Real Christmas trees are a magical part of the holiday season and can be a beautiful ornament to your home, but they do take a little extra effort to maintain. If not properly maintained, your tree can turn into a dried-out mess of shed needles and waning fragrance.
Using these Christmas tree care tips will reduce that annoying needle shedding and help extend your tree’s life and lovely scent:
1. Make sure you have a fresh tree to begin with.
To be sure you’re buying a fresh tree, the National Christmas Tree Association recommends doing a ‘branch/needle test’: “Run a branch through your enclosed hand—the needles should not come off easily,” the NCTA says. “Bend the outer branches—they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.”
2. Store it outside before installation.
You should store your tree outside while waiting to put it up in your home to ensure it holds moisture.
3. Use the right amount of water.
Water is the best gift you can give your Christmas tree. It can absorb up to a gallon of water a day in the first few days and needs to be kept well hydrated. Make sure it is placed in a tree stand made for fresh cut trees where you can place water. A traditional reservoir stand is the way to go, says the NCTA. Be sure to place the tree in water as soon as you get it home, and as a rule of thumb, you should use 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Check the water levels daily to ensure the trunk is still fully submerged. The temperature of the water is not important.
4. Be sweet.
A mixture of one cup of 7-Up and four cups of water is a great to keep your tree hydrated. The Cork News says the combination provides nutrients that will keep the tree at its healthiest — sugar and citric acid.
5. Trim your tree. (from the bottom)
The Daily Local recommends trimming close to an inch off the base of your tree’s trunk ahead of setting it up in your home. This allows the wood’s pores to take in more water and reduces the shedding of needles.
6. Keep it cool.
Much like flowers and other live, decorative plants, your tree should be kept far away from all heat sources. Other than being a possible fire hazard, heat also dries the tree out. The NCTA recommends using low-heat lights, such as miniature lights, to reduce drying. Keeping the room temperature low and keeping your tree away from heating vents and direct sunlight will also reduce the amount of water the tree must use each day, slowing the drying process. And, of course, keep your tree away from fireplaces and heaters to reduce the risk of fire.
7. Dispose of your tree the right way.
When it’s time to take down your tree, don’t throw it in a dumpster or leave it on the curb. Christmas trees can be recycled for mulch, and many communities have recycling programs that accept trees after the holidays at no charge. Some areas also offer mulching programs that allow you to use the mulch from your tree in your garden. The NCTA provides some other creative recycling options, such as placing your tree in the yard for use as a bird sanctuary. “Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter,” says the Association. “Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper.”