Many families celebrate the end of the Thanksgiving holiday season by selecting and decorating a live Christmas tree in their homes.
Last year, over 32 million live Christmas trees were purchased at box stores, garden centers, Christmas tree lots and local Christmas tree farms across the United States.
Most trees are generally purchased the first weekend in December, which just happens to fall right after Thanksgiving this year – but sales continue all the way through Christmas Eve.
Do you have a preferred type of Christmas tree? Pine, spruce, and fir are the most common conifers cut and purchased for Christmas trees. Conifers are trees that produce their seeds in cones. They also have needle or scale-like leaves that stay green all winter long. Hence, they are also called evergreen trees.
One can identify each type of conifer by examining the needles and how they are attached to the stem. If needles are attached to the stem in clusters of 2-5 needles, then the tree is a pine. Spruce and fir trees have individual needles directly attached to the stem.
To distinguish the difference between a spruce and fir tree, feel the texture, shape, and rolling ability of the needle. Spruce needles tend to be sharply pointed and easily roll between your fingers. Fir needles tend to be soft and flat and are difficult to roll.
Once you’ve picked the perfect conifer to bring home – you’ll want ensure it performs all season long. The following tips can help trees retain needles longer once in the home.
Cut ½ to 1” from the end of the trunk and immediately place the tree in cool water. Several hours after a tree is cut, the trunk can no longer absorb water. The freshly cut trunk removes any blocked vascular tissue and allows the tree to take up water again.
Place your Christmas tree in a cool room. Warm temperatures cause trees to dry out quickly. Make sure to keep live trees away from heat sources such as air vents, wood stoves, fireplaces, etc.
Trees take up the most water in the first few weeks after cutting. Select a tree stand that holds at least one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. If the tree stand accidentally runs out of water, it will need to be taken down and an additional ½ to 1” removed from the base of the trunk. This can be nearly impossible once trees are decorated, so check stands several times each day. Indoor pets also like to drink from tree stands which may require more frequent watering.
Once the Christmas season is over and needles begin to shed, it is time to remove the tree. You may want to wrap the tree in a sheet or tree bag before taking it outdoors to prevent considerable needle shed in the home. Check with your local community or village on whether there is a local tree drop off/pick up or recycling program. Trees can also be chipped and recycled into mulch.