Christmas Tree Care

How green is your evergreen tree this year?

If you’ve opted for a living tree, then your tree could hardly get “Greener!” You’ve chosen a tree that can be warmed in your home just long enough to celebrate the holidays with you, and after the season ends you can plant it in your own landscape, your community, or your local greenbelt!

How do you keep your tree fresh through the holidays so it can be successfully planted at the end of the season?

1. Most importantly, acclimate your tree. Keep your tree on your porch or in your garage for the first week of the season. Putting your tree immediately from the cold outside to the warmth inside your home is harmful to the tree. Allowing one week for acclimation in the garage or on the porch will help lessen the shock when you do bring it indoors.

2. Purchase some antidessicant or antiwilt. Visit your nearest lawn and garden supply store and purchase a spray with antidessicant or antiwilt to minimize needle loss. This will also contain the loss of valuable moisture. Antidessicants and antiwilt products are sold under the names of Wilt Pruf or Cloud Cover. If you do not want to use an antiwilt product, it is also beneficial to mist your tree with water provided it doesn’t harm your ornaments.

3. Move your tree indoors. After one week of acclimation, you may move your tree indoors. Set it in a cool location and keep it away from heating vents, direct hot sun, fireplaces, and other heat sources.

4. Choose your lights wisely. In order to make sure your decorations do not harm the tree, use low-heat-producing Christmas lights, a small amount of mini lights, or LED lights−which do not give off any heat−to minimize the amount of heat produced around the tree. Also make sure to unplug the lights when you go to bed and whenever you leave the house.

5. Check the soil for dryness. The soil should stay damp but not wet. Your tree will need more water while it is inside than it did while it was acclimating outside.

6. Prep your tree for the outdoors. After the holiday season, you will again need to acclimate your tree to prep it for transplantation into your garden or into a local greenbelt. Move it to your garage or porch for one week after the holidays.

Planting your tree after the season? Here are some tips to welcome your tree into your landscape:

  • Don’t keep your tree indoors for more than three weeks. Even if the ground is frozen outside, you will need to keep your tree outdoors for the remainder of the season after the holidays. If you can’t plant it after the week of acclimation, place your tree in a sheltered area with the root ball mulched with a thick layer of leaves or compost.
  • When the time comes to plant, select a planting site that has well-drained soil, full sun, and is appropriate for the mature tree’s size.
  • Prepare a hole that is the same depth as the root ball but 2-5 times wider. Do not over prepare the back fill with organic matter. If the soil is fertile and well drained, amendments should not be needed.
  • Remove the covering from the root ball, place your live tree into the hole, and fill the hole with soil.
  • Water the tree well to eliminate air pockets.
  • Put several stakes around your live tree to help hold it up in the strong winter winds.
  • It is not necessary to fertilize until the spring.

You’ve chosen your Christmas tree from the farm and strapped it to the top of the car, had it delivered from a holiday décor company, or picked it up from one of those side-of-the-road vendors. You’re ready to light it up and put your favorite ornaments on its boughs, but you also don’t want it to dry up and drop needles before Christmas rolls around! What can you do to keep your tree fresh and looking its best?

First, cut a small disk off the bottom of the tree’s stem and place it directly in water. You
sometimes hear that drilling a hole in the bottom of the tree will improve water uptake, but that’s just not true. Cutting your tree’s base at an angle or sharp point also does not improve water uptake and will make the tree less stable in the tree stand. Just cut off a small disk from the bottom and the water uptake will be great. It is also important to avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand, as the outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water.

Your tree may consume a lot of water for the first day or two, so check the tray regularly to ensure that the water never goes below the base of the tree. Even if there is water in the stand, the trunk may not be submerged, so make sure you monitor the water level closely.

After the first couple days you will only need to check the water level about once a day to make sure the base of the trunk is still submerged. The general rule of thumb is to have 1 quart of water in the stand per inch of stem diameter.

Watering is very important to ensure that your tree stays fresh, but exposing your tree to
excessive heat will also dry it out and potentially cause a fire hazard. It is important to do your best to keep your tree away from sources of heat like fireplaces, heaters, and direct sunlight in order to prevent the tree from drying out. Lowing the room temperature will also slow the drying process, as will using lights that produce low heat such as miniature lights or no heat like LEDs.

Fire Safety Tips:

  • Never overload your circuits or place worn or old lights on your tree.
  • Keep your tree amply watered.
  • Use LED or low-heat lights.
  • Turn off your tree lights when you leave home or go to bed.

Do you have a living tree that you want to keep as healthy as possible so you can replant it at the end of the season? Check back next week for tips.

Happy decorating!