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Care and Feeding of a Live Christmas Tree

Care and Feeding of a Live Christmas Tree


Treat your "real tree" right for the longest life


By FamilyTime

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For some families, the holiday is just not authentic without a live tree. Others are satisfied with a fake tree they store in the attic or garage from December to December, but for everyone who loves the smell of fresh pine wafting through the house, nothing beats the real thing.

There are a few things to know before you bring a live tree in the house.

First, we are not talking about a living tree, one with a root ball that you will later plant in your backyard. We are discussing real trees that were grown to be harvested for the winter holidays. Some people cut their own at nearby tree farms; far more of us buy them already cut from nurseries and street corner vendors.

Second, these trees need water. And more water. If you cannot commit to replenishing the water in the tree's stand or bucket on a regular basis, you are better off with an artificial tree. If you allow a live tree to dry out, it becomes a fire hazard. Even live trees that are fully hydrated should be kept far from the fireplace and burning candles.

When You Buy the Tree

When you buy a pre-cut tree, run your fingers along its branches to determine if the needles are loose and dried out. Lift the tree straight up by the trunk and drop it a few inches onto the ground. If a flurry of pine needles falls off, the tree is too dry to buy. On the other hand, some Christmas tree vendors will mechanically shake the trees at the time of purchase to dislodge any loose needles in the interior of the tree. These are normal and the shaking means less mess for you.

Wrap the tree in some sort of covering if you plan to drive on a highway or other road where high speeds might damage the tree. If you are only driving a few miles on city or suburban streets, there is no reason to bundle the tree in plastic.

Once you get home, saw a slice from the bottom of the trunk so that the tree will stand flat in its stand and easily absorb water. If you don’t plan to put it up at once, store it in a bucket filled with water and stand it in a cool place—a porch, deck, patio, garage.

Once the Tree is Inside

As soon as you put the tree in its stand or bucket and it is displayed in its place of honor, fill the reservoir with water. When it first comes inside, a tree will absorb water quickly and may go through a gallon or two in the first 24 hours. The uptake will slow down after a few days but be prepared to refill the tree stand regularly.

After this initial period, check the water level daily and add more when it no longer covers the base of the trunk. Don’t scrape the outer bark from the tree, thinking that will allow more water to reach the tree. Trees absorb moisture through bark.

If the tree stand’s reservoir is dry for any length of time, remove the tree from the stand and slice off another disk. This is a major inconvenience if the tree is decorated, and so it’s best to keep the stand filled with water.

You may have heard that adding sugar, pulverized aspirin, even soda to the water will prolong the life of the tree. None of these things does any more good than plain water.

Water that is treated with a water softener has high levels of sodium and will shorten the life of the tree. If you have softened water, consider using distilled water for the tree.

Christmas comes once a year. The tree you select will be the most beautiful ever. And that’s true year after year. Happy holidays!



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