fbpx skip to Main Content

Caring For Your Cut Christmas Tree

christmas treeAh, the cut Christmas tree, age-old tradition and beloved holiday icon. A little extra trouble, but well worth it apparently-despite the proliferation of the artificial tree, cut tree sales are still quite strong each year. This is probably because many people prefer the freshness, fragrance and authenticity of the real thing. But we’ll leave the “fresh or faux” decision up to you….we’ve got you covered either way!

Get Fresh: Fresh trees have stronger fragrance, drop fewer needles, and most importantly, are more fire resistant. Determining the freshness of a tree can be a bit tricky. Try the tests listed here to guide you, but first and foremost, consider this: Always buy from a reputable dealer, who will do everything possible to preserve the freshness of the tree before you buy it. These measures add to the price of the tree-so in most cases, the cheapest tree is not the best choice.

To test for freshness, grasp a limb in one hand and gingerly run your hand toward the end of the branch, going in the same direction of the needles (do not move your hand in the opposite direction….ouch!). Every tree will shed a few needles, but if you end up with a handful of them, find another tree. Another test is to lift the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it. A sprinkling of needles is normal, but if your shoes are suddenly green, you might want to keep looking.

Size Matters: Trees tend to look smaller outdoors. Be careful not to choose a tree that won’t fit in your home. Remember that tree stands add a few inches to the height of the tree, and don’t forget to allow space for that priceless Homer Simpson treetop ornament.

Net Worth: Reputable Christmas tree dealers will wrap your tree in netting to make it easy to handle-both when it comes to putting it on and taking it off your vehicle, and when bringing it indoors.

Make the Cut: Behnke Nurseries will make a fresh cut on the trunk of your tree, ensuring maximum water absorption. If you didn’t purchase your tree from Behnke’s, saw an inch or so from the trunk to enable the tree to absorb more water and stay fresher longer.

Take the Plunge: If you’re not going to set the tree up immediately, go straight home from the tree lot, and plunge the base of the tree into a 5 gallon bucket (or similar) of water. You want to keep that fresh cut moist. Park the tree in the shade and hose it down in the morning if the weather is unseasonably warm or dry. If the weather is below freezing, bring the tree indoors and park it in its bucket, in an out-of-the-way spot until you’re ready to set it up.

Trim a Tree: Since tree branches relax over the holidays, it’s a good idea to trim a few of the lower-most branches. This leaves room for lots of presents! The cut branches can be used to make wreaths, door swags, kissing balls and other decorations.

Water, Water Every Day: A cut Christmas tree can easily soak up a gallon or more of water the first 24 hours it is indoors! Afterwards, it may require a quart a day. Moisture is critical to maintaining freshness, so check frequently! If the tree is without moisture for even a few hours, the sap may seal the cut end of the trunk, preventing the tree from efficiently absorbing new water. And a dry tree declines rapidly. Ideally, you would make a fresh cut, but this would present quite a challenge if the tree is already lighted and decorated, so check the water supply frequently! A product such as Prolong added to the water may improve water uptake.

Only You Can Prevent Christmas Tree Fires: This bears repeating. Check your tree every few hours the first day, and daily thereafter. Do not allow the water level fall below the bottom of the trunk. And of course, keep your tree away from fireplaces, heaters, stoves, candles, or heating vents.

Return Your Tree to Nature: After Christmas, remove all decorations from the tree and prop it up outdoors to provide a haven for birds and other critters. You may want to cut a few boughs and use them to cover beds of pansies or perennials that could use some winter protection. You can even keep your tree until spring and take it to your local recycling center to be turned into free, fragrant mulch

by Lori Hicks

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. The Christmas tree growers association recommends just using plain tap water.
    https://christmastree.org/ see below for the answer from them to a “FAQ”

    (Q)Should I add bleach, aspirin, fertilizer or other things to the water to make trees last longer?

    (A)No! Research has shown that plain tap water is needed. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually be detrimental to a tree’s moisture retention and increase needle loss. Water holding stands that are kept filled with plain water will extend the freshness of trees for weeks.

    Behnkes’ Larry Hurley says:
    Additives like Prolong are intended to keep the pores of the tree open so that it continues taking up water, by suppressing the growth of bacteria in the water. This is important in fresh cut flowers; however, the Christmas tree folks say it is not necessary. I don’t know what is in Prolong. Some years I have used Prolong, some just tap water.

    The prime keys are:

    1) Start with a fresh tree, and a species known for good need retention eg Fraser Fir or Noble Fir. I personally have found over the years that Balsam fir and Douglasfir bought from a tree lot drop needles quickly and have a short useful life as a cut tree relative to Fraser or Noble. We are not carrying Balsam or Dougfir this year.

    2) A fresh cut off the bottom of the trunk when you get the tree (we do that for you) because the end of the trunk dries out and it will be unable to draw water: there is an air block similar to an air block in a radiator–water can’t go up the trunk because air is blocking contact between water in the stand and water in the trunk. It’s like trying to suck soda through a straw with a hole in the side of the straw–lots of air, not much soda. It has to be a fresh cut to draw water out of the reservoir. As they say, get in it water as soon as possible; if not within 5 to 8 hours of a fresh cut, then you must re-cut the stem. And don’t let the tree go dry in the tree stand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back To Top