The Holly is a plant species with as many as nearly 500 deciduous and evergreen varieties of it. The varied species include trees, shrubs as well as climbers.
The Holly is a perfect winter holiday symbol and traditional decoration essential. However, keeping a cut Holly fresh takes some planning and maintenance as it turns perishable and loses its freshness once snipped.
Even under ideal storage conditions, the Holly will naturally begin to lose moisture and eventually its lush foliage within 7 to 10 days. This natural process of shedding of the foliage can be controlled and delayed by chemical treatments and cold storing.
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Why keep the Holly fresh?
The lesser the time after being cut, better and fresher the Holly stays. The plant is found mostly in Temperate and Sub-Tropical regions, thus needs continuous exposure moisture from the humid air.
Upon losing the source of moisture due to cutting from the stem, the Holly starts to degrade in quality and defoliate. The leaves tend to lose luster and become dry and brittle.
Thus to increase the retention of a cut Holly stem, it must be provided with proper conditions and moisture.
Keeping the Holly fresh:
Cut Holly is prone to perish quickly due to loss of moisture to the cut stem from the plant. To keep the cut Holly fresher for a longer time, it is necessary to cut a healthy stem in the first place.
This is helpful as it would take longer for an already healthy stem to deteriorate as compared to a stem which is less healthy and already exposed to degradation.
Choosing a fresh stem to cut isn’t difficult, all that’s needed is to keep in mind the following:
-Look for well colored leaves instead of dry and pale ones
– Berries on the stem should be ripe
– Avoid picking stems which hold blemished leaves and berries
– Check for pest or microbe infestation
– Watch out for other types of damages as well
Tips to follow after cutting the Holly:
After cutting a stem with all the above-mentioned precautions, it is also important to store the stem well in order to prolong its preservation.
If the plant is cut and stored in a cool climate with less exposure to heat and sunlight, the chances of quick-drying are minimal. Whereas, if the plant is cut in a warmer environment, it must be moved to a cool and moist place to ensure retention of moisture in the cut stem.
After cutting a stem from the plant, the stem must be washed in order to get rid of any dust, chemical residue from fertilizers or pesticides and other contamination.
Placing the cut stems in freshwater will also help in keeping the plant hydrated and fresh, similar to a cut flower stem. The stems must be stored in this way until the time to use it for decoration or other purposes.
The Holly must be watered enough several times as well throughout the days in order to keep it fresh and moist.
The cut end of the stem can also be smashed a little to facilitate the suction of water from the dipped end. Adding slight cuts to other parts of the stem would also work with the easier seepage of water.
Water must be provided in a balanced amount to prevent either drying up of the leaves or over wetting of the plant.
CAUTION: Even after following the steps mentioned, a stem would naturally begin to dry up after 7 to 10 days of cutting from the plant. All the above tips can only delay the defoliation and not completely prevent it.
What to Avoid?
- Try to prevent direct heat on sunlight from the stem as it would aggravate the drying process. Possibly, keep it indoors.
- Do not let the cut stem to freeze.
Techniques to further delay the Defoliation:
There are a few other methods to make a cut Holly stem last longer. Although these ways are used by Holly suppliers and sellers to make the cut branches stay fresh for longer and to increase the longevity of the leaves and berries, giving the sellers enough time for marketability and extended sales along with proper delivery and shipping time during the festive season. They are:
1. Chemical Treatments –
Researches and studies have shown that the longevity of cut Holly stems can be increased by the usage of – Floral Preservatives. When used on post harvested Holly stems which were kept in water, the display life of the stems increased.
Various Deciduous Holly marketers use floral preservatives to retain the bright and shiny leaves and berries even after cutting. The chemically-treated Holly stems with such preservatives are then sold and shipped to various locations.
This technique works on keeping Holly’s display fresh and shiny until almost 4 weeks, with only a slight drop in quality.
Hormone treatments using various combinations of chemical solutions (majorly including Naphthalene, acetic acid) are also used to keep the cut stems fresh and green for longer.
Hormonal solutions for Holly stems are also commercially accessible. They are commonly termed as ‘Holly Dips’ and come with mentioned instructions to treat the Holly at home.
A minimum lasting period for cut Holly after hormonal conditioning is around 14 days, but with proper care, it can last up to several weeks without compromising its display.
However, some varieties of hormonally treated Holly stems can even last up to 2 months if stored in low temperatures and keeping in the proper moisture conditions that it requires.
2. Cold Storage –
Refrigeration of Holly stems after being cut can also delay the natural defoliation process. Storing away from direct warmth and sunlight reduces the chances of the leaves and stems to dry up.
An important step and key in making the Holly last longer is to prevent it from freezing, as that would suck up all the remaining moisture.
Properly refrigerated Holly will stay fresh and display-worthy for around 2-3 weeks before it begins to dry up and lose foliage.
In order to deliver Holly, marketers, and florists must be sure to ship the Holly soon after cutting and not keep it for more than 2 days. The shipping medium must have low temperature and transit time must be short to ensure fresh Holly branches to all the customers.
3. Drying and Preserving –
This is yet another method to delay the falling of leaves, but isn’t as efficient, the reason being – the leaves and berries tend to lose moisture and do not retain their original shine and color.
This the technique is used to preserve a more dried and aged version of plants which enhances the lines, details, and textures of leaves and flowers giving it a subtle pale hue. Dried plants are a growing embellishment trend when it comes to modern home décor. Plants with leaves and flowers can be dried in this way and placed in vases, frames, and pots or made into wreaths or garlands. Dried plant arrangements are an aesthetic fad. But this technique makes the plants dry, brittle, fragile, and hard to handle when it comes to dusting or cleaning. Holly wreaths and cuttings can be preserved in this manner too and can be hung as decorations for longer with a slightly rugged and antique look.
Holly and its Uses:
After knowing how to cut a Holly stem properly, and the ways it can be preserved and kept fresh for longer using various home friendly as well as advanced techniques, let’s know the specialties of this festive plant.
The Holly with its green glossy and spiny leaves, and tiny red berries are usually found in regions with a temperate and humid climate. They are usually shrubs, but can also grow as big as trees and have numerous varieties.
Over the years Holly has been used in homes to remark the winter holidays and to commemorate the festive beginnings. The green and red contrasted stems are used to makes garlands and wreaths to decorate homes in winter.
These wreaths have special meaning in Christianity and are a major Christmas time symbol. Various species of the Holly plant is used to make wreaths during Christmas depending on leaf structure, size, stem strength, and bending ability.
They are structured into a circular base for the wreath and upon it decorated with ribbons, threads, bells, pinecones, etc.
Other uses of the plant:
Other than just being used as Christmas decorations, the Holly has multiple other uses as well. The leaves are often used to cure ailments such as intermittent fevers, digestive disorders, cough and congestion, rheumatism, heart diseases, heightened blood pressure, etc.
Despite the many medicinal attributes of the Holly leaves, the berries of the same plant have a contrasting characteristic.
The berries are generally purgative and some are even poisonous in nature. They often even cause dehydration and diarrhea. Thus the berries have violent qualities and must be handled with caution.
There isn’t enough supportive information to back the working of the leaves or reasons for it curing illnesses. But there can be side effects to its consumption as medicine as well.
Therefore, it is better to always refer and consult a specialist when it comes to using Holly for medicinal purposes.
The branches of the Holly plant are heavy and hard, making it useful to create furniture or to sculpt with engravings and carvings. Wood from these plants is often used to make walking sticks because of their sturdy nature. It is also useful to make a good fire as firewood.
Symbolism and Significance of the Holly:
The plant is not only used because of its bright berries and glossy leaves for decoration, but it also has a mythological significance. It was considered to be a holy plant by the Druids.
During winters, when all other trees lost their leaves and used to dry up, the Holly stayed evergreen, strong, and fresh throughout the season. Hence, it was identified with the ideas of fertility and eternal life.
There are other tales relating the Holly to Christianity as well. The spiny, prickly leaves of the Holly symbolize the crown of thorn worn by Jesus before he was crucified.
The berries were previously believed to be white, it is said that the red hue on it was due to the staining of the berries by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, thus, it represents the sufferings and sacrifices of Jesus.
It is believed that wood from a Holly was used to build the Cross that Jesus was crucified on. However, other claims are stating that Holly arose from the footsteps of his.
The sacred Holly when decorated in homes in wreaths during Christmas is believed to bring happiness and eternal life.
It is also associated to be unlucky if brought inside houses before the arrival of Christmas and also cutting down a Holly tree is supposed to bring bad luck.
Holly wreaths and plants are also considered to be great gifts for new beginnings as it represents happiness and youth and life.
How to make a wreath last longer?
Just like the cut Holly stems need a cool environment and proper moisture to last longer and retain its fresh display, a wreath can also be preserved in similar ways.
The wreath must be made out of fresh stems and leaves in the first place to ensure longevity. If purchased, it must be a freshly delivered wreath with good lush leaves and vibrant berries.
To protect the greens it must be regularly sprayed with water to retain moisture in the stems and leaves.
The place of storage should possibly be cool and devoid of direct sunlight and heat.
A wreath can also be kept from drying up and losing its beauty by spraying it with preservatives, plant freshener liquids or even stiffeners like hairsprays, which help to keep the wreath as it is for a longer time.
Now that you are aware of the various facts and tips of preserving a cut Holly stem, it’s time to take proper actions and to keep in mind all the mentioned techniques to ensure a fresher and better display as well as storage of the sacred bright and versatile Holly.
Hi there! My name is Constance and I am a professional botanist. My enthusiasm for organic farming has led me to start this blog about gardening for beginners!
I write articles and tips on improving your home and garden with less work. I also share my own advice from the perspective of someone who loves all things green – like how to grow vegetables in containers or how to make compost out of kitchen scraps.