With the Christmas season underway, gardening takes a backseat to decorating—and with good reason, since Christmas comes only once a year! In this season of celebration, though, many of the decorations you use indoors and out are perishable and can start to look worn before the last of your Christmas get-togethers are over. To keep your home looking festive and fresh through the holidays, here are a few tips I’ve learned from my own experience.

First, it’s important to keep your outdoor greens moist to ensure they stay fresh—especially in sunny dry weather. For cedar garland or other greens decorating your front porch, spray the foliage down with a garden hose every few days to keep it hydrated. A wreath on the front door can be treated similarly or taken down periodically and soaked for a couple of hours in a large tub to help it rehydrate.

Second, keep your pots of winter flowers looking their best with an occasional watering and a light dose of fertilizer. If you’ve set out containers of winter pansies or hellebores on your porch, rain might not reach them, so be sure to water them every couple of weeks.

Third, if you enjoy the beauty and fragrance of a real Christmas tree, there are things you can do to help it last longer and stay fresher through the Christmas season. If possible, close any heat registers located nearby to minimize the amount of air movement near the tree and keep it cool.

If you haven’t yet set up your tree, be sure to cut off an inch or so of the trunk before you set it up and place the tree in water within an hour or two after cutting it. At Vander Giessen’s, we will do this for you when you purchase one of our Christmas trees, and it will greatly help your tree keep drinking water through the season.

Once you’ve set up the tree and filled the stand with water, check the water level daily as a tree can drink a lot of water in the first couple of weeks it’s in the house. For maximum freshness and to help your tree to continue to drink through the Christmas season, there are many home-brew recipes and tips you may have tried over the years, but one product in particular has impressed me with its effectiveness.

Miracle-Gro for Christmas Trees is an easy-to-use liquid you can add to your water when you fill your Christmas tree stand. Unlike regular Miracle-Gro, this is not a plant food—after all, no need to feed a tree that’s technically already dead! Rather, Miracle-Gro for Christmas Trees helps prevent the tree’s sap from congealing and plugging up the veins that draw water up to the branches. In my experience, a tree watered with normal tap water typically stops drinking after about two weeks indoors, but when I’ve used this product my tree has continued to drink for the entirety of the four weeks I’ve kept my tree in the house. Stop by Vander Giessen Nursery to pick up a bottle of Miracle-Gro for Christmas Trees and see the difference it will make to the freshness of your tree!

Finally, many people ask me how much to water their poinsettias—and you might have struggled with them yourself. In short, don’t overwater! These classic Christmas flowers are native to Mexico, so they’re used to warm, dry weather and prefer to be slightly dry. Water your poinsettias only when the soil is dry on top and they begin to feel light. Remove them from their foil sleeves before watering and set the plants in the kitchen sink, then water thoroughly. Only move them back into their sleeves after they’ve finished draining, and your plants will stay healthy and happy for weeks, if not months.

Enjoy the beauty of this season as we celebrate the birth of Christ!