How to Dry Fruit and Preserve Leaves for Christmas Decor

A step-by-step guide for how to dry oranges, cranberries, and pomegranates and preserve magnolia leaves and boxwoods for Christmas decor.

I’ve had ONE main goal for Christmas this year: to make our home feel cozy and classic by foraging our yard and using lots of elements from nature.

So over the last few weeks, I’ve been gathering up leaves from our magnolia tree and boxwood shrubs. And I’ve been bringing home fruit from the grocery store to dry for Christmas decor.

dried fruit and leaves for Christmas decor

If you want to go the natural route and make your cheap Christmas garlands and wreaths look more high-end, here are a few different ways to dry fruit and preserve leaves.

How to Preserve Magnolia Leaves and Boxwoods

I tried two different methods.

how to preserve magnolia leaves

Method 1

This method using WiltPruf is the quick way, but it doesn’t fully preserve the leaves. It just prevents them from drying out for several weeks.

Supplies

  • Magnolia leaves or boxwood stems
  • WiltPruf
  • Spray bottle (if you don’t buy WiltPruf already in the bottle)

Spray the magnolia leaves on both sides (outdoors) and let dry. Once dry, you can arrange them how you’d like on garlands and wreaths or in floral arrangements.

Making Magnolia leaves last longer using WiltPruf

Method 2

This method takes several days to work, but the leaves will be preserved after and can last pretty much forever.

Supplies

  • Glycerin
  • Water at room temperature
  • Hammer
  • Large dish or bin
  • Plate or a relatively heavy object to keep leaves submerged

Mix 1 part glycerin to 1 parts room temp water in a large container. Hit the ends of the stems with a hammer to crush them and allow the glycerin to penetrate. Submerge the leaves in the glycerin mixture so the leaves don’t overlap. Place a plate on top to keep the leaves from floating to the top. Leave in the mixture for 3-4 days and let dry.

Preserving Magnolia leaves in glycerin for Christmas garlands and wreaths

You can use the same two methods with boxwood stems as well.

For the fruit, I bought oranges, cranberries, and pomegranates. But you could use a similar drying process for apples, pears, and figs.

How to Dry Orange Slices

Supplies

  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Oven

How to dry oranges for Christmas decor

1. Slice oranges into thin slices (approximately 1/4″ thick).

2. Place slices on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

3. Put orange slices in the oven at 200°F for 45 minutes.

4. Flip the slices over and continue baking for another 45 minutes. Keep flipping every 45 minutes until the slices feel relatively dry (usually around the 3 hour mark). The thicker your slices, the longer they’ll take to dry.

How to dry orange slices for Christmas decorating

How to Dry Cranberries for Decor

I didn’t want to buy a bag of dried cranberries since those are for eating and don’t quite have the look I wanted for Christmas decor.

Supplies

  • Fresh cranberries
  • Large bowl
  • Large pot filled 2/3 with water
  • Baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Oven
  • String and needle for stringing garland (optional)

1. Pour your fresh cranberries in a large bowl.

2. Boil a large pot of water.

3. Pour the boiling water over the cranberries and let sit for 8-10 minutes. This allows the skins to expand.

How to dry cranberries for decorating

4. Drain the hot water and place the soaked cranberries on a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Place cranberries in the freezer for a few hours until completely frozen.

6. Put the baking sheet in the oven at 180°F. Give the baking sheet a shake every 45 minutes to turn the cranberries. Allow the cranberries to bake for 5-6 hours until dry.

Scatter them on tables or string them into garland once cool.

How to dry cranberries for Christmas decor

How to Dry Pomegranates

These take the most patience, as there’s really not an easy way to speed up their process as easily.

Supplies:

  • Fresh pomegranates
  • Toothpicks
  • Wire rack

1. Choose smooth, firm pomegranates that aren’t visibly bruised or scraped.

2. Stick the rinds with a toothpick in evenly spaced multiple places all over the pomegranates.

3. Put the punctured pomegranates on a wire rack and store in a cool, dry, dark place. A cabinet or closet shelf will work just fine.  Let dry for 3-4 weeks.

The pomegranates will shrink in size and be less vibrant. Place them in greenery or use them as bowl filler.

DIY Dried Fruit and Preserved Leaf Christmas Garland Centerpiece

Once ALL of that work was done, I had a big pile of dried fruit and preserved leaves to put all over our house for Christmas to beef up our wimpier pieces. Use floral wire to attach them to artificial greenery.

1. I’ve had this artificial garland for a few years that I laid on the table curved to accommodate room for candles.

How to make a cheap Christmas garland look high-end

2. I added these little lanterns and tucked the stems of the preserved magnolia leaves into the artificial garland. (If this garland were hanging, I’d use floral wire to attach them completely.)

How to make cheap Christmas garland look high-end adding magnolia leaves

3. I added the boxwood stems next, spacing them between the magnolia leaves.

How to make cheap Christmas garland look high-end with magnolia leaves and boxwood stems

4. Then I spaced the dried orange slices evenly.

How to make cheap Christmas garland look high-end with magnolia, boxwoods, and dried oranges

5. And then nestled in the dried pomegranates.

How to make cheap Christmas garland look high-end with magnolia, boxwoods, dried oranges, and dried pomegranates

6. To finish, I sprinkled the dried cranberries throughout. You could add cinnamon sticks and whole unshelled nuts too.

Cheap Christmas garland made to look high-end with dried fruit and preserved leaves

It feels so cozy and like a little touch of Colonial Williamsburg in our home now.

DIY dried fruit and preserved leaves Christmas garland

I cannot wait to add all of these little natural elements all over our house next.

DIY dried fruit and preserved leaf Christmas garland

Have you ever dried or preserved anything out of your yard? Or decorated with things from the produce section at the grocery store for me?

I could definitely see this becoming a little tradition.

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17 Comments

  1. Where did you buy the glycerin?? I use lots of fresh elements mixed in with my fake garlands, but they dry out so quickly! I want to try your method.

  2. Thanks for this post. I have been wondering how to preserve boxwood for a long time. I love your tablescape! So beautiful and simple. Cant wait to see the test of your house this season!

  3. I love this! It’s my kind of decorating. My boxwood needs a haircut too! Wouldn’t pomegranates dry on their own just sitting out on the table?

  4. I have a bowl of dried oranges on my counter awaiting to be used on my garland of balsam and magnolia I am using on my mantle. Love the idea of cranberries and will get some pomegranates to dry. Had a batch of oranges that got a little overdone in the oven so I put them in a closed jar ,added some cloves ,cinnamon sticks and essential oils ( orange,tangerine and pine) and am making a nice potpourri to be used for the holidays. Thanks for your beautiful table and other ideas.

  5. Lauren, thanks for this tutorial. I also love natural elements in my Christmas decor, and this is just what I needed. I was getting tired of the overpowering aroma of store-bought bags of potpourri. You’re brilliant 🙂 XO

  6. Thank you!!!! This is so natural and warming. I have a miniature pomegranate tree but I didn’t know how to preserve the darling fruits!
    Have a glorious Season with your loved ones.

  7. Thanks for the great ideas! 2 questions:
    1. Where did you get the glycerin? How much did you get? I can only find 6oz bottles.
    2. Do you leave the toothpicks in the pomegranates or just puncture the holes and remove toothpics?
    Thanks!!

    1. HI, Ellen. Six ounces should be plenty as you are mixing part with water. The toothpick is to just puncture the pomegranates leaving the holes exposed to air out. Great questions. 🙂

  8. Your centerpiece is awesome, and I can just imagine how your house smells. I will definitely try this. I have never dried fruit before. Thank you for this very thorough post.

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