How to Gather Cut Branches in Winter

Floral arrangements brighten up our homes any time of the year, but especially in the winter. However, it can be nerve wracking to go out and collect branches from our own gardens. Plants just don’t seem as forgiving in the harshness of winter. 

Don’t worry, we’ve got harvesting tips to share!

When you’re out gathering cuttings you’ll want to bring an empty bucket for bulky cuts that don’t need water, a bucket with water for branches that do benefit from water, pruners, and gloves to prevent sap from getting on your hands if you’re harvesting from evergreens.

Dried Hydrangea Flowers

  • Wait until your plant is dormant (after you’ve had a few frosts).
  • Cut just above a set of buds. This will help the plant grow easily in the springtime.
  • No need to place in water.


  • For pyramidal plants, never cut the top.
  • Only cut branches that are thinner than a pencil, it helps the plant heal faster.
  • Harvest evenly around a plant to avoid creating a hole in the dense foliage.
  • Place in water. Or, if you plan to have them out of water, spray them with a wilt stopping spray or mist with water every few days.

Red-Twig Dogwood

  • These plants love a rejuvenation prune! Every 3 to 5 years, remove 1/3 of the thickest (oldest) stems to encourage bright juvenile growth or just harvest stems yearly.
  • Snip any spindly branches from the main stem to give the branch a smoother look.
  • No need to place in water, they will keep their color without it.


  • Try to only cut stems that are thinner than a pencil.
  • Try to gather just 3 to 5 stems from one plant, as they are quite slow growing.
  • Cut tips off of branches (down to the berries) to give the stem a fuller look.
  • Put branches into water, berries stay attached longer when arranged in water.

No matter what type of shrub you harvest from be sure to:

  • Make clean cuts with sharp clippers.
  • Cut branches off the plant at a straight angle to make the wound as small as possible.
  • Disinfect your tools after each use. 

If you have any shrub pruning questions, ask below or send us a message.

Comments (4)

  1. Carole

    How do you make summer fresh cut Hydrangeas last longer in a fresh arrangement for outside ?

    • Kristina Howley

      There are a few things you can do. First, only choose flowers that are completely open, you shouldn’t see any closed buds. Flowers with closed buds won’t last as long. Second, harvest blooms in the morning and immediately put them into the water. Set the blooms aside in a spot that’s out of direct sunlight. And third, when you go to use them in an arrangement cut up the middle of the stem vertically about an inch or so. This helps the stem absorb the maximum amount of water, which helps it stay fresh and pretty for longer. Hope that helps!

  2. Chere King

    We have just moved to a retirement community where we can garden in pots on our patio or use the raised beds in the community garden.? Can I plant winter berries and hydrangeas in large pots or raised beds? What species are best for success especially for cutting for arrangements?

    • Kristina Howley

      Both winterberries and hydrangeas will grow nicely in containers and raised beds. For containers, it’s best to count on repotting them every few years to replace the soil and potentially move them into a bigger pot to accommodate their roots. For raised beds, you can put a layer of compost on the top every year or so. The best species of hydrangeas for cutting are panicle and smooth hydrangeas since they bloom on new wood. And the best winterberry for your situation would be Berry Poppins, it’s small enough to fit in a pot or raised bed for years.

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Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.


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