Keep your holiday greens green We’ve written before about the pros and cons of fake vs. artificial trees (real trees win — artificial trees are made up of plastics and heavy metals) — but what do you do to keep wreaths and trees green through the holiday season?

We did some digging and compiled a few tips from Rodale’s Organic Life and the National Christmas Tree Association to find out.

Rodale suggests:

  1. Choose the freshest greens possible. Shipped greens may have been held for months in cold storage, leaving them with a short shelf life — even outside.
  2. Whether you’re cutting your own boughs or bringing them home from the florist, trim off just a bit more of each cut end to remove tissue that may be clogged with resins so the branches can continue to take up water.
  1.  After trimming the ends, place greens in water for at least an hour to rehydrate them. There’s no need to immerse entire boughs except in the case of wreaths or other arrangements that have cut ends throughout.
  2. Keep fresh plant materials away from vents, radiators, fireplaces, and other heat sources. “Our homes are toasty during the winter, and this warm air really dries out holiday greens,” Farmer says. “If decorating a mantel—which is so close to the fire proper—be sure the greenery is securely arranged in watertight containers such as urns, vases, or buckets to provide a steady supply of needed moisture.”
  3. For arrangements in vases, adding a few drops of bleach to the water will help prevent bacteria and mold that will hasten the deterioration of fresh plant materials. “No more than a capful (2 to 3 teaspoons) for a large container,” Farmer suggests. Commercial floral preservative solution may be used in place of bleach to limit bacterial growth, but products that add nutrients to the water are unnecessary.


The National Christmas Tree Association advises:

  1. To display the trees indoors, use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Devices are available that help maintain a constant water level in the stand.
  2. Use a stand that fits your tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
  3. Make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree.
  4. Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does NOT improve water uptake.
  5. Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go 6 to 8 hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water. Don’t bruise the cut surface or get it dirty. If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location. Place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket that is kept full of water.
  6. The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.
  7. Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water.
  8. Keep trees away from major sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
  9. Use of lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights, will reduce drying of the tree.
  10. Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set.
  11. Do not overload electrical circuits.
  12. Always turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or when going to bed.
  13. Monitor the tree for freshness. After Christmas or if the tree is very dry, remove it from the house.


Finally, at the end of the season, be sure to recycle your tree.  Most municipalities have collection or drop off programs — check with yours to see.