Let’s get the obvious out of the way: They’re a plant.
Granted, Christmas trees are harvested from a farm or plantation. As soon as they are cut, they begin to die. So caring for them sooner vs. later is critical. As an aside, when I was 7 years old, I took our Christmas tree out to our front yard and jammed it in the ground and cared for it with the hopes of preserving it forever. Now, some 40 years later, that Christmas tree from 1973 is about 40 feet high. For those not looking for a permanent monument to your childhood, there are steps you can take to care for your cut Christmas tree:
A tree stand should have a water basin that provides 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. So for most Christmas trees, the stand should hold at least 1 gallon of water. A cut tree will absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week, so replenish the water daily.
Make sure the stand fits your tree. For tree stands that have circular ring at the top, the ring should be large enough for the trunk to go through the hole. Do your tree a favor and avoid whittling down the sides of the trunk to fit the stand. The outer layers of the tree are the most efficient in absorbing water and shouldn’t be removed.
If your tree has been cut within the past 12 hours, it isn’t necessary to re-cut the trunk prior to displaying inside. If it’s been longer than 12 hours since harvesting, the trunk should be re-cut to improve water absorption.
Cutting off a section of wood about ¼" thick from the trunk base is all that’s necessary before placing the tree in the stand. The cut should be perpendicular to the stem axis and not at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it more difficult to hold the tree steady in the stand and reduces the amount of water available to the tree.
Keep trees away from heat sources like fireplaces, heaters, heat vents or direct sunlight. Lowering the room temperature will also slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
Check the water level each day to ensure it doesn’t dip below the base of the tree.
Don’t use any additives in the water like floral preservatives, commercial tree preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin, honey or any other concoctions. Clean water is all that is needed to maintain freshness.
Keep an eye on your tree for dryness. To determine if your tree is too dry or brittle, run your fingers across the needles. If the needles break easily or fall off in your hand, the tree is too dry and it’s time to remove it from the house.
Like any plant, caring for your cut Christmas tree is an important task. Doing it right will prolong the look and beauty of the holiday. A well-cared-for tree should normally remain fresh at least three to four weeks though the memories should last a lifetime.