Important Tips So Your Christmas Tree Keeps Its Needles as Long as Possible

Your cut Christmas tree will last longer, look better, drop fewer needles and be a reduced fire risk if it is properly prepared and cared for. Here's what you need to know and do. And if you have a living rooted (balled & burlapped tree instead of a cut tree, see this page instead )

When you get the tree

  • Shaking the tree - When purchasing a tree from a choose-n-cut farm, have the producer mechanically shake the tree, if possible. This will eliminate dead, loose needles, especially in species such as Virginia pine, white pine, Scotch pine and red cedar. And bugs. It will shake them out, too. There is less potential mess to reach the home.
    If the tree farm doesn't have a shaker, lifting the tree a few inches and banging it down on hard ground will shake off loose and dead needles.
  • Get a fresh cut - If you haven't got a reciprocating or other power saw to do this when you get home, have the farm make a "fresh cut"; Saw off the bottom (1.25 to 2.5 cm) thick from the base of the trunk immediately before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Do not cut at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree plumb in the stand, and reduces the amount of water available to the tree. Do not cut off too much trunk, resulting in a handle too short for the stand.
    If no saw is available, get the retailer to make a fresh cut on the base of the trunk before departing for home. Assuming that the trip home is relatively short, put the tree in water as soon as possible. Species like Douglas Fir and Fraser fir can go 6 to 8 h after cutting, and still take up water. Do not bruise the end of the trunk or get it dirty.

Storing the tree before bring it in the house

  • If the farm didn't do it, make a fresh cut - If the farm did not make a fresh cut, when you get home, saw off the bottom 1/2 to 1 inch of the tree. .
  • Keep it in water - If a tree cannot be immediately displayed in water, after making the make a fresh cut on the base of the trunk, and stand it in a bucket of water in a cool, shaded location, preferably outdoors.
  • Keep out of the sunlight - Do not leave a cut Christmas tree lying in the sunshine for long periods of time, especially if air temperatures are warm. Fresh trees dry rapidly in those circumstances.

Once inside the house

  • Keep away from heat - Keep displayed trees away from point sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the temperature in the room where the tree is will slow drying, resulting in less water consumption.
  • Lights - LED lights not only use much less electricity, they also produce less heat, and heat is the enemy of a Christmas tree! Use only UL approved lights and electrical cords and devices on trees. Check electrical cords and lights for damage prior to placement on the tree. .
  • Keep an eye on pets - Keep pets out of the room in which the tree is placed, especially if you can't be there to supervise. Bot cats and dogs are known to drink the water out of the stand! You can use plastic wrap or aluminum foil to wrap and cover the openings to the water so pets won't drink from it! And make it easier to refill without crawling under the tree with a watering device like this:
  • Turn off tree lights when you go to bed or leave the house.

Check the water level in the stand often, check at least daily

  • Always keep the tree stand filled with water. Dried sap will form a seal over the cut stump within several hours if the water level falls below the base of the tree. If this occurs, make another fresh cut in the butt-end and promptly fill the stand with water. Use hot tap water which will soften sap and facilitate absorption.
  • How much water - A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the 24 hours after it is cut, and one or more quarts everyday after. Maintaining a steady water level prevents the needles from drying out and dropping off and the boughs from drooping. Water will also keep the tree fragrant. Do not allow the water pan to empty or go below the tree base


Other notes

  • Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not affect water uptake. The use of drilled/pin type devices to supply water directly to holes drilled in the tree is not as effective as displaying the tree in a more traditional type of stand.
  • Use a stand that fits your tree. Some stands have circular rings at the top, so the ring must be large enough so the trunk goes through the hole. Other stands are open, which allows more range in trunk size. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed. Use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. Using stands that are too small is a very common mistake. Fresh trees use about 1 qt (about 1 L) of water per day per in (about 2.5 cm) of trunk diameter. The stand should hold enough water to last 24 h. If the stand goes dry and is subsequently refilled, water uptake may stop or be severely limited, leading to premature drying. Contraptions are available that maintain constant water level in the stand, working on the principle of a commode float.
  • Cold water - Do not use hot water in the stand; it is of no benefit.
  • No additives or chemicals - Do not use chemicals in the stand to prevent evaporation. Water moves into the trunk at the lower cut end, and eventually evaporates (transpires) from the foliage. Evaporation from the surface of water in the stand is negligible, compared to the loss from transpiration.
    Do not use additives in water, including
    • floral preservatives,
    • molasses,
    • sugar,
    • bleach,
    • soft drinks,
    • aspirin,
    • honey, or
    • other concoctions.
    Do not apply film-forming anti-transpirants. The products supposedly block the evaporation of water from the surface of foliage, but in reality have little benefit. Do not use water holding gels in the stand. They reduce the amount of water available to trees. Clean water is the only requirement to maintain freshness.


Click here for more Tree Care Recommendations from the USDA, see page 650 ! And if you'd like to flock your tree, see this page for how to do it !

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