How to Keep Wreaths and Garlands Fresh During the Holiday Season

Holiday garland hanging on wall
credit: Amber Thrane

Artificial Christmas decor lasts forever, but many people prefer to splurge on "real" wreaths for the holidays, those made from fresh, genuine evergreen foliage. After all, isn't it all about the fragrance of the needles and the soft touch of branches? Branches and sprigs of greenery are one of America's holiday traditions.

That means, of course, that your Christmas decor won't last forever. But you can extend their peak period to cover the holiday expanse by taking really good care of your wreaths, garlands, and swag. Here are seven hacks that really work.

1) Buy Fresh Foliage

Any plant that is cut off from its roots will inevitably wilt over time, and that is the case with the cut branches that make up holiday decorations. Whether you are buying an evergreen wreath for the door or making your own garland to deck the halls, the green foliage definitely has a finite period of looking good.

That's why it's important to buy fresh and not too far in advance. Given sterling care, Christmas greens can last two full weeks looking their best, but that period starts from when they are cut from the tree, not when you hang them in your house. Buying freshly made wreaths near the day you want to decorate helps assure that they last. If you are making your own, cut the branches close to when you sit down to construct the decorations.

2) Store Those Greens Properly

Holiday decorations made from foliage wilt as they dry out. If they sit around in your house or closet waiting for Christmas, they may not look too good when you pull them out a week later.

Infuse them with staying power by spraying them with cool water the minute you get them home. Lock in that moisture by placing the wreath, garland or greens in a plastic bag in a cool place, like an unheated garage or the refrigerator, until you are ready to decorate.

3) Soak the Wreaths and Garlands

When you are ready to roll, bring out the Christmas greens the evening before and give them an overnight soak. Place your wreaths and garlands in the bathtub, sink, or a large bucket and cover them with cool water. Ideally, let them soak for a full 24 hours before you put them up.

During this period, the foliage soaks up water. That means that you are decorating with plumb, lush foliage and getting off to a good start.

4) Spray With an Anti-Desiccant

You'll find lots of products at the garden or hardware store that are anti-desiccants. Many of these are organic and biodegradable and add a protective waxy coating to the needles or leaves of evergreens to slow water loss. Sometimes they are called antitranspirants.

Look for a product at a garden center, nursery, or anywhere plants or flowers are sold. Spread out the foliage on newspapers to spray it, then flip over the wreaths or garlands to spray the other side. Give them a couple of hours to let the anti-desiccant set.

5) Place Decorations Carefully

It's location, location, location when it comes to how long wreaths, garlands, and swag made from real foliage will last. Heat and sunlight are the enemies, since these will dry out the foliage fast.

Keep all foliage decor away from heaters, sunny windows, and candles. If you want to light up your garlands, select LED lights, which are quite a bit cooler than regular bulbs.

6) Move Wreaths Outdoors at Night

Even if you want your wreaths indoors during the day or for a holiday dinner, you can extend their life by letting them "sleep" outdoors. In cool northern climates, holiday greenery decorations can look fresh for months outdoors, much longer than they will look good inside.

While this may be less effective climate-wise in mild-winter areas, the increased air flow from "respites" outside can still help keep those evergreen tips fresher. Maintaining a good flow of oxygen around the wreath supports this.

7) Mist Your Greens

Since it is water loss that wilts your foliage decor, adding water helps. The pre-holiday bath works well to load the needles up with moisture, but you can "top them up" with moisture by keeping a spray bottle filled with water handy. Mist the fresh decorations every couple of days to keep up the hydration, but take care to remove ribbons that might run before spraying.

For very dry homes, consider bringing in a humidifier for the holidays. Place it near the decorations to help keep them moist.

Try One, Try All

No one of these techniques will ensure that your live wreaths, garlands, and swags will stay green and lush through the New Year. But the more of them you try, the fresher and more vibrant the foliage is likely to remain. With proper care, you can enjoy these greenery decorations for several weeks and maybe even longer.


Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.