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Water will keep Christmas tree green

Caring for a fresh-cut tree or live tree can be difficult during the holiday season, but it’s worth it, said Randy Heiligmann, Ohio State University Extension forestry specialist.

Monday, December 06, 1999

Caring for a fresh-cut tree or live tree can be difficult during the holiday season, but it’s worth it, said Randy Heiligmann, Ohio State University Extension forestry specialist.

If fresh when purchased and properly cared for, most Christmas tree varieties can last up to four weeks with little needle loss, he said.

The best way to guarantee a fresh tree is to go to a choose-and-cut tree farm and evaluate how firmly the needles are attached to the branches.

Then, once the tree is standing in the home, Heiligmann suggested the following care and decorating tips to keep cut trees fresh throughout the holidays:

– If possible, cover the tree with some type of tarp during transport to prevent it from drying out, particularly if it is going to be on top of your car.

– If you plan to leave the tree outdoors for a few days, place it in a bucket of water in a cool, sheltered location protected from sunlight and wind, such as an unheated garage or enclosed porch. This should be done within six to eight hours after it is cut.

– Before bringing the tree inside, cut about an inch off the bottom of the trunk, once again to ensure the base is not covered with sap and will absorb water easily. Cut straight across the trunk, not at an angle.

– Place the tree in a stand that holds 1 to 2 gallons of water. Christmas trees will continue to take up water; water prevents them from drying out and losing their needles and aroma.

– A good rule of thumb for watering trees both inside and outside the house is 1 quart of water per day per inch of trunk width. A tree with a 2-inch diameter trunk may initially use two quarts of water per day. One with a 4-inch diameter trunk will use more than four quarts per day.

– Don’t set the tree up in direct sunlight. If you want to put it next to a window, pull the shades during the day to keep sunlight from drying out the tree.

– Keep the tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators and registers. Heat sources dry the tree and cause needles to fall. Using a humidifier to increase humidity in your house and lowering room temperature also help the tree last longer.

– Check electric light sets for frayed and worn wiring. Don’t decorate trees with flammable materials or use damaged lighting. Use only approved and carefully inspected electrical lights and extension cords for decorating. Always unplug lights when away from home.

– Once the needles begin to dry, the tree should be removed from the house.

For more information on Christmas tree selection, care and disposal, contact your local office of Ohio State University Extension or view the fact sheet "Selecting and Caring for Your Cut Christmas Tree" on extension’s Ohioline website (http://ohioline.ag.ohio-state.edu).