Tips for Keeping Your Christmas Tree Fresh

By Walt Frazer, California Tree Grower

The great debate of Christmas trees will usually lead to what is “wrong” with a real or artificial tree. The hard truth of the matter is that no Christmas tree is imperfect. If there are problems with any kind of Christmas tree it comes from likely not knowing how to handle it. This is especially true of real trees.

Growing up near and later working for a local tree grower I eventually learned to explain to people that they need to treat their new tree like a pet. If people abused their pets the way they abuse their Christmas trees there would be real trouble.

I love the attitude Santa has about Christmas trees. Give your tree a name. Make it a part of the family. Love your tree.

Don’t just stick it in a stand, decorate it and wait for the needles to fall off.

The truth is that even in the most arid climates you can make your tree last from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It just takes a little time and attention to simple details. Here are the things you need to remember:

Buy local — Not all areas will have locally grown Christmas trees. But if you can find a place and actually cut your tree down you are ahead of the game. Trees shipped in from out of the state or country have already gone a long time without a real water supply before you ever obtain. Millions of trees sold in supermarkets, home improvements and tree lots don’t just show up overnight. It takes time to cut them down, wrap them, pack them and transport them. That is hard on a tree. Plus, buying local may help with those who have allergies.

Trim the trunk — This is an important step. Once you get your tree home it is necessary to saw off about an inch or so off the base of the trunk. Some are reluctant to do this because it may result in losing some of the bottom branches. That is why it is critical that you look at the trunk closely before you cut it down or select the tree for purchase. You want to make sure you have enough trunk to do this. Why? Because the natural flow of tree sap is down to the base of the trunk, a process that typically seals the tree. A sealed tree will not “drink” any water, resulting in a tree that drys out faster.

When you trim the trunk just make a flat cut. Don’t angle it, do not bother with “v-cuts”, do not drill holes into the tree. A straight flat cut of the trunk will provide the most surface area to suck up water than any of those other methods.

Research shows that the most water your tree will consume happens in the first week to ten days after it is cut. After that the resin inside the tree will likely seal off the tree again. If you get it in water right away and keep the water level two to three inches over the base through Christmas your tree will last.

If you follow these steps you may be shocked at how much water your tree will “drink” in the first week especially.

Get a deep tree stand — Cheap tree stands are the biggest problem in keeping a tree fresh. Many people just don’t have a stand big enough for their tree. The cheap stands are unstable and just do not hold enough water. You want a stand that can hold the trunk securely and ensure that the tree will not tip over from its own weight. A good tree stand is heavy and holds a lot of water — a gallon or more of water.

Just use water — Many growers and some nursery experts sell and promote the use of tree preservatives. Some even suggest the use of sugary products like corn syrup to prolong the life of the tree. Again, think of your tree like your pet. Water is what it wants and water is what it needs. They have not invented a preservative for a Christmas that works better than water. Stay away from anything else and especially from anything sugary as that will likely draw ants in some climates.

Keep the heat down — Heat is the one thing many don’t think about when it comes to keeping their tree fresh. Naturally you want to keep the tree away from obvious heat sources such as fireplaces or heating vents. But most don’t think about the heat given off by Christmas tree lights. Enjoy your tree but turn it off when you go to bed. This simple step saves many a tree. Give your tree a break now and then and reduce the heat around it. Keep the temperatures in the room comfortable and air it out now and then.

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