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The basics of Christmas tree care

Steve Roark Tri-State Outside

December 13, 2013

Those that hold to the tradition of using a real tree enjoy the smell and feel of a natural product that comes from a renewable resource. Buying one can also help support small family farms, so it has many positives.


On the downside, a Christmas tree is a living thing that requires some extra care to be sure it does not dry out and pose a fire hazard. Here are some tips from the National Christmas Tree Association on keeping your Christmas tree fresh and green as long as possible.


*When you get the tree home place it in water as soon as possible.


*Before placing your tree in the stand, saw a slice off of the base of the tree to make sure the pores in the trunk are open and able to take up water. A half inch thick slice is recommended.


*Use a stand that fits your tree, and avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to make it fit. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.


*Use a stand with an adequate water reservoir; a rule of thumb is that the stand provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter.


*Most important thing to do: Keep the reservoir filled with water, and don’t let the water level drop below the tree’s base or the wood tissue will dry out and stop taking up water.


*Place the tree away from major sources of heat such as heaters, heat vents, and fireplaces; a lower room temperature is always good.


*Use lights that produce low heat, such as the miniature ones. This reduces drying of the tree.


*Inspect lights for frayed cords or cracked sockets


*Always turn off the tree lights when leaving home or before bedtime.


*Monitor the tree for freshness; the needles should not pull off easily, and the end twigs should remain flexible.


There are lots of off the wall recommendations floating around this time of year on how to keep the tree fresh, such as adding things like aspirin, Clorox or Karo syrup to the water. I have not found any scientific proof that any of these help. Just plain water works fine. I’ve also heard it said that using warm water is good, and that drilling a hole in the center of the trunk helps with water uptake. Again, there’s no proof that these help.


Steve Roark is the Area Forester in Tazewell, Tenn. for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division.