When selecting your real, farm-grown Christmas tree, do a freshness test by gently grasping a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pulling it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and will occur over the lifetime of the tree.
Once you’ve chosen your tree, keep it in a sheltered, unheated area such as a porch or garage to protect it from the wind and sun until you are ready to display and decorate it. Below are instructions and information to guide you in caring for your Christmas tree.
How to Care for Your Farm-Grown Christmas Tree
When a Christmas tree is cut, more than half its weight is water. With proper care, you can maintain the quality of your tree. Below are a number of tips on caring for your tree:
- Displaying trees in water in a traditional reservoir type stand is the most effective way of maintaining their freshness and minimizing needle loss problems.
- To display the trees indoors, use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Devices are available that help maintain a constant water level in the stand.
- Use a stand that fits your tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
- Make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree.
- Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does NOT improve water uptake.
- Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go 6 to 8 hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water. Don’t bruise the cut surface or get it dirty. If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location. Place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket that is kept full of water.
- The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.
- Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water.
- Keep trees away from major sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
- Use of lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights, will reduce drying of the tree.
- Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set.
- Do not overload electrical circuits.
- Always turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or when going to bed.
- Monitor the tree for freshness. After Christmas or if the tree is very dry, remove it from the house.
- Find a tree recycling program near you.
- Never burn any part of a Christmas tree in a wood stove or fireplace.
[the preceding information was prepared by Dr. Gary Chastagner and Dr. Eric Hinesley; edited by the National Christmas Tree Association]
How Christmas Tree Farming Affects the Environment
In the past, most Christmas trees came from the forest; today over 98% are plantation grown.
Christmas tree farms add oxygen to the atmosphere, provide wildlife habitat, increase soil stability and are very attractive. Christmas trees are frequently planted on barren slopes or other cleared areas where no other crops will grow.
Christmas trees take 4-10 years to mature. During that time, the farmer faces many challenges. Trees can suffer from too little or too much sun or rain, destruction by rodents, insects, disease, hail or fire, and overgrowth from bushes, vines and weeds, or theft from the field.
Christmas trees are shaped by expert farmers through annual pruning. By pruning upward growing branches, the grower can encourage the tree to branch more quickly, and gradually achieve the full bushy appearance consumers look for in a Christmas tree.
Compare Natural and Artificial Christmas Trees
The best choice has always been the natural choice, a real Christmas tree. Real Christmas are a benefit to the environment from the time they are planted until after the holiday season when they can be recycled.
Real Christmas trees provide oxygen to the atmosphere while they are growing. Every acre of Christmas trees grown produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people.
Artificial trees are a petroleum based product that consume vast resources during fabrication. A burden to the environment, artificial trees aren’t biodegradable and will remain in land-fills for centuries after disposal. The average life span of an artificial tree is only six years.
Real Christmas trees, on the other hand, are easily reused and recycled.
- Christmas trees are biodegradable – the trunk and branches can be used as mulch for gardens, parks or in animal stalls. The mulch provides a protect barrier for the roots of other plants and vegetation while preventing weeds from growing. The mulch then decomposes, providing the nutrients plants need to thrive.
- Mulching programs are a fast-growing trend in communities throughout the nation. Check with your local department of public works for information.
- Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially at beaches and on river beds. Sunk into private fish ponds trees make excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
- Before recycling, Christmas trees can be used to make bird feeders, adding color and excitement to the winter garden. Utilize orange slices, suet, and seed to attract the birds. They will come for the food and stay for the shelter in the branches.
The practice of using a living tree to celebrate the holidays is gaining in popularity. Living trees have their roots in tact and can be re-planted outside following the holiday.