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christmas tree tips: keeping it alive 

My family loves Christmas trees so much that our hearts jump when we see the first tree lots go up before Thanksgiving. 

And it's all we can do to keep ourselves from bringing it home the day they go on sale. 

In years past, we've actually put up the tree promptly on December 1. But we won't make that mistake again.

We've had too many Christmas mornings with the tree so dried out that we've been afraid to turn on the lights. Now we try to wait till at least three weeks before Christmas to get the tree. And we take it down on New Year's Day. 

As a result, we've become experts on prolonging Christmas tree life. It's our own little Christmas miracle. And we're delighted to share our Christmas tree tips with you.

When to Buy Your Holiday Centerpiece

Do as we say, not as we do (or did) - wait till two weeks before Christmas to get the tree (if you possibly can). If you can't - well, keep the vacuum cleaner handy. 

Is It Better to Buy a Pre-Cut Tree, or to Cut Your Own?

Is it better to buy a pre-cut tree (the ones in the lot) or to cut your own? Common sense tells you that trees are fresher if you march out to the Christmas tree farm and cut it yourself. 

With commercial lots, you never know how long it has been since the trees have been cut or how they've been handled since.

If you cut your own, go to a reputable grower who shapes his trees and irrigates his lot, especially if you live in a drought area. (We cut our tree during a drought not too long ago. Needless to say, that tree was DOA.)

Use the same freshness tests in the field that you would use in a commercial lot to test your Christmas tree before purchasing.

Just because the tree is still stuck in the ground doesn't mean it's not stressed. 

Which Type of Christmas Tree Lasts Longer?

Most species of Christmas tree hold up well if you buy them fresh, so choose what you like. Follow these steps to make a healthy and economical choice:

  • Check it out: The tree shouldn't look wilted or have brown needles. 
  • Bend the needles: If the tree is fresh, the needles will bend instead of break.
  • Shake the tree: It's natural for some needles to fall, but not too many.
  • Measure from the ceiling: Get a tree that's at least a foot shorter than the ceiling that will eventually be above it. Remember that the stand will add height. And since you pay by the foot, you don't want to trim that extra off at home.
  • Examine the tree trunk: The trunk should be straight so that it will fit in the stand. Also, the diameter of the trunk should fit easily into the tree stand. If you have to carve away bark to make it fit, the tree is just going to dry out even sooner. 

Longevity Prep for Christmas Trees

Once you've selected your tree, ask the attendant to cut one inch off the base at the lot. A fresh cut enables the tree to take up water. As soon as you get home, place the tree in a pail of water because the sap will seal the pores again in 4 to 6 hours.

If you aren't going to put the tree up right away, put it in a cool place protected from sun and wind. Just before you put the tree in the stand, cut another half-inch off the trunk.

How to Keep Your Tree From Drying Out

How do you care for your Christmas tree to keep it from drying out?

  • Location, location, location: Place the tree in an area that's away from all heat sources and the sun.
  • Plan Protection: Put plastic sheeting under the stand to protect the floor in case of spillage.
Christmas tree tips on indoor placement.Place your Christmas tree in a location that's away from all heat sources and sun.
  • Tree Hydration: Place the tree in a stand that holds at least a gallon of water and fill it with warm water to keep pitch from forming.
  • Be Vigilant: Check the water supply a couple of times a day - especially in the beginning when the tree can absorb a gallon a day. Check twice as often if you have pets who might consider the tree stand a new water bowl.
  • Caution: If you let the water level drop below the cut, sap will form, and you'll have to remove the tree and make a fresh cut. This is tricky if you've already decorated the tree. (But we've done that, too.)

As long as your tree is taking up water, it's OK. None of the additives such as aspirin, sugar, etc., really help much - just keep the water coming.

 Christmas Tree Tips for Fire Safety

  • Spray the tree with an antitranspirant that keeps water from evaporating from needles.
  • Use UL -approved lights.
  • Use miniature lights. They burn cooler.
  • Never leave a lighted Christmas tree unattended.

Follow these tips and hopefully, you'll have a Christmas tree that you can actually light and enjoy on Christmas morning.

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› Christmas Tree Tips