Tree Care

A Tree in Your Home

Each year more than a million Ohio families bring the beauty and fragrance of a real Christmas tree into their homes as part of the holiday celebration. If the tree is neglected, it can spoil the beauty of having a real Christmas tree at home. Taking care of a tree is similar to taking care of a dozen roses. Both need plenty of fresh water to keep them looking, and smelling, beautiful for weeks.

    1. Make a fresh cut across the base of the trunk about 1/2 to 1 inch from the bottom. When a tree is cut it will naturally form a seal of sap over its stump to keep moisture in the tree. You must break that seal to allow the tree to once again "drink" in the water needed to keep it fresh throughout the holidays.

    2. Put your tree in a water-holding stand immediately after you make the cut. If you are not ready to decorate the tree when you bring it home put it in a bucket of water within a couple of hours after the fresh cut has been made.

    3. Keep plenty of water in your stand. A Christmas tree may absorb a gallon of water in the first 24 hours it is up and may "drink" several quarts after that. If the trunk is allowed to be exposed to the air for six to 12 hours and go dry, a new cut will be required to permit it to once again absorb water.

    4. Position your tree away from heat sources, fireplaces and television sets.

    5. Be sure that all light cords and connections are in good working condition and are not frayed. Don't forget to unplug the lights when you go to bed or leave your home.

Setting Up and Caring for the Tree

The lower the temperature and the higher the humidity, the longer a cut Christmas tree will last. If possible, turn down the temperature or close (at least partially) the heat vents in the room where the tree is located. If you have a humidifier, set it as high as possible without causing condensation throughout the house. Some individuals who do not have whole-house humidifiers place a small portable humidifier in the room with the tree. Do not put the tree near sources of heat such as a fireplace, an open heat duct or radiator or in front of a window that receives the direct sunshine.

Consider using a tree disposal bag and place the bag around the base of the tree before it is put in the stand. A tree disposal bag is a large plastic bag that is pulled up over the entire tree at the end of the season to contain loose needles and branches as the tree is carried out of the house. To be effective, the tree bag must be placed around the base of the tree trunk before the tree is placed in the stand.

Place the tree in a stand that is large enough and strong enough to hold a tree of its size. Be sure that the tree stand will hold an adequate amount of water (most would suggest a one-gallon minimum; more for large trees) and that it is replenished daily.

Watering your real tree. Some people have seen TV or newspaper advertisements for products that you add to the water in your tree stand. Others have concocted their own mixtures with ingredients such as sugar, bleach, 7-Up, syrup or the ever-popular vodka. But what's the best thing to add? More water!

Dr. Gary Chastagner, a researcher at Washington State University, has been working with Christmas trees, and his findings suggest that your best bet is plain old tap water. It doesn't have to be distilled water or mineral water. So the next time someone tells you to add ketchup or something even more bizarre to your tree stand, don't believe it.

Taking Down the Tree

Research has shown that fresh-cut Christmas trees of the species commonly sold in Ohio should last at least four weeks before drying to an unacceptable level. A well-cared-for Christmas tree normally remains fresh for the entire holiday season. Some trees will last longer; others will dry out sooner. Take the tree down at the end of the season or when it has become too dry.

Disposing of the Tree

After the holiday season, a Christmas tree can be disposed of in a variety of ways.

    • Many communities have curbside pick-up or drop-off locations for recycling or disposing of Christmas trees.

    • Christmas trees can be chipped and used for mulch or composted.

    • Christmas trees can be set up in your yard or garden as a shelter or feeder for birds or other wildlife, by simply securing the tree in a standing position and hanging suet or other food in the foliage.

    • Christmas trees can be used as cover in fishponds. See the Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, "Placing Artificial Fish Attractors in Ponds and Reservoirs."