Some people decorate for the holidays the day after Thanksgiving, because what makes your home feel cozier than warm lights and winter flora? The only difficulty with decorating early is making sure everything stays looking fresh. You don’t want to spend time decking your halls with boughs of holly for all the green to fade to brown by the big day. If you’re struggling to keep your holiday botanicals looking merry and bright, worry not: Garden pros reveal the simple steps to ensure all of your festive plants flourish — no green thumb needed.
Keep poinsettias vibrant.
The secret to bright poinsettias? Ice cubes. This tropical plant prefers soil that’s neither too wet nor too dry. The easiest way to give your poinsettia a steady drink is with ice cubes. “Use one ice cube per inch in pot diameter,” says garden pro Violet Joy Miller, creator of gardening website Greeny Thumbs. “For a 5-inch pot, place five ice cubes on the soil per week.” The gradually melting ice will keep the plant moist without drowning the roots.
Boost your Christmas cactus’ bloom.
Pebbles are the key to your Christmas cactus’ health. To ensure the plant blooms just in time for the holiday, give it some humidity to mimic its natural environment, says plant expert Emily Jones of website Tomato Mentor. “Place a few pebbles on a tray and pour enough water to cover the stones, then rest the pot on top. The water will evaporate, moistening the air around the plant.”
Prevent needle drop.
Use hot water to ensure your tree stays fresh through New Year’s. “The first time you water it, use boiling water,” encourages Craig Wilson, director of UK garden retailer Gardener’s Dream. “Sap in the tree’s trunk begins to harden as soon as the tree is cut, but the heat from the water loosens it, helping the trunk absorb the water, so the needles stay healthy much longer.”
Green up your wreath.
A spritz of pine oil can liven up your wreath. “Believe it or not, wreaths absorb water right through their needles,” says Charlotte Bailey, horticulturist and creator of plant blog Oh So Garden. Just add a couple of drops of pine oil to a quart of water and use a spray bottle to coat the wreath once a week — the oil locks in moisture, preventing the wreath from drying out.
Enhance floral centerpieces.
Did you know a mixture of pantry staples you probably already have can extend the life of your fresh flowers? To ensure a floral centerpiece lasts, gardener Kelly Martin from plant blog Urban Garden Gal swears by this combo: “Add 2 tablespoons each of sugar and apple cider vinegar to the water, and change the water every other day.” The sugar is a plant food and the vinegar breaks down bacteria, adding an extra week or two to the arrangement’s life.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.