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Tree Tips

Christmas Tree Care

When a Christmas tree is cut, over half of its weight is water. With proper care, you can maintain the quality of your displayed trees. Below are a number of tips relating to the care of displayed trees:

  1. Displaying trees in water in a traditional reservoir type stand is the only way of maintaining their freshness and minimizing needle loss problems.
  2. When you arrive home with the tree, make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree.  Farmer Dewberry Special Note: Tree buyers often ask me “Since I live in the Katy area, I will be home quickly.  Do I really need to make another cut on the bottom of the tree?”  As a good rule of thumb (or finger),  the cut on your tree will scab over (stop bleeding) just as quickly as a cut on your finger.  Making this new cut on the bottom of the tree and maintaining the water in the stand are the keys to having a beautiful, fresh looking tree on Christmas day.  Since many buyers have told me they don’t have a saw at home to make a fresh cut, we will be selling bow saws at our cost (about $8) at the tree checkouts. 
  3. Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Don’t bruise the cut surface or get it dirty. The first few days the tree is in the house are the most critical to keeping the tree fresh. Always check the water supply within 12 hours of placing it in the stand. Water consumption will be the greatest the first day or two. After the first couple of days the water supply will require checking daily. Do not allow the tree stand to run dry as this can allow the bottom of the tree to seal over and greatly reduce water uptake.
  4. If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location. Place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket that is kept full of water.
  5. To display the trees indoors, use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Devices are available that help maintain a constant water level in the stand.
  6. Use a stand that fits your tree.  Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
  7. Keep displayed trees away from sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
  8. The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.
  9. Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water.                                    
  10. Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not improve water uptake.
  11. Use of lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights, will reduce drying of the tree.
  12. Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set.
  13. Do not overload electrical circuits.
  14. Always turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or when going to bed.
  15. Monitor the tree for freshness. After Christmas or if the tree is dry, remove it from the house.
  16. Go to www.realchristmastrees.org and type in your ZIP code to find a recycling program near you.
  17. Never burn any part of a Christmas tree in a wood stove or fireplace.

Prepared by Dr. Gary Chastagner and Dr. Eric Hinesley
Edited by the Scientific Research Committee of the National Christmas Tree Association and by Farmer Dewberry

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