Understanding fresh cut evergreen preservation for winter urns


Hope we are all doing well and getting geared up to fill our bellies full tomorrow and enjoy each other’s company. I commissioned my friend to make us some banana squares which are his grandmother’s specialty. Would you believe I told him I can’t pick them up until I head out otherwise I’ll eat them all? True.

More importantly, can you please help me address the following:

In addition to Wiltproof or a similar anti-desiccant spray, WHAT IS THE BEST METHODto try to preserve fresh cut greens when designingin soil? If it is to water the urns until the soil is frozen, can you help me understand from the technical view why? I understand that a plant in the garden is watered well into freezing so that the roots can help retain moisture and since these plants go into a super slow function (not dormancy) they can still transpire which means watering well going into a brutal winter is ideal.

Another question, better to design in soil or the Oasis type of foam florists use? Would it matter since the branches are fresh cut?

Any information and insight would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you



Thank you for your question about preserving fresh cut evergreens.

This is more of a florist-type question than the usual questions we get about living plants, so it’s not really within our mandate or area of expertise.

I can say that placing your cut evergreens in soil that has water content is similar in concept to placing cut flowers stems or a cut Christmas tree in water.  If relatively freshly cut, the water-transport cells within the stems or tree are still able to absorb water for some time after they have been cut. Making a fresh cut just before you place them in wet soil will help open up these cells, which may have become sealed over to protect them from losing their water content.

I cannot comment on soil vs Oasis – that is better question for florists.

As for Wilt Pruf or other anti-desiccants, their effectiveness in protecting living evergreens and broadleaved deciduous shrubs such as rhododendrons or azaleas is somewhat in question, making them an expensive, lower-value choice; wrapping with burlap may be the better option.  Of course this is not viable for decorative cut evergreens in outdoor containers, so some advocate using anti-desiccants to provide a glossy coating on the branches to reduce transpiration (water evaporation) through the needles.

Anti-desiccants vary in their quality and content.  I researched Wilt Pruf and found that because it is made of pine resin and other natural ingredients and makes no claims to protect against insects or disease it is not considered to be a pesticide.  It is also non-toxic to use.

Having said that, my personal experience (and that of my neighbour – who for the last two winters supplied many, many clients with seasonal arrangements containing evergreens) is that these arrangements will last just fine into late winter even if not sprayed with anti-desiccants, especially if they were well-watered after cutting and are in a relatively protected location and away from high velocity and/or north-northwesterly winds.

I have included some links below that you may find useful.


Making your real Christmas tree last through the holidays – Water is the Essential Ingredient (Michigan State University)

Common Myths and Questions on Christmas Tree Care (Puget Sound Christmas Tree Association)

Wilt Pruf – is it a pesticide and/or toxic? (Missouri Botanical Garden)

Protecting Evergreens in Winter Q & A (University of Massachusetts)