We thought we’d add some helpful articles and information on how to take care of your trees. First, for your fresh cut Christmas tree:
Use these tips to keep your real tree safe, alive with a fresh pine scent and providing beauty throughout the holiday season:
- If you have waited to set up your tree, make a fresh cut off the bottom of the trunk one-half inch from the bottom just before putting it in the stand. This reopens the tree stem so it can take up water.
- Immediately place it in a large capacity stand with warm water.
- The stand you use should hold at least one quart of water for every inch diameter of the trunk after the tree is in the stand. We recommend using a stand with at least a 1-gallon capacity.
- Christmas trees are very thirsty! Do not allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut or the stem will reseal and be unable to drink. Check the water level daily.
- Don’t add anything to the tree’s water. Research has shown that plain tap water is by far the best. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually be detrimental to a tree’s moisture retention and increase needle loss.
- Place the Christmas tree well away from heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stove, televisions, computer monitors and other heat sources. These will speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.
- With proper care, your Christmas tree will bring warmth and pleasure throughout the holiday season.
And if you’ve purchased a balled (dug with roots) tree:
If You Want to Plant Your Balled Tree After Christmas
When choosing a living Christmas tree, here are a few tips to increase the odds of having it live and thrive in the landscape after Christmas.
- Plan ahead, and prepare the site for planting before Christmas. Just like all tree plantings, select the species to match the site. For most conifers, good soil drainage and adequate space and sunlight are required for optimal growth.
- Dig the hole before the ground freezes and cover with enough straw or mulch to keep the soil from freezing; also protect the fill soil from freezing so it can be used for planting the tree after Christmas. Small trees are almost always a better choice than large trees because they are easier to handle and move and because you have a higher probability of the tree having sufficient root system to support it after planting.
- Purchase the tree one to two weeks before Christmas, and store in a cool but not cold location. Keep the pot or soil ball cool and moist, but do not allow it to freeze; ideal storage temperatures would be from 33 to 45 degrees. An unheated garage is a good place to keep it. A mulch of straw may be used to keep the soil ball or pot from freezing.
- Plan to keep the tree in the home for as short a time as possible. The maximum time allowed in the house is seven to ten days; the longer it is kept in the house, the greater the risk of failure. If kept inside too long, the tree begins to grow and is damaged or killed when planted outside in the cold temperatures of a Pennsylvania winter.
- Remember the tree will need adequate water inside the home. The soil ball or pot should be kept moist but not wet; wrap the soil ball or pot in plastic or place in a tub while it is in the house to avoid damaging the floor or carpet. Check the soil ball or pot daily, and water when it becomes dry.
- Locate it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, registers, wood stoves, and space heaters. Decorate with care; avoid heat producing lights, flocking or artificial snow. Use cool lights and avoid causing damage to the tree with heavy ornaments or decorations.
- After Christmas, remove the decorations and move the tree back to the cool but non-freezing storage location for three or four days to gradually acclimate it to cooler temperatures. Again, do not allow the soil ball or pot to freeze during this acclamation period.
- After the acclamation period, plant the tree in the pre-dug and mulched hole using good tree planting techniques. Remove as much of the burlap as possible without disturbing the root system. Firm the soil around the root system, water well and mulch heavily with straw or composted wood chips over and beyond the planting area to minimize soil temperature fluctuations.
We also found this article—the cut isn’t necessary if you cut your tree fresh, but the information is interesting:
What’s the deal with that extra cut on your tree?
By Nancy O’Donnell, Albany Times Union
Every year they’ll tell you. Those well-meaning salespeople who, after you’ve managed to finally locate a Christmas tree that everyone can agree on, say, “Now, don’t forget to make a fresh cut approximately 2 inches above the base as soon as you get your tree home. Then place it immediately in lukewarm water and stand it in a sheltered place until you’re ready to put it up.”
But if they didn’t inform you, the pine fragrance and soft needles of your cherished tree would be short-lived.
Trees are like people, when they get a bruise, their system focuses on the site and tries desperately to heal it. In our case we bleed, form a protective clot, then a scab and eventually new skin. For a tree, even though at this time of year its nearly dormant, it still tries to heal itself.
Remember, the food is transported from the leaves where it’s manufactured down to the roots through long, narrow vessels or tubes called phloem. Water moves up and down throughout a plant via the xylem vessels. So when we sever the tree at ground level, interrupting these processes, the tree immediately senses something drastic has taken place and it sends a fix—its “blood.”
A tree’s “blood” is that sugary, food substance it manufactured in its leaves, which we often hear referred to as sap.
It doesn’t take long for this sap to congregate at the cut, since it can’t continue its journey down to the roots. And once exposed to air, it does exactly what our blood does, it solidifies or clots in an effort to stop any additional seepage.
The kicker is, the sap, in its effort to fix what’s broken, not only clots itself but flows over and also clogs the severed xylem.
By re-cutting the bottom, we remove the clotted sap and reopen those very important water vessels. And, by placing the tree immediately in water, we eliminate the sap’s exposure to air and let vessels remain open for later uptake.
But what’s with the “lukewarm” water? Why not just use cold water?
If you take maple syrup right from the fridge and pour it over your pancakes, it kind of trickles ever so slowly, then as it warms up it cascades easily over the sides down onto your plate. Sap reacts to temperature in a similar fashion. Lukewarm water will help keep the sap thinner at the cut so it won’t seal over.
As for the rule to locate the tree away from a heat source, a cut tree that remains indoors a few weeks eventually will cease the normal process of water absorption. The further away from heat or direct sun and the lower the room temperature, the longer you can fool Mother Nature by keeping the xylem active and the needles in a dormant state.
It’s when the heat intensifies that the needles think spring has sprung and begin to release moisture through a process called transpiration. Bottom line: The needles end up releasing more moisture into the air than the xylem vessels can take up, the tree begins to dry out and the needles drop off.
The direction to store the tree in a sheltered location until moving it indoors helps protect the tree from drying winds and other environmental conditions that, under normal circumstances, the tree could handle. However, without roots these conditions are exemplified and again, the needles loose more moisture than the xylem can take up.
I remember when we were kids, my dad always brought our tree in and set it in the stand the night before we wanted to decorate it so the branches could “fall.” When you’re little, this seems like an eternity, but there is a method to this madness and it all goes right back to that darn sap.
When the tree is outdoors and subject to freezing temperatures, the sap is moving slower through the phloem, just like me cold syrup over your pancakes. This makes the branches a bit stiffer, but as the tree warms, the sap thins down and the branches begin to relax, giving the tree a much more normal appearance.
Just follow a little common sense advice and you’ll have a longer-lasting Christmas tree.