From Across the Field – Christmas Tree Care

With the blast of cooler air and some snow over the past couple of weeks suggested that winter and the holidays are around the corner, whether we are ready or not. While I enjoy the Christmas holiday, I am one of those folks that tend not to think too much about it until Thanksgiving has past. Also the risk of sounding like Scrooge, prior to Thanksgiving is too early for Christmas music to be on the radio, (Bah Humbug!) but that is a different conversation for a different time.

Now that we are full of turkey for a while, it is time to consider purchasing this year’s Christmas tree. Selecting that perfect Christmas tree can be a difficult task, just ask Charlie Brown. A mistake many of us make is once we get there is coming home with a tree way too big. The key is to measure the height and width of the space where the tree is to be placed, and then measure – don’t estimate – the tree to be purchased. The last thing one wants is to get the tree home and discover that the height or, worse yet, the width of the tree must be significantly reduced.

A cut Christmas tree will last the entire holiday season without becoming excessively dry or dropping an excessive amount of needles provided it is fresh when purchased and it is given the proper care. The most effective way for a buyer to evaluate the freshness of a cut Christmas tree is by how firmly the needles are attached to the branches. The easiest way to evaluate this is to lightly grasp a branch of the tree and gently pull the branch and needles through your hand. If the tree is fresh, very few needles will come off.  Do not be concerned if excessive amounts of brown needles fall.

If the tree has been cut for more than six to eight hours, the trunk should be recut. Cut straight across the trunk (not at an angle) removing an inch or more from the bottom of the trunk. Be sure the container holds enough water and replenish it often enough that the water does not fall below the level of the trunk bottom. If it does, the trunk will begin to seal. A cut Christmas trees will absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week. A tree with a two-inch diameter trunk may initially use two quarts of water per day; one with a four-inch diameter trunk may use more than four quarts per day.

In the home, the lower the temperature and the higher the humidity, the longer a cut Christmas tree will last. If possible, turn down the temperature or close (at least partially) the heat vents in the room where the tree is located.  Do not locate the tree near sources of heat such as a fireplace, an open heat duct, or a radiator, or in front of a window that receives the direct rays of the sun.  If all of these recommendations are followed, you can buy and set up this weekend and the tree should stay green through the first of the year.

I’ll finish up with a quote from Willie Nelson: “When I started to count my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Have a great week.

Garth Ruff,

Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator

OSU Henry County Extension

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