How to care for your fresh Northwest holly


Harvesting hollyCut holly from members of the Northwest Holly Growers Association has been treated after harvest with fungicide or with a fungicide and hormone combination referred to as "holly dip." The purpose of the holly dip is to cause the holly to retain its leaves and berries longer. Such holly will stay fresh for about two weeks. Green holly will keep its freshness longer than variegated holly. The dip is a hormone type product consisting of 1-naphthalene acetic acid and potassium salts. The fungicide is usually copper sulfate. Both are used in very small quantities of only a few parts per million.

For individual holly orders, request delivery as late as possible for your particular use. Most holly growers ship individual orders within two days of cutting. Some growers try to ship on the same day the holly is cut.

When holly is received it should be opened immediately and allowed to "air." Moisten if necessary. Keep the cut holly and/or wreath in a cool (above freezing) dark place until ready to use. Holly sprays may be put in water similar to cut flowers. Cutting or crushing the bottom of stems will help them absorb water.

Holly wreaths and other decorative holly pieces are usually hung outside. If possible, prevent freezing. Misting the leaves in warm or dry climates will prolong their freshness. Holly centerpieces or table arrangements last longer if set in a shallow plate or pan filled with water.

Holly is still attractive when "dry." Some bring their wreaths inside or use holly sprays in garlands or on fireplace mantles. Dry holly develops a "soft" green patina with the leaves retaining their true holly form. Holly berries will deepen in color when dry and will shrivel. Dry holly wreaths may be kept for several years.

Commercial buyers and users of holly usually order ten and five pound boxes of holly with delivery requested sometimes a month before use. Holly in such orders must be immediately refrigerated after cutting and during shipping and storage. Such holly should not be stored or exposed to temperatures exceeding 39 degrees F. Fresh, cold, moist air circulation should be available. Buyers and shippers of cut holly should assure that the holly is not shipped or stored with any fruit material, particularly apple or pear products and all shipping containers must be clean and free of other plant materials.

Holly berries are not poisonous. However, ingestion can cause intestinal discomfort. Holly berries provide food for many birds and animals. Also, It's a good idea to wear gloves when handling cut holly and holly wreaths. Holly leaf spines are very sharp and wreaths may have wire ends exposed.