Issue: November 24, 2007

Pruning greens for winter decorations

I have junipers, pines, and a spruce tree in my yard. Can I cut branches from them to make wreaths for the holidays? I donŐt want to damage the trees and make them look bad. Ę


You can prune these plants now to collect greenery for holiday decorations. However, you should prune them with an understanding of their response to pruning. Many conifers will not develop regrowth from branches cut back into the older tissues. Deciduous trees will usually sprout from latent buds on the older stems, but conifers may not develop regrowth from this region. If you reveal a lot of brown or gray wood when you prune, that appearance may remain for a long time.

When pruning these trees prune so that unattractive bare areas do not remain after pruning, or choose greenery from a side in which the appearance of the bare area is not obvious. By spreading the pruning to various carefully selected locations of the tree, the absence of these branches and their greenery will not be apparent.

When pruning the junipers, if you choose to cut a branch that is supporting a branch over it, the remaining branch may droop under its own weight after the lower branch is removed. This branch may then conceal the area from which the other branch was removed. If you prune the juniper to leave some young (green) stem behind the pruning cut, branching can occur and replace what is removed.

Pine and spruce trees may be somewhat more difficult to prune without leaving a bare area. If you cut large branches, bare areas will be apparent. Spread such pruning cuts to various parts of the tree to minimize the impact. However, if you prune them, leave stems with leaves behind the pruning cut, so that there will be little apparent loss of foliage.

Since you have several trees, you can distribute the pruning among the trees to minimize the visual impact of the trimming.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

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