Keeping Christmas Trees Fresh
A Christmas tree is more than just a symbol of the season – it is usually the centerpiece of holiday décor. These tips on selecting and caring for a fresh-cut tree will ensure your season is merry and bright.
Make Sure the Tree is Fresh
When you’re buying a precut live tree, follow these steps to ensure freshness:
- Check color. The trees should be rich green without a gray or brown tinge. Exceptions include Colorado Blue Spruce or Juniper – which both have a bluish cast – and the Southeast’s favorite, Leyland cypress – which has a greenish-gray tint.
- Sniff the tree. A fresh tree should have an apparent, pleasant smell and remind you of Christmas.
- Take hold of a branch. Using your thumb and forefinger, grab hold of a branch about 6 inches from the tip. Pull toward you, sliding your hand over the needles. Needles on a fresh tree should spring up behind your fingers and remain attached to the branch.
- Pinch needles. Fresh ones bend; dry needles break.
- Thump the trunk. Lift the tree and thump the trunk hard against the ground. Look for falling needles. If a few drop, that’s okay. Evergreens trees tend to shed some in autumn, and these needles are often caught on branches. If a lot of needles drop, the tree is probably not very fresh.
Care When You Get Home
At home, until it’s time to decorate, store your tree in an outdoor location (ideally with the trunk in a bucket of water) protected from freezing temperatures. A shed, porch, or unheated garage is perfect. If convenient, this is also a good time to hose the tree off if it is dusty.
Recut The Trunk
Before putting your tree in the stand, saw off about ½ inch from the trunk base. Making a fresh cut is crucial because after three to six hours of being exposed to air, a sap layer forms on the bottom of the trunk that prevents water absorption. Make a straight cut; do not cut at an angle or form a point. Such cuts don’t enhance water uptake and can make it more difficult to secure the tree in the stand.
Using Tree Stands
- Avoid using too-small of a stand. In general, a Christmas tree needs 1 quart of water per day per inch of trunk diameter. For a tree with a 4-inch trunk, use a stand that holds a minimum of 4 quarts (1 gallon) of water.
- Some suggest using various solutions to enhance water uptake. However, The National Christmas Tree Association and Cooperative Extension Service recommend using plain old tap water.
- You can expect precut trees to absorb up to one gallon of water in the first 24 hours in the stand.
- Keep water at least several inches above the cut end of the trunk to prevent accidentally exposing it to air.
- If your tree doesn’t seem to absorb water, grab a branch to check needles for freshness. Test a tree’s dryness based on the tree itself, not the amount of water in the tree stand. If you cut your own tree (or had it cut for you), it won’t absorb water right away due to its freshness.
- Avoid a mess of dropping needles by disposing of your tree as soon after the holidays as possible.
Which Type of Christmas Tree Lasts Longest?
Different types of evergreen trees retain needles longer than others. Firs and pines usually hold onto needles longest; spruces not quite as long. Among spruces, white spruce holds needles longest.