How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh for the Holidays

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We picked out our Christmas tree this morning (a seven foot Fraser Fir) and we’re not alone. Nearly 30 million Christmas trees are sold each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Adorned with lights and ornaments, they are perhaps the most iconic display of the holiday and give you a great place to park those copious gifts. Unfortunately, a cut tree kept indoors is prone to drying out easily and quickly loses its luster, becoming both unattractive and a fire hazard. The National Fire Protection Association reports that from 2007-2011, an average of 230 fires were started each year, leading to injuries, deaths and over 18 million dollars in property damage. Eek.

Keeping your Christmas tree fresh for the few weeks it spends in your home will not only leave your tree looking beautiful and cut down on the time you’ll spend sweeping up needles, it will significantly reduce the risk of fire.

Consider these tips for maintaining a healthy and beautiful Christmas tree this holiday season. And if you’re not sure what variety to choose, check out this gallery of popular living Christmas trees.

Select a Fresh Tree

Choosing to cut your own tree at a live tree farm is a great option for ensuring a fresh tree, but isn’t always convenient. If you’re shopping at any of the many tree lots that pop up during the holiday season, before you buy make sure the tree is fresh by gently tugging on the needles or shaking the tree. If needles feel dry or brittle or they fall easily when the tree is shaken, the tree has been sitting too long. Freshly harvested trees will last much longer in your living room, so keep looking until you find one with firm, green needles.

Cut the Base

Once you have found the perfect tree, have the lot make a fresh cut at the base of the tree (or do it yourself) at least half an inch from the bottom. After about three hours without water, sap will begin to form on an exposed cut, making it more difficult for the tree to absorb water. The outer layer of the tree also distributes water to thirsty branches, so take care not to remove any bark from the base of the tree.

Choosing a Location

It may look lovely next to the fireplace, but the heat generated will quickly dry out the tree. Also avoid vents, radiators and portable heaters. Heat will severely reduce the life of the tree, but cold drafts can also trigger needle release, so find a humid location with even temperatures to stage your holiday bliss. Extreme heat can also be generated by old-fashioned string lights, so take a tip from our friend Emily and consider investing in LED lights this year.

Keep it Watered

The single most important thing to keep your tree fresh and beautiful is a steady supply of good ol’ H2O. Without roots to take in fluid, Christmas trees are always thirsty, taking in as much as a pint to a quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter (and even more in the first day or two, when the tree is likely to be already dehydrated). For our seven foot tall tree, could be up to a gallon a day! Find a stand that is both sturdy and has a large reservoir.

Additives?

Some suggest feeding your tree everything from bleach or aspirin to 7-Up to keep cut trees healthy. There is little evidence that these additives do anything to extend the life of the tree and can even be detrimental. Bleach or aspirin added to the water can be dangerous in homes with small children or pets and sugared soda can increase the chance of bacterial growth on the base of the trunk. Give them a skip.

The bottom line to keeping your tree healthy and looking good during the holidays? Good placement, plenty of water and large doses of holiday cheer (OK, that last part may not help the tree all that much, but it sure does me a world of good).

Now that you know how to keep your tree fresh, flip through this gallery to learn how to organize your Christmas ornaments to keep them safe and sound year-round.

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About Mick Telkamp 

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A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

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