Ok, maybe not as fresh as a daisy, considering how long we expect our fresh cut trees to last indoors. There’s no magic potion here – once the tree is cut, it begins the process of dying, just as a cut flower, say a daisy does. How long it takes depends on how well we are able to decelerate the process. There are some simple tips to prolonging the life of a fresh cut Christmas tree, and here are a few key ones.
Buy the freshest tree you can find, as it will have the best chance of lasting longer indoors. Know what fresh means: When you gently grab a branch between your thumb and index fingers, then draw your fingers toward you, only a few needles come out. There are always some brown needles in a fresh tree, but if there is a whopping great pile of needles at the base of the tree, you know it’s either not fresh or someone swept all the fallen needles in the lot into a pile under that particular tree.
If they don’t do this at the tree lot at the time of purchase, make a fresh cut across the base of the trunk, straight across about ½ above the original cut. Try not to damage or dirty up the freshly cut surface. Dried sap will form over the cut surface, forming a waterproof barrier, in about four to six hours, so it’s important to get the tree submerged in water within that timeframe. If you’re not quite ready to place the tree into the tree stand, stand it in a bucket of water in shaded spot outside until you are ready to bring it indoors. Once in the bucket or tree stand, make sure the water level never drops below the base of the trunk. If a seal does form on the recently cut surface at the base, you’ll have to make another fresh cut. You don’t want to be doing that nasty little job after the tree has been decorated, now do you?
Use a large reservoir tree stand to ensure your tree stays hydrated. Make sure the stand accommodates the full girth of the trunk, complete with bark. Do not remove bark to make the trunk small enough to fit your stand, as the outer layers of the trunk absorb more water than the inner layers. The right size stand will hold a quart of water for each inch of trunk diameter.
Situate your tree indoors to keep it as cool as possible and away from heat vents, fireplaces, and direct sunlight. Keep an eye on the water level, making sure the base of the tree is always submerged in the water.
It’s not unusual for a tree to drink up to gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours, and then one plus quarts a day. Keeping your Christmas tree hydrated will help it retain its fragrance and prevent the drying of branches and needles, which in turn keeps the needles and branches from dropping and drooping, respectively.
Don’t waste your time or money by adding anything to the water to preserve the tree. Additives, whether natural or synthetic, appear to be of no benefit in either retaining the tree’s freshness or preventing the water in the stand from evaporating.
Remove your tree from the house as soon as it appears to be dry. Check with local resources to find Christmas tree recycling locations. The Old Farmer’s Almanac webpage below has suggestions for recycling your tree at home if there is no community based recycling available.
Visit the sites below for additional information on keeping your tree fresh and safety tips.
(Image: Christmas tree farm © vlorzor – Fotolia.com)