How to Care for a Fresh, Cut Christmas Tree

Real, cut Christmas trees are easy to care for, but freshness is key. Knowing how to buy and care for a real Christmas tree ensures maximum enjoyment throughout the holiday. These tips from the National Christmas Tree Association will help you buy and care for your cut Christmas tree:

  • When you find a tree that you like, do a freshness test to make sure that it’s worthy to come home with you. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You shouldn’t see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and will occur over the lifetime of the tree.

  • After you've chosen your tree, keep it in a sheltered, unheated area, such as a porch or garage, to protect it from the wind and sun until you are ready to decorate it. If you won't be decorating it right away, place the tree in a bucket full of water that you refill as needed.

  • Just before you set up your tree, make a fresh, straight cut across the base of the trunk (about 1/2 inch up from the original cut) and place the tree in a tree stand that holds a gallon of water or more. If you don’t cut off some of the trunk, the tree won’t be able to absorb water, and it will dry out and become a fire hazard.

  • Make sure your tree stand will hold enough water for the size of your tree. Measure the diameter of your tree trunk inches — that's how many quarts of water your tree stand should be able to hold. (For example, if it measures 6 inches across, then you need 6 quarts of water.)

  • Keep the tree stand filled with water. A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump in four to six hours if the water drops below the base of the tree. If a seal does form, you’ll have to make another fresh cut, which is much harder to do when the tree’s decorated.

  • A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter. Water is important because it prevents the needles from drying and dropping off and the boughs from drooping. Water also keeps the tree fragrant.

  • For safety, keep your tree away from all heat sources, such as fireplaces, radiators, baseboard heat, portable heaters, television sets, and heat vents. Not only can all of these can make the tree dry out faster, but can also contribute to setting a tree on fire.

If you purchase a real Christmas tree, locate a recycling program in your area for when you need to get rid of it.

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