If you’re just now getting around to putting up your Christmas tree, or even if you’ve already had your tree decorated, lit and present ready for weeks now, these tips and tricks will ensure that your tree is at its prime throughout the entire holiday season!
Bringing your tree home
Once you have found the perfect Christmas tree, whether it be 5 feet or 20, it is important that you start caring for it right away. Bringing home a new Christmas tree is almost like bringing home a new baby–without all the screaming, crying and diaper changes (although swaddling your tree in a plastic tarp diaper is great way to preserve the tree and all its pieces on the car ride home).
If you buy your tree from a place that pre-cuts its trees (think: Walmart parking lot), be sure that you cut off an inch or two from the bottom before placing it in its new home. When a Christmas tree has been pre-cut, its sap forms a protective barrier to protect the tree from insects, disease and drying out. However, this protective barrier will also prevent the tree from absorbing water when you later place it in its stand.
Cutting the tree an inch or two will re-expose the tree’s xylum and phloem, which will allow it to draw water and nutrients from the tree base you put it in. After making this cut, you will have approximately three hours before the sap begins to harden around the base again. If you live close to where you will be purchasing your tree, you can have the seller cut the tree when you purchase it. If you live farther than two or three hours away, it is probably best to wait and cut the tree when you get back home.
Nourishing your tree
It is important that you get your new Christmas tree into water as soon as possible. If you aren’t going to trim your tree immediately, you can put it in a bucket of water. Otherwise, make sure you have a tree stand that can hold water in the bottom (most Christmas tree stands come like this so it shouldn’t be a problem). This ensures that the base of your tree won’t dry out and will keep the tree’s needles fresh and green.
Typically, a Christmas tree will absorb around a quart of water per diameter, so you will need to keep an eye on the water in the stand and will most likely need to fill it up on daily basis.
Some people have found success in including commercial Christmas tree additives in the water, such as a tablespoon of corn syrup or sugar. Some people have even said aspirin has helped preserve the tree’s longevity. However, it has also been debated that additives have proven unnecessary, so ultimately it is up to you on how you decide to nourish your tree. If you aren’t sure what to do, ask your tree seller what he or she has found most successful for that batch of trees and go from there.
Positioning your tree
Direct sunlight, heaters and fans will only increase the risk of your tree drying out, so be sure to set up your Christmas tree away from these. Placing a room humidifier near the tree can help keep the needles fresh and reduce fire risk.
Keeping your tree safe
As I’m sure you know, any kind of tree with ample leafs or needles are susceptible to fire risk. To keep your tree as safe as possible, be sure that any lights you use to decorate the tree are working correctly and are made specifically for Christmas trees. A safe alternative to plug-in lights are LED holiday lights, which reduce fire risk because they do not get so hot from the electricity.
Saying goodbye to your tree
Once your tree has done its Christmas tree duty (or it’s now March and your neighbors are questioning your sanity), your first instinct may be to simply toss it to the curb for the garbage man. However, doing so will only contribute to landfill space (and we all know that ‘going green’ is in style these days). Many cities have programs that allow you to dispose of your tree in safer, more eco-friendly way.
Christmas trees are living, breathing beings (just remember the baby analogy), and need attention and tender loving care. But with the right watering, placement and grooming, your Christmas tree will last all holiday season long!