- Christmas Tree Care: Caring For A Live Christmas Tree In Your Home
- How to Keep a Christmas Tree Alive
- Cut Christmas Tree Care
- Live Christmas Tree Safety
- Living Christmas Tree Care
- The Right Way to Care for a Live Christmas Tree So It Stays Fresher for Longer
- Pick the Perfect Type of Christmas Tree
- Trim the Trunk
- How to Haul It Home
- Get the Right Kind of Tree Stand
- Set Up the Stand First
- Placement and Fire Safety Pointers
- Safe and Easy Lighting
- How Often (and How Much) to Water Your Tree
- Stay Sap-Free
- Takedown, Pick-Up, and Clean-Up
- 5 Tips to Keeping Your Christmas Tree Fresh Through December
- 1. Put the tree in water as soon as possible
- 2. Trim the trunk
- 3. Water, water, water (and maybe try additives)
- 4. Be cautious of heat sources including lights
- 5. Turn off the lights when leaving the room
- Caring for Your Cut Christmas Tree
- 10 Plus Stylish Christmas Tree Containers:
- Christmas Trees
- Christmas Tree Care
- How To Select A Christmas Tree
- Caring For Live (Potted) Christmas Trees
- How To Care For Your Christmas Tree
- How To Care for Live Christmas Trees
- Choose a Live Christmas Tree
- An Evergreen Tradition
- Shop for your tree
- Pick a Planting Spot
- Transport Your Tree
- Move the Tree Outside
- Live Christmas Tree Care
Christmas Tree Care: Caring For A Live Christmas Tree In Your Home
Caring for a live Christmas tree doesn’t have to be a stressful event. With proper care, you can enjoy a festive-looking tree throughout the Christmas season. Let’s look at how to keep a Christmas tree alive through the holidays.
How to Keep a Christmas Tree Alive
Keeping a Christmas tree alive and healthy throughout the holiday season is easier than one might think. It takes no more effort in caring for a live Christmas tree than it does a vase of cut flowers.
The most important aspect of live Christmas tree care is water. This is true for both cut trees and living (root ball intact) Christmas trees. Water will not only keep the tree alive but will also prevent safety issues associated with drying out. Location is another important consideration. Where the tree is placed in the home determines its longevity.
Cut Christmas Tree Care
Fresh cut trees will last longer by practicing a few simple guidelines. First, you should acclimate the tree before bringing it directly into your home. Going from one extreme to another, such as a cold outdoor environment to the heated indoors, can cause stress on the tree, resulting in dryness and the premature loss of needles. Therefore, it’s better to set the tree in an unheated area, like the garage or basement, for about a day or two before bringing it inside.
Next, you should recut the tree about an inch or so above the base. This will help the Christmas tree absorb water more readily.
Finally, make certain the Christmas tree is placed in a suitable stand with plenty of water. Depending on the size, species, and location of your Christmas tree, it may require up to a gallon or more of water within the first few days in the home.
Live Christmas Tree Safety
Whether caring for a live cut tree or a living one, preventing dryness is key to live Christmas tree safety. Therefore, it’s important to keep the tree watered thoroughly and check water levels daily. A well-watered Christmas tree doesn’t pose any fire risks. Additionally, the tree shouldn’t be located near any heat sources (fireplace, heater, stove, etc.), which will cause drying.
It is also a good idea to keep the tree located where it is less likely to be knocked over, such as in a corner or other seldom travelled area. Make sure all the lights and electrical cords are in suitable working condition as well and remember to turn them off when going to bed at night or leaving for long periods.
Living Christmas Tree Care
Small living Christmas trees are generally kept in a container with soil and treated much like a potted plant. They can be replanted outdoors in spring. The larger living Christmas trees, however, are generally placed in a Christmas tree stand or other suitable container. The root ball should be moistened well and kept this way, watering as needed. The most important consideration with living trees is their length of stay within the home. These trees should never be kept indoors for more than ten days.
The Right Way to Care for a Live Christmas Tree So It Stays Fresher for Longer
It takes a little effort and some TLC to get a Christmas tree looking ready for guests and photos—but it’s worth every ounce of water (and every scattered pine needle) to keep a live Christmas tree fresh and vibrant through the holidays. From how to choose the right stand to how often to water a Christmas tree, here’s how to care for a live tree that lasts all season
Pick the Perfect Type of Christmas Tree
Your local Christmas tree lots, farm, or nursery may sell only a couple of tree varieties, but if you have a broad choice, go for “true firs,” like noble, Fraser, Nordmann, and Turkish, because they’ll last longest (four to six weeks). Trees with the second-longest life span include Douglas fir, Scotch pine, balsam, and grand fir. Spruce trees last only two or three weeks. If you can, shop where cut trees are kept under shady tents or wrapped in burlap—not open to full sun, where they can dry out.
Trim the Trunk
Just as flowers need a fresh cut before being placed in a vase, Christmas tree trunks need a trim in order to help them absorb water. “You’ll want to make a fresh cut to remove about a half-inch-thick disk of wood from the base of the tree trunk before putting it in the stand,” says Marsha Grey, the executive director of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board. “You can even ask the tree lot, farm, or store to help you with this task before you take it home.”
How to Haul It Home
After the seller cuts the trunk for you, place the tree on the car roof with the bottom facing forward to minimize needle loss. Get the tree in water within four to six hours of a fresh cut. If you’re not putting it up right away, set your tree in a bucket of water in a cool, dark place, like the garage. Ideally you should get your tree in water “as soon as you get it home, and check the water daily to make sure the level doesn’t go below the base of the trunk,” Grey says.
Get the Right Kind of Tree Stand
It’s best to use a metal Christmas tree stand, since plastic ones will break over time. As for size, Grey recommends a tree stand that provides one quart of water per one inch of trunk diameter. This will ensure it holds enough water to keep your tree hydrated.
Set Up the Stand First
Before you bring your tree inside, but while the netting is still on, place it in its stand to minimize the mess in your living room. Tighten the bolts about 75 percent, bring the tree in, set it in place, and finish securing. Finally, fill it with water.
Placement and Fire Safety Pointers
It matters where you put your live Christmas tree—not just for looks, but for safety and convenience, too. If you can, keep your tree away from too much direct sunlight or heat exposure, which can dry it out more quickly. And while it’s consoling to remember that trees don’t technically start fires, here are some of Grey’s top tips for avoiding an accident:
- Keep your tree away from major sources of heat (radiators, fire places, lamps, stovetops)
- Inspect your light sets for wear and tear before using on the tree
- Don’t overload electrical circuits
- Always turn off your tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed
“As long as you’re keeping the water level consistent and turning off the lights when you go to bed, your tree will stay safe and well hydrated,” reassures Grey.
Safe and Easy Lighting
The most efficient way to put on and remove Christmas lights is to start at the bottom and continuously weave Christmas lights up toward the top of the tree and back down to the base. LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy than traditional lights and last a whopping 25 times longer. Some people still prefer the glow of old-school varieties, but if you’re ready to make the money-saving change, try Invisilites (like the Warm White 96 LED Invisilite; $28, 1000bulbs.com), tiny bulbs on a wire so thin, it disappears into the tree.
How Often (and How Much) to Water Your Tree
You already know that you should keep a tree away from heat sources (vents, fireplaces, wood stoves), both for fire safety and staying power, but you may not know that a tree needs about a gallon of water every day. Check the water level daily and take note: The trunk’s cut surface should never be exposed to air. Plain tap water is best, so skip the chemicals and the homespun add-ins. Your best bet is to make a habit of it (think: Check in the morning while the coffee’s brewing or every night before heading up to bed).
Christmas tree care takes a lot of hands-on, up-close-and-personal work, so you may get sticky tree sap on your hands along the way. Grey recommends simply using hand sanitizer to remove it. You can also try baby or olive oil, which help remove sap while moisturizing the skin.
Takedown, Pick-Up, and Clean-Up
“Growing, using, and recycling real Christmas trees is actually good for the environment,” says Grey. “Real trees are biodegradable, which means you can check with your local department of public works for information about tree recycling and mulching programs. Many cities and some civic organization also offer curbside tree pick-up in the two weeks following Christmas.” Want to take more of a hands-on approach? Consider chopping up your tree and recycling it in your yard waste container, or repurposing as DIY garden mulch.
When tree pick-up day arrives, ladle water out of the stand and use a turkey baster for those last drops. Place a plastic tree bag under the tree skirt as an easier exit strategy. (Try the Christmas-tree removal bag; $5, bronners.com.) When the tree is finally out of the house, sweep up left-behind needles rather than vacuuming, since they can clog the machine.
RELATED: 18 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Christmas Tree This Season
- By Nicole Sforza
- By Maggie Seaver
5 Tips to Keeping Your Christmas Tree Fresh Through December
Real Christmas trees make for a beautiful and traditional holiday decoration. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 25.9 million real trees at a value of $1.32 billion were purchased by people for Christmas in 2015, which is more than double the fake trees (12.5 million) purchased. However, to keep your real tree fresh during the holiday season does require providing your tree with some persistent care (and a good solid base).
1. Put the tree in water as soon as possible
Remember: You’re bringing home a live plant. If you want to keep it fresh, it needs to have adequate water. “Water is the absolute most important thing you can do to preserve your tree for Christmas,” says Jane Neubauer, co-owner of Sugar Pines Farm in Chesterland, OH. “Get a tree stand with a built-in reservoir and check it regularly. People don’t always realize how much water their Christmas trees will drink up. You’ll need to replenish the water regularly.” You can buy additives to help water absorption and kill bacteria, but they aren’t as necessary as keeping the tree well-watered.
DON’T MISS: Here’s What You Need to Know About Choosing and Caring for a Christmas Tree
2. Trim the trunk
When trees are first cut, sap rushes to close the wound and will seal the bottom. “When that happens, the tree isn’t as able to absorb water,” Neubauer says. “Add a fresh cut at the bottom right before you place it in water, and try to put up your Christmas tree the same day you bring it home.” Using a saw, trim half an inch off the trunk before placing it in water in a reservoir stand. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, you’ll want to make the cut at a perpendicular to the axis of the stem and avoid cutting the trunk at an angle or in a V-shape because it will make it harder to keep the tree upright in the stand. If you have to store the tree for a few days, Neubauer advises keeping the tree in a cool place with water. But it’s best to set your tree as soon as possible.
3. Water, water, water (and maybe try additives)
Check the stand daily for water levels – as a general rule, you should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Despite popular belief, drilling a hole in the bottom of the trunk and the water temperature does not affect the longevity or water retention of the tree. There is some debate among experts as to whether additives such as corn syrup, aspirin, and sugar, are necessary to enhance the longevity of a tree. And while they aren’t likely to harm the tree, a recent study affirmed that they were not anymore effective than clean water. That isn’t to say you should avoid experimenting!
4. Be cautious of heat sources including lights
Direct sunlight or the furnace will quickly dry out the tree. “Your tree will become dry and brittle if it’s too close to a heat source,” says Naubauer. “Place the tree some place where it isn’t facing direct heat, and that will help your tree not to dry out too fast.” Smaller lights on the tree might also help to slow the drying out process, but you can still do large lights if you keep up on watering the tree. You can also lower the temperature in the room where the tree is located to slow down the drying process. If your tree does dry out, though, you will need to remove it from the house and recycle it. Do not burn the tree in the fireplace or wood stove.
5. Turn off the lights when leaving the room
Lights can become very hot and cause a fire hazard if left on the tree unmonitored for hours at a time. Play it safe and turn off the lights if you’re not going to be around to monitor the tree. You also need to make sure that all of your bulbs are in good condition and that the cords for the lights are not worn or frayed. Real trees can catch fire, so follow general fire safety tips when keeping a real Christmas tree indoors. Turning off the lights occasionally will also slow down the drying out process.
And if you want to know more about choosing the perfect Christmas tree, just ask Martha:
- By Roxanna Coldiron
Caring for Your Cut Christmas Tree
By Rick Bates
Department of Horticulture, Penn State
The key to maintaining your live Christmas tree throughout the holiday season is to give it the proper care from the time it is purchased until the tree is removed from your home. Maintaining a high moisture level in the tree is the single most important factor in reducing needle loss and keeping the tree fresh. This is accomplished primarily through the use of water-holding stands and maintaining the water level in the stand above the base of the tree. Every year there are many articles written concerning the handling and care of Christmas trees. Unfortunately, they often contain erroneous information.
The following research-based guidelines will help you to maintain the freshness and aroma of your live Christmas tree this holiday season.
1. Use a tree stand with an adequate water-holding capacity. A tree stand should have a water basin that provides 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. 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.
2. The tree stand should fit your tree. Some stands have circular rings at the top, so the ring must be large enough for the trunk to go through the hole. Avoid whittling down the sides of the trunk to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
3. If the tree is to be stored more than a couple days before display, it is advisable to place its trunk in water and store it in a cool, shaded and protected area such as an unheated garage.
4. If the tree has been cut within the past 12 hours, it will not be necessary to recut the trunk prior to display indoors. If it has been longer than 12 hours since harvest, the trunk should be recut to improve water uptake.
5. Cutting off a disk of wood about ¼” thick from the base of the trunk is all that is necessary before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree.
6. Keep displayed trees away from sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
7. The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.
8. Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water.
9 Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not improve water uptake.
10. The use of “I-V” type devices to supply water directly to holes drilled into the sides of the tree trunk is not as effective as displaying the tree in a more traditional, water-holding tree stands.
11. Applying anti-transpirants to the tree does not have a significant effect on the rate of moisture loss. These products are marketed as a way to block evaporation from the foliage surface, but in reality they have little effect on a cut tree displayed indoors.
12. Adding water-holding gels to the stand is not beneficial and they can reduce the amount of water in the stand that is available to the tree.
13. Do not use additives in the water, including floral preservatives, commercial tree preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin, honey, and other concoctions. Clean water is all that is needed to maintain freshness.
14. Displaying trees in water with proper care is much more effective in reducing fire hazards than spraying trees with flame retardants. Some flame retardants can damage needles and actually increase the rate of moisture loss from trees.
15. Monitor your tree for dryness. Run your fingers across the needles to determine if they are dry and brittle. If the needles break easily or fall off in your hand, the tree is dry and should be remove from the house. A well-cared-for tree should normally remain fresh at least three to four weeks before drying to an unacceptable level.
10 Plus DIY Christmas Tree Containers – see these beautiful, do it yourself holiday tree crates, baskets and stands!
Christmas is coming! This year I’m going to skip the Christmas tree skirt and put my holiday tree in a fun, unique container! Here are a few Stylish DIY Christmas Tree Container ideas I collected for inspiration!
These DIY holiday tree containers vary from baskets, to buckets, pails to crates and the sparkliest one of all is one made out of mirrors!
All of these ideas are a great way to cover up that ugly tree stand and add some stylish decor too!
10 Plus Stylish Christmas Tree Containers:
Mirrored DIY Christmas Tree Stand from At the Picket Fence.
This glam container is stunning! I love the sparkle!
DIY Tree Crate from The Turqouise Home
This simple, rustic crate is perfect for farmhouse and traditional home…and perfect for the cottage or lodge!
DIY Basket Christmas Tree Container from Refresh Restyle
Absolutely stunning! I love the texture of this basket container!
Basket Christmas Tree Skirt from Unskinny Boppy
This metal and fabric basket is so elegant!
Steel bucket Christmas Tree Container from A Diamond in the Stuff.
I love the steel fabrication with the classic ring detail!
Suitcase Tree Stand from DIY Showoff
The perfect way to display vintage suitcases you can find at thrift stores!
Metal Tub Christmas Tree Container from Country Living
This gray metal tub looks beautiful with all the neutral colors and black and white ornaments!
North Pole Crate from Tatertots and Jello
This is so fun and I love the pom pom trim!
Planter Tree Stand from Perfectly Imperfect
A wooden planter with x molding detail makes a gorgeous tree container! Pick one up on sale at the end of summer!
Picture Frame Christmas Tree Container from In My Own Style
This is so creative! I love how it can be customized with wintery pictures, family pics or travel pics!
Wine Barrel Christmas Tree Stand from Centsational Girl
I love how the colors of this wine barrel pair with festive holiday red!
More Christmas Decor Ideas:
- The Perfect Christmas Tree For Your Space
- How To Set Up A Flocked Christmas Tree To Minimize Flock Shedding
- Flocked Christmas Tree – White and Gold Glam Style
- Elegant Gold and White Christmas Kitchen Decor Ideas
- Welcoming Christmas Entryway Decor Ideas
Get FREE Decor Tips & Home Inspiration!
The Central Coast Flower Hut is a family owned business run by theMichael Dominello and family. The Central Coast Flower Hut has been situated and selling Christmas trees on the Central Coast for over 35years.
Christmas tree type and background:
Our Christmas trees are purchased from the trusted and renowned Merlino Monterey Pine farms in Oberon. During the early weeks in December, and right up until Christmas Eve, Christmas trees are brought from the three Merlino Monterey Pine farms in Oberon.
These plantations in Oberon produce excellent quality Monterey Pines. The pines offer straightness and uniformity which lends well to their use as the most perfect Christmas tree.
The Monterey pine tree also known as Pinus radiata is a versatile, fast-growing, medium-density softwood, suitable for a wide range of end-uses and makes especially good Christmas trees.
Cut Christmas trees:
- The Christmas Trees are freshly shaped and cut Monterey Pine Christmas Trees.
- The Christmas Trees are grown in Oberon and are cut directly from the ground and will last up to 4 weeks, keep in water to live longer.
- The Christmas trees are available in a variety of sizes and come in small (5ft), medium (6ft) and large (7ft) . Extra large (9ft) is also available if pre-ordered *LIMITED STOCK AVAILABLE.
Christmas trees in pots:
Monterey Pine Potted Christmas Trees are grown and will continue to live in the pot. The potted trees need to be watered regularly and re-potted in a larger pot every two years. Alternatively the tree can be planted in the ground.
The Christmas trees pots are available in a variety of sizes and come in small, medium and large.
A Christmas tree stand is designed to support your cut Christmas tree and have a trough to hold water and nourish your Christmas tree so that it does not dry out. Christmas stands are great to use because they have : An extra wide base to stabilise your cut Christmas tree. Centering blades (screws) for alignment of your Christmas tree. Overflow trough to hold water.
Christmas Tree Care
The following articles explain how to select a Christmas tree, either cut or potted, and how to care for it. Below, you can download and print a PDF version of each article.
How To Select A Christmas Tree
A few simple procedures can make the selection of a fresh, real Christmas tree easier:
1. Determine where in your home you will display your tree. With this in mind, you will be able to tell how tall a tree you will need and whether all four sides must be suitable for display.
2. Freshness is an important key when selecting your tree. The needles should be resilient. Take hold of a branch about six inches from the tip, between thumb and forefinger. Pull your hand toward you allowing the branch to slip through your fingers. Needles should adhere to the branch and not fall off in your hand.
3. Bend a needle between your forefinger and thumb. The needle should form a “U” without breaking unless the tree is frozen.
4. Lift the tree a couple of inches off the ground, then bring it down abruptly on the stump end. Older outside needles should not fall in substantial numbers. (Inside needles shed naturally every year).
5. The tree should have a fragrance and a good green colour.
6. A fresh tree will retain its moisture content and thereby keep its fragrance and needles if kept in a stand that has good water-holding capacity.
Some people keep the memory of their Christmas alive by buying trees that come with their roots wrapped in a ball of soil and burlap. After the festive season is over, live trees can be planted outside where they will remain beautiful for years to come. There are some drawbacks to choosing a live tree however. They cost much more and are difficult to handle because the ball of soil is very heavy, weighing as much as 68 kilograms. Most importantly, live Christmas trees must receive special care over the holiday season or they will die.
Caring For Live (Potted) Christmas Trees
Here are some tips, recommended by the Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario, on choosing and looking after a live tree:
1. When choosing a live tree, the final location in your yard must influence the type you select. Most species like a sheltered area out of the wind while they are young, but all enjoy lots of sunlight. Soil types and the local environment influence which species of evergreen will grow best in your garden. Check with a reliable tree nursery or a government forester to find out which species will do well in your area.
2. Make sure that the root ball around the base of the tree is securely bound and that the dirt around it is tightly packed. If the roots have become detached from the soil ball, the tree will not grow well. Always carry the tree by the root ball, not the trunk.
3. Water the root ball as soon as you get the tree home. Let the excess water drain off for at least a full day before wrapping it in plastic to preserve moisture. The plastic will also protect your household floors. The root ball should be kept damp, but not soaking wet. Make sure the tree receives adequate water.
4. The tree should be stored in an unheated and sheltered area such as a garage or porch, out of the wind and sun. Do not expose the root ball to repetitive freezing and thawing.
5. Ten days is the maximum time that a live tree should spend in a heated house. If they stay inside any longer, they will become too accustomed to being in the warmth and will not be able to withstand the harsh cold outside again. Don’t move the tree abruptly between temperature extremes either taking it into the house or back out.
6. The tree may be decorated, but with care. If lights are used, make sure that they give off as little heat as possible. Twinkle lights are best.
How To Care For Your Christmas Tree
Remember, a Christmas tree is a living thing, look after it as carefully as you would a cut flower. Once you select a Christmas tree, follow these suggestions to keep it fresh and safe:
1. If you buy your tree several days before you plan to set it up, store the tree outdoors or on a cool porch or patio until you are ready to decorate. An area that provides protection from the wind and sun will help the tree retain its moisture.
2. If you plan to store the tree for several days, make a straight cut across the butt end of the tree about one inch from the end. This opens the tree stem so it can take up water. Store the tree upright and place the butt end in a container of water.
3. When you bring the tree into the house for decorating, make another fresh cut across the trunk about an inch from the original cut. Use a tree stand that holds plenty of water.
4. Trees are thirsty. They may drink up to four litres of water per day, so be sure to check daily and supply fresh water as needed. A stand which holds at least four litres of water is recommended. If you allow the water level to drop below the bottom of the tree, a seal will form just as it does on a cut flower, and a new cut will be necessary.
5. Place your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, television sets and other sources of heat. Turn off the tree lights when you leave and before you retire at night.
6. Avoid the use of combustible decorations. Check all electric lights and connections. Do not use lights with worn or frayed cords and N-E-V-E-R use lighted candles on a Christmas tree.
Following these care and precaution measures should ensure an attractive tree that stays fresh indoors for two to three weeks. Please also refer to the section on holiday safety tips.
How To Care for Live Christmas Trees
Check for Freshness
When you’re buying a precut live tree, follow these steps to conduct a freshness inspection:
- Check the color. Color should be rich green without a gray or brown tinge. Exceptions include Colorado blue spruce or juniper – which both have a bluish tinge – and the Southeast’s favorite, Leyland cypress – which has a greenish-gray tint.
- Take a sniff. A fresh tree should have a pleasant smell and remind you of Christmas.
- Grab a branch. Using your thumb and forefinger, hold a branch about 6 inches from the tip. Pull toward you. Fresh needles should spring up behind your fingers and remain attached to the branch.
- Pinch a needle. Fresh needles bend; dry ones break.
- Bump the trunk. Lift the tree and thump the trunk against the ground. Watch for falling needles. If a few drop, that’s fine. Evergreens tend to shed some in autumn, and these needles are often caught on branches.
At home, until it’s time to decorate, store your tree in an outdoor location protected from freezing temperatures. A shed, porch, or unheated garage works great.
Make the Cut
Before placing your tree in the stand, remove ½ inch from the trunk base. Making a fresh cut is vital because after three to six hours of being exposed to air, a sap layer forms that prevents water absorption. Make a straight cut. Do not cut at an angle or to form a point. These cuts don’t enhance water uptake and can make it more difficult to secure the tree in your stand.
Tree Stand Tips
- Avoid using a too-small stand. In general, a tree needs 1 quart of water per day per inch of trunk diameter. For a 4-inch trunk, use a tree stand that holds a minimum of 4 quarts (1 gallon) of water.
- Some sources suggest various solutions to enhance water uptake. The National Christmas Tree Association and Cooperative Extension Service recommend using plain tap water.
- Expect precut trees to absorb up to one gallon of water in the first 24 hours in the stand.
- Keep water above the cut end of the trunk to prevent accidentally exposing it to air.
- If your tree doesn’t absorb water, grab a branch to check needles for freshness. Measure a tree’s dryness based on the tree itself, not the amount of water in the tree stand. If you cut your own tree (or had it cut for you), it won’t absorb water right away because it’s fresh from the forest.
- Real trees don’t present a strong fire hazard. Less than 0.0004 percent of live trees used each year ignite in home fires.
Which Tree Lasts Longest?
Different trees retain needles longer than others. Firs and pines hold onto needles longest. Spruces are not as famous for needle retention. Of all spruces, white spruce holds needles longest.
Choose a Live Christmas Tree
Take it from TOH’s Roger Cook: It may require more muscle to cart a live tree into the house, but it will be fresher and more fragrant than a cut one—not to mention longer-lasting and more fragrant, once planted outside.
Photo by Keller & Keller
An Evergreen Tradition
Decorating the family Christmas tree is among Claire Younker Moe’s fondest childhood memories. But as an adult, the tradition held less allure. “It’s not that I’m ‘Bah, humbug,'” Claire says. “I just can’t get into spending all that money on a dead tree.” Many years she went without. But then she had a son and felt guilty about denying him such memories of his own. So Claire and her husband devised a new seasonal strategy: They buy a live tree to trim indoors, and after the ornaments are packed away they plant it on their three acres on Bainbridge Island, Washington. “It’s an old farm,” Claire says, “so trees are limited. This way, we are helping re-tree the property. And we’ll have it for years to come.”
For starting or continuing a family tradition, a live tree offers a distinct advantage over the cut variety. “You can look at it every year and think, ‘Remember when we did that?'” says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook. “It’s fun for kids because you can point to it and say, ‘That’s your tree.’ You can’t do that when the tree’s ground into wood chips.”
A live tree offers practical benefits, too. It is fresher, so it’s more fragrant. It’s not as tippy as a cut tree in a stand (though it can take time to level the root ball in a container). And in later years, the planted tree can extend holiday cheer outdoors when strung with all-weather lights or edible garlands for birds to nibble.
Live trees do come with limitations, though. They can cost twice as much as cut ones. If you like decorating long before Christmas, the tree can’t be central to your scheme because it won’t weather much more than a week indoors. It requires more muscle to get in and out of the house—a 6-footer with its root ball can weigh up to 250 pounds. And if you live in a region that experiences a hard freeze in winter, you’ll need to plan ahead so you have a place to plant the tree after the holidays.
But these are all minor inconveniences when you consider that once the tree is in the ground, it adds value to your landscape and serves as a reminder of your family’s yuletide fun. Read on to learn what to do now, come Christmas, and after the holidays with help from Roger Cook.
One of Roger’s top live-tree picks for the Northeast is a Fraser fir, because the native tree has good needle, retention, a nice aroma, and a striking bluish-silver color on the underside of the branches
Photo by Keller & Keller
Shop for your tree
To get the best selection, head to the nursery around Thanksgiving—well ahead of the late-December rush. Most nurseries will tag your specimen and hold it for you until it’s time to bring it home. To figure out how big a tree you can handle, measure the ceiling height in the room where you plan to put it. Factor in the size of the tree plus its root ball, as well as the height of an ornament on top and whether the container sits off the ground. Also, check the tree’s projected growth to make sure it won’t get too big for the space you’re considering in your yard.
To ensure that your planted tree thrives long past the holidays, choose a species suited to your climate. Your local nursery will give the best advice, since growing conditions vary even within regions. One of Roger’s top picks for the Northeast is a Fraser fir (like the one shown here), because the native tree has good needle retention, a nice aroma, and a striking bluish-silver color on the underside of the branches. Native species in other regions include Douglas fir in the Northwest, Arizona cypress in the Southwest, and Virginia pine down South. Compare conifers with a natural shape with denser ones that are pruned to look like the Christmas trees you see on greeting cards. Look at the tree from several angles to check for bald spots and crooks in the trunk. Then, run your hands over the needles. If some brown ones near the trunk drop, that’s fine. “Evergreens naturally shed needles in the fall,” says Roger. But if those on the ends of the branches fall off, pick another tree. “This can be a sign of disease, insect damage, or that it’s dried out.”
Roger digs the planting hole. In the frozen Northeast, Roger shovels the soil onto a tarp and backfills the hole with leaves to insulate its earthen walls.
Photo by Keller & Keller
Pick a Planting Spot
A well-sited tree can provide privacy from close-by neighbors or help screen against winter winds. Roger chose a spot near the driveway for this tree so it could help shield views of parked cars from the front entry. Since most conifers favor sun, you’ll want to pick a bright area, but be mindful of the tree’s proximity to other plantings. A white spruce, for example, can grow to more than 90 feet, shading nearby shrubs and flowers. Allow a buffer zone of several feet between the tree’s size at maturity and the house and surrounding hardscape elements, as limbs could one day brush against rooftops and roots could push up pavers.
Prep the Hole
Because most live trees are field-grown, with roots and soil wrapped in burlap, dig a hole that’s between 9 and 12 inches deep—the typical height of the root ball. Any deeper, and loosened soil can compact and cause the tree to sink. The diameter of the hole should be about 4 feet, or at least twice that of the ball, so roots can easily spread. In the frozen Northeast, Roger shovels the soil onto a tarp and backfills the hole with leaves to insulate its earthen walls. He then covers the hole with the soil-topped tarp, and lays a second tarp on top. More insulating—and tarp-hiding—leaves cap the “soil sandwich.” If your area doesn’t experience a hard freeze, simply excavate after the holidays, following the same guidelines for digging the hole.
Before bringing the tree inside, Roger sprays it with a natural antidesiccant, such as one made from pine resin, to minimize moister loss through the needles.
Photo by Keller & Keller
Transport Your Tree
When you pick up the tree from the nursery, grab the nylon strings tied around the burlap-wrapped root ball, or hold on to the ball itself to hoist it into your vehicle. Just don’t lift it by the trunk, which can cause the roots to tear away from the tree. To keep branches from breaking on the road, wrap them loosely with twine. Once the tree is safely on the ground outside the house, remove the protective covering and shake the branches so loose needles fall. Then spray the tree with a natural antidesiccant, such as one made from pine resin, to minimize moisture loss through the needles.
Put it in a Container
An inexpensive plastic pot works fine, but it’s not much to look at; a wicker laundry basket or galvanized-steel washtub lends a little more character. Whatever style you choose, make sure the container is waterproof, or fitted with a liner to prevent leaks, and that it’s just slightly larger than the root ball, as a snug fit will help maintain proper moisture levels. To waterproof the wooden crate used here, Roger stapled two layers of thick plastic sheeting inside. Then, with the root ball still wrapped in burlap, he set the tree in the crate and filled gaps around the ball with wood chips to level and steady the tree.
Cart it Inside
To move the potted tree, pivot and scoot the container onto a hand truck. Once inside the house, Roger suggests switching to an improvised sled: an upside-down carpet remnant. The pile slides easily over hardwood floors, prevents scratches, and can be left in place under the container.
Position the tree near a window, where it will stay cooler, and away from heat sources like a fireplace or HVAC vents. It’s also a good idea to avoid decorating with large lights, which give off a lot of heat; strings of tiny twinklers or LEDs are a better choice. The tree will need water daily, which it’ll absorb through the burlap. The roots must stay moist but should not be in standing water. When in doubt, poke a finger into the soil to test for moisture.
To waterproof the tree’s wooden container, Roger staples two layers of thick plastic sheeting inside.
Photo by Keller & Keller
Move the Tree Outside
Your tree’s total indoor stay should be no more than 10 days. Any longer and the house’s warm, dry air will fool it into thinking spring has sprung, and it will put out new growth. Those tender shoots will die back in wintry conditions, stunting the tree’s future development. In cold-weather regions, transition the tree to the outdoors by moving it into a cool shed or garage for a day or two to give it time to acclimate. In balmier climates, you can move the tree directly to the hole.
With the tree in the hole, remove the nylon strings that truss its root ball. Then cut away as much of the surrounding burlap as you can to prevent the material from wicking up water and causing the roots to dry out. Fill in around the base using the stockpiled soil until earth covers the trunk up to the same point it did originally in the field. “You can see this mark by looking for color changes on the bark,” says Roger. Water well, spray the needles once more with antidessicant, and cap the soil with a 3-inch layer of insulating mulch. To help the tree establish itself in its new environs, Roger recommends regular irrigation over the next few years during the growing seasons, adding, “With just a little follow-up care, your tree should last for many Christmases to come.”
It’s hard to imagine a world without Amazon. After all, it’s become a one-stop and seemingly endless shop for almost everything one could possibly need.
Including … Christmas trees. Now, the online megastore is upping the holiday ante and adding real, full-size Christmas trees to it’s offering, just in time for this upcoming holiday season. Yes, a live Christmas tree delivery service.
Starting Monday, Nov. 19th, consumers are able to purchase Fraser firs and Norfolk Island pines. They’ll ship within 10 days of being cut and arrive in a box on your selected delivery date — similar to your typical Amazon experience, but much, much bigger.
“Given the popularity among customers, we increased the assortment,” the company said, in reference to last year (when they offered smaller, 3-foot options).
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A 7-foot Fraser fir will set you back about $110, while holiday plants and wreaths will cost around $25 to $50.
Hallmark Real Fraser Fir Christmas Tree, $110, Amazon
Hallmark Real Christmas Wreath, $50, Amazon
You can even get a bundle that allows you to automatically power your lights on and off via voice control.
Hallmark Real Fraser Fir w/ Echo Dot and Smart Plug Bundle, $188, Amazon
We can’t say whether or not this will take the fun out of holiday traditions — like a family outing spent handpicking the perfect green for family gatherings — but it will leave some extra time for all that gift wrapping!
Finding the perfect present can be a challenge, but Shop TODAY’s up to the task. No matter who you’re looking for, we’ve got gift guides for everyone on your list, including:
- Gifts for every woman you know
- Gifts for every guy you know
- Hostess gifts under $25
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Live Christmas Tree Care
- Leave your tree outside as long as possible before you bring in to decorate. While it is outside, make sure you keep it moist and out of direct hot sunlight.
- Do not set the tree near a heat source such as a fireplace or heater vent. You can set the pot inside a larger container or tray to protect your floor from water damage. You can even water with ice cubes which will also help keep it cooler.
- After Christmas Day, put your tree back outside. It will need time to acclimate before you plant it. Put it back in a place where it will be out of direct sunlight and keep the pot moist.
- Pre-dig your hole. The hole should be twice as wide and not quite as deep as the root ball size. You can amend the existing soil with 30% compost. Cut away the burlap from the trunk and top of root ball.
- Water your tree and keep an eye on it. If you do not get a lot of rain, you will want to regularly water your tree to help the roots grow, until the tree establishes itself, and you can enjoy it for years to come.