your Holiday Greens - Green

Steve Allgeier
Carroll County Master Gardener Program

Too often I hear about someone's holidays being marred by dead and dying Christmas trees or wilting decorative greens. Many of us are not satisfied with the artificial holiday decorations and truly enjoy the smell of freshly cut pine or boxwood. The enticing scent of this plant material enhances the holidays and brings back memories of Christmas past.

Here are some guidelines for keeping the greens green:

If purchasing a live tree, try one of the many Choose and Cut Tree farms around Carroll County and/or the surrounding area where you can cut your own tree. Some precut trees have been harvested as early as October and stand a good chance of drying out and dropping their needles before the holidays are done. This website is a listing of Christmas tree farms found around the state.

Cutting a live tree can be a fun adventure for the family and is not that difficult, especially when you consider many of the conveniences these tree farms provide for the customer. Basically all you will need is an average bow saw, gloves, and pair of boots and pants that you are willing to get a little dirty. Most tree farms provide twine to tie the tree to the car and many will bale the tree for a small fee.

Once you get the tree home make a fresh cut on the stump-end before putting it in the tree stand or place it in a bucket of water in a shady spot till you bring it inside. This cut is to help insure that the tree will continue to absorb water when it is in the house. After the tree has been erected make sure the water is checked daily and added if necessary. Most Christmas trees will remain fresh for several weeks if properly maintained. The only exception to this rule may be the Norway Fir. Even a fresh cut Norway tends to last only 3 - 4 weeks inside before it starts to dry significantly. Also keep the tree away from heat sources especially a forced air system. Heat combined with forced air will dry a tree out quickly. If a tree does dry out do not keep it inside, it will become a fire hazard that you can deal with out!

Poinsettias are generally a very reliable holiday plant; however there are a few hints to help insure the maximum show. These plants best perform on the warm side, at room temperature between 65 - 70 degrees and out of drafts, especially a cooling draft that comes off a window or door. Make sure that your plant does not sit in water for prolonged periods. These poinsettias will develop root rot if kept too wet. Also examine the soil daily, and when the surface is dry to the touch, water the soil until it runs freely out the drainage hole in the container.

Keep the poinsettia near a window that provides plenty of light but do not let the leaves or bracts touch the window, these leaves will brown. If you are interested in maintaining the poinsettia throughout the year and forcing it to rebloom the following year please give me a call or email requesting instructions.

Other evergreen material such as holly, boxwood, pine and spruce cuttings that are used in wreaths, garland and other decorations can be preserved by keeping them away from heat sources and spraying the material with an anti-desiccant or anti-transparent. These sprays reduce moisture loss and keep the greens looking fresh. They are readily available at most garden centers.

Read other winter related gardening articles

Read other articles by Steve Allgeier