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Choosing and Caring For Your Tree
A cut Christmas tree will last the entire holiday season without becoming excessively dry or dropping an excessive amount of needles provided it is fresh when purchased and it is given the proper care. Obviously, the most effective way to ensure a fresh tree is to visit a choose-and-cut plantation and cut the tree yourself. For many families this has become a holiday tradition, with the family devoting most or all of a day to choosing the "perfect" tree while enjoying the scenery and other activities provided by the grower.
For those selecting their Christmas tree at a retail lot, somewhat more care is needed to ensure that the tree selected is fresh. The most effective way for a buyer to evaluate the freshness of a cut Christmas tree is by how firmly the needles are attached to the branches. The easiest way to evaluate this is to lightly grasp a branch of the tree and gently pull the branch and needles through your hand. If the tree is fresh, very few needles will come off.
Another way to evaluate needle fastness is to shake or bounce the tree on the bottom of its trunk and observe needle drop. Again, if only a few green needles drop, the tree is probably fresh. When evaluating freshness, do not be concerned if excessive amounts of brown needles fall. Remember, these are the needles that the tree sheds each year. Just make sure the tree is shaken before it is taken into your home.
Other methods of assessing the freshness of a Christmas tree, including needle flexibility, tree color, aroma, and the relative dryness of the bottom of the trunk, are far more difficult to evaluate and can many times be very misleading
If the tree is to be stored more than a couple of days, it is advisable to place its trunk in water. If the tree has been cut within the last six to eight hours, it will not need to be recut; longer than that and it should be recut. Cut straight across the trunk (not at an angle) removing an inch or more from the bottom of the trunk. Be sure the container holds enough water and replenish it often enough that the water does not fall below the level of the trunk bottom. If it does, the trunk will begin to seal, and water absorption will be reduced or cease. When this occurs, a fresh cut must be made to remove the sap seal. Cut Christmas trees will absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week. A tree with a two-inch diameter trunk may initially use two quarts of water per day; one with a four-inch diameter trunk may use more than four quarts per day.
Setting It Up and Taking Care of It
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 feasible 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 locate the tree near sources of heat such as a fireplace, an open heat duct, or a radiator, or in front of a window that receives the direct rays of the sun.
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 on a daily basis. Water is important because it prevents the needles from drying out, becoming brittle, and dropping off; the branches from drooping and then becoming brittle; and it keeps the tree fragrant. Again, remember that the tree will absorb a large quantity of water, particularly during the first week, and it is essential that the water level in the stand never go below the cut end of the trunk or a seal of dried sap will form (in as little as four to six hours), preventing the tree from absorbing water. If this happens, a fresh cut will need to be made to remove the sap seal, a cut that is often not feasible with a fully decorated tree.
Use only approved and carefully inspected electrical lights and extension cords when decorating a Christmas tree. Do not leave a lighted Christmas tree unattended.
Information from Ohio State University
Types of Christmas Trees Grown in The United States
Pine - dark green needles,
4 to 6 inches long; retains needles well.