There's just something about a live tree and a fresh pine scent that says "Merry Christmas!" But keeping a live tree looking its best requires a little holiday TLC. It only takes a few days of heat or neglecting to water your tree that to dry out a fresh tree. But with proper care, most trees can stay looking and smelling fresh for up to five weeks or longer. Here are a few tips.
1. Pick a healthy tree to begin with.
If you're picking out a tree from the local tree lot, chances are it may be a bit dried out from the long drive from the tree farm to the lot. So look for a healthy tree with few brown needles. You can check for freshness by running a few branches through your hands. The needles should feel soft and pliable, and not fall off. Next, raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it hard onto its trunk. You should lose very few needles in the process. Also, when looking around the tree lot, choose a tree that has been displayed in the shade or away from the sun. Odds are it will be less dried out.
2. Trim the tree before you trim the tree. And re-trim again.
If your tree has been sitting on the tree lot for a few days, there's a good chance that its vascular system (the system that draws water up into the tree) will have become clogged. So when you get your tree home, cut about one-inch off the end of the trunk and place it in a bucket of warm water. This initial trim will remove any dried-over resin from the base of the tree and restore is vascular system. And by the way, drilling holes in the base of your tree or cutting the trunk at an angle will not improve its ability to absorb water. A simple straight cut will do.
Store your tree in an unheated area away from wind and freezing temperatures. When you are ready to bring your tree inside, remove another once-inch from the trunk and place it in a tree stand that holds at least one gallon of water. Fill the stand with one quart of water for every nice of the trunk's diameter. That is, if your tree has an 8-inch diameter trunk, you will need 4 quarts (2 gallons) of water.
3. Display your tree away from heat sources.
Fireplaces, air ducts and radiators may keep you warm and toasty, but they will ruin your Christmas tree. And while a Christmas tree by the fireplace makes a nice pic on Instagram, a fireplace can dry out a tree faster than you can say "ho-ho-ho!" Also avoid placing the tree in direct sunlight. Sunlight can also make the tree fade faster.
4. Water your tree. A lot!
Too little water causes resin to form over the cut end of a tree's trunk. Once that happens, the tree stops absorbing water and dries out quickly. If you want to make a Christmas tree last longer, just use plain water. Using sugar, bleach and other additives to keep a tree green are pretty much old wives tales. And be sure to check the Christmas tree stand twice a day as long as the tree is up. A Christmas tree can be rather thirsty and can drink up the water in its stand very quickly.
5. Take your tree down before it dries out.
If you wait too long to take your tree down, you'll have lots of dead pine needles on your hands. The easiest way to clean up fallen needles is with your vacuum's hose. Skip the fancy attachments and just use the end of the hose.
Happy holidays, everyone!