Christmas tree care tips

December 6, 2008

Noble Fir Christmas Tree by Lynn Ketchum

AURORA, Ore. - There are lots of urban myths about how to take care of your cut Christmas tree. Chal Landgren, Oregon State University Extension Christmas tree specialist, answers some common questions.

First, according to Landgren, pick out a tree that looks fresh and healthy with needles that snap like a fresh carrot. Shake it a few times to get rid of old needles.

Once home, place the tree in water if you do not plan to put it up immediately. Choose a large, water-filled stand to display the tree indoors.

Q. Do I need to recut the stem after I get my tree home?

C.L. Yes, if more than 24 hours has elapsed since the stem was last cut. The fresh cut helps water uptake and the sooner you can get the tree into water, the fresher it will be.

Q. Do I need to cut 2 inches off the tree base for it to take up water in the stand?

C.L. No, cutting a 1/4-inch slice off the base is plenty for water uptake. However, clearing the ceiling is another question.

Q. Do I need to cut the base of the trees at an angle, or drill holes in the base or install I.V.-like tubes so the tree can get water?

C.L. No. Water begins the path up the tree via microscopic tubes called "tracheids" in the wood just beneath the bark. The wood near the outer part of the stem is very efficient in conducting water and becomes less so towards the center. So, simply cut the stem perpendicular to the trunk and you will maximize the area exposed to the water. Complicated cuts, drill holes or I.V. tubes do not help.

Q. Do I need to add something to the water to help the tree stay fresher?

C.L. No. The list of things people have added to water is long and includes vodka, 7-Up, bleach, aspirin, sugar and more. However, clean cold water is all that is needed. Some additives actually can cause your the tree to shed needles or dry out more rapidly.

Q. Will any tree stand that holds the tree up be OK?

C.L. No. A stand should hold a quart of water for every inch of stem diameter. Very few have the water holding capacity for today’s large trees and the stem will displace a large percentage of the water capacity of a small reservoir. Consider purchasing a new stand (or a smaller tree) if the water capacity is not adequate.

Q. If my decorated tree runs out of water, do I need to take it down and recut the base?

C.L. No. If you refill the water stand within 24 hours after it went dry, most trees (Douglas-fir, noble, Fraser) should rehydrate just fine; for grand fir, twelve hours may be the limit. So check the water level daily, especially in the first few days. Your tree may not be the only one drinking — your pets may be helping themselves to the water, too.

Author: Peg Herring
Source: Chal Landgren