How to care for real Christmas trees

By Steve Roark

Tri-State Outside

Those that hold to the tradition of using a real tree enjoy the smell and feel of a natural product that comes from a renewable resource. Buying one can also help support small family farms, so it has many positives. On the downside, a Christmas tree is a living thing that requires some extra care to be sure it doesn’t dry out and pose a fire hazard. Here are some tips from the National Christmas Tree Association on keeping your Christmas tree fresh and green as long as possible.

When you get the tree home place it in water as soon as possible.

Saw off a small slice of the base of the tree to make sure the pores in the trunk are open and able to take up water. A half inch thick slice is recommended.

Use a stand that fits your tree and avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to make it fit. The outer layers of wood near the bark are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.

Use a stand with a decent water reservoir; a rule of thumb is that the stand provides one quart of water per inch of stem diameter.

Most important thing to do: Keep the reservoir filled with water, and don’t let the water level drop below the tree’s base or the wood tissue will dry out and stop taking up water.

Place the tree away from heat sources such as heaters, heat vents, and fireplaces; a lower room temperature is always good.

Use lights that produce low heat, such as the miniature ones. This reduces drying of the tree.

Inspect lights for frayed cords or cracked sockets

Always turn off the tree lights when leaving home or before bedtime.

Monitor the tree for freshness; the needles should not pull off easily, and the end twigs should be flexible.

There are lots of recommendations about adding stuff to the water to keep the tree fresh, such as aspirin, Clorox, or Karo syrup. I have found no proof that any of these helps, so plain water works fine. I’ve also heard it said that using warm water is good, and that drilling a hole in the center of the trunk helps with water uptake. Again, I’ve haven’t seen confirmation that these work, but it makes sense that warm water might keep resin seeping out of the tree base from hardening and sealing off the pores.

Steve Roark is a retired area forester from Tazewell, Tennessee.