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Caring for Christmas Trees

Selecting a live Christmas tree is a tradition for many families. Whether you get your tree from a retail lot, direct from the farm, or cut your own here are some tips for keeping your tree looking great throughout the holiday season:

• After purchasing your tree, place it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold (freezing) temperatures until you’re ready to bring it indoors. Make a fresh 1/2-inch cut on the butt end and place the tree in a bucket of water. Monitor the water level and add water as needed. If the tree is not taking up water, make a fresh cut.

• When making fresh cuts to your tree, make sure they are perpendicular to the stem (cut straight across). Cutting the stem at an angle or in a v-shape makes the tree less stable in the stand and can also reduce the amount of water that is available for your tree (some of the cut area may end up out of the water as the water level drops).

• When you decide to bring the tree indoors, make another fresh 1/2-inch cut and place the tree in a sturdy stand. The stand should be able to hold at least 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. For most Christmas trees that should be at least 1 gallon of water.

• Additionally, make sure your stand is big enough to fit your tree in. If you have to whittle down the sides of the trunk, your stand is too small. The outer layers of wood take up most of the water, and if removed it can greatly reduce the amount of water your tree can take up.

• Check the water level in your tree stand daily and keep it above the base of the tree. A cut tree will absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week, so it may need to be replenished daily. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly.

• Commercially prepared mixes and additives such as floral and tree preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin, or any other concoctions you may find to add to the water are not necessary. Research has shown that plain water will keep a tree fresh. Adding water-holding gels is also not beneficial and can actually reduce the amount of water that is available for the tree.

• Keep the tree as far away as possible from heat sources such as heaters, vents, radiators, fireplaces, and direct sunlight. Keeping the room where the tree is located cool will also slow down the drying process.

• When it comes to decorating, make sure to check all Christmas tree lights for worn electrical cords. Also, be sure to turn off the tree lights when leaving the house and when going to bed.

• Many fresh-cut trees, if properly cared for, will last for 3 to 4 weeks before drying out. Run your hand through the needles to see if they are dry and brittle. If the needles easily break or fall off in your hand, your tree is dry and should be removed from the house.

Good Growing Tip: When it comes time to get rid of your Christmas tree instead of throwing it away or having the city come and pick it up, repurpose it. You can use it to help feed birds, provide habitat for wildlife, use the boughs as mulch, or use the needles as potpourri.

***Report Courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension***