Caring for Live Christmas Trees
Let the “convenience-seekers” rely on their artificial trees. As far as we’re concerned, few things capture the spirit of the holiday – or, indeed, Life Out Here – like the smell of a live Christmas tree. And the best part is, keeping a tree healthy and robust through the season is far easier than many people think. All it takes is a little bit of upfront attention, and some ongoing mindfulness, not unlike keeping a simple vase of fresh flowers.
The first step is to make sure that you’re buying a healthy tree. It shouldn’t be losing vast quantities of needles, have brittle twigs, or have a musty smell to it. (One easy way to ensure you’re getting a vibrant, healthy tree is to buy it from your friendly neighborhood Tractor Supply!)
Once you have your Christmas tree home, the next step is to acclimate it before bringing it inside. Taking a freshly cut tree directly from a cooler outdoor environment into a warm home can cause unnecessary stress on it, which will cause it to dry out and lose needles prematurely. Instead, it’s better to put your tree in an unheated area – such as a garage, basement, or even an enclosed porch – for one to three days before bringing it inside.
Once you’re ready to bring it in, cut off a section of the trunk between 1/2 and 1 inch immediately prior to putting the tree in the stand. This is because dried sap will form a seal over the cut stump within just a few hours of cutting, limiting the water the tree can take in. Make sure not to cut too high – it should still fit securely in the tree stand without the lower tier of branches getting in the way.
After the tree is secured in the stand, the next step is not only the most critical, it's the one that needs to be closely monitored moving forward – making sure the stand is filled with water. A fresh tree can absorb as much as a gallon of water in the 24 hours after its cut, and more than a full quart every day after that, so making sure the water level is always as close to full as possible will help avoid needles from drying out and dropping off. (As an added bonus, keeping the Christmas tree well-watered also helps keep it smelling fragrant.)
Another key factor in determining the long-term health of your live tree is its location in the house. Not only should it be located away from any heat sources, (stoves, fireplaces, even heater vents), it should also be out of the flow of traffic – preferably in a corner, where it’s less likely to be knocked over, and where all the cords can be safely routed without being underfoot.
Speaking of cords, it’s important to use only UL-approved lighting and electrical cords on live holiday trees. Remember to check them thoroughly for any frays or damage before beginning to decorate.
Just remember to dispose properly of the tree once the festivities are finished. Never burn a Christmas tree in a fire place or wood stove, because not only can the sap in pine trees snap and flash, it can cause a chimney fire. Which is the last way anyone wants to spend their holiday! Check your community for scheduled tree pickups, or try turning your Christmas tree into mulch. Pine needles stay dry and decompose slowly, so they keep out mold and moisture really well. Bonus: They’re also great on the floor of your chicken coop or livestock enclosure! Whatever you do with your old tree, just please be sure to recycle or dispose of it properly and safely.
As long as you follow these simple tips, you should be able to enjoy all the benefits of a fresh, great-smelling live Christmas tree all through the holiday season.