Supplement to “Christmas Tree Traditions”
Most fresh-cut and living Christmas trees in Kentucky are purchased between Thanksgiving and two weeks before Christmas. Keeping those trees green and supple from decorating day to the last holiday party takes some doing. But, experts say, caring for a fresh-cut tree requires little more than common sense and some water.
Give it a drink: Nature has equipped trees with the ability to heal their cuts, so your fresh-cut tree will heal its stump on its own. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require a drink now and then. Don’t try to improve on nature, experts say—ordinary tap water is best.
“People always want to add Coke or 7-Up or even bleach to the water in the tree stand because they think it’s going to keep the tree fresher longer,” says Marla Jackson of Hutton and Loyd. “But the truth is, you can’t do any better than plain tap water.”
Once the tree is settled into its stand, fill the stand’s receptacle with enough tap water to immerse the cut end.
Keep it flexible: Properly hydrated fresh-cut trees have supple branches and soft needles. If branches become brittle and needles fall, chances are the tree is parched. Check the stand every few days or so to be sure the tree still has enough to drink. Refill the stand as necessary.
Living, or ball-and-burlap, trees require a bit more care if they’re going to successfully make the transition from the family room to the front yard after the holidays. That care begins even before the tree makes it into the house.
Keep it cool: Help living or ball-and-burlap trees make the transition from the farm to the family room by giving them time to acclimate to temperature changes. Avoid shocking living trees with radical temperature changes. Let them rest in a garage, basement, or other cool space for a few days before setting them in their temporary indoor home for the holidays.
“Then,” says Doug Edelen, owner of Creekside Farms, “only keep the tree indoors for a few days. After that, put it back in a very cool place to readjust it before you plant the tree outdoors—just reverse the process it went through when you brought it home.”
Avoid drowning: Like their fresh-cut counterparts, living trees need water. But too much too soon will damage their roots.
“The burlap is designed to retain moisture,” Marla Jackson says, “so don’t water the tree right away. You’ll drown it.”
Instead, she recommends watering the tree when it is placed in the room where it will spend the holidays. Even then, water only enough to keep the ball moist.
Placing rock in the bottom of a large container for the burlap tree will help steady the tree and also keep excess water away from the tree roots.
Go light on lights: Whether yours is a fresh-cut or a living tree, experts remind you to decorate with care. Use tiny lights instead of great big ones. Large lights create heat that can dry out branches and needles. Drying will shorten the tree’s freshness and festive appearance, and can create a fire hazard as well.
For more fresh or living Christmas tree care and decorating tips, log on to the National Christmas Tree Association’s Web site at www.realchristmastrees.org or visit the Kentucky Christmas Tree Association online at www.kychristmastrees.com.
To read the Kentucky Living December 2005 feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Christmas Tree Traditions