Back to Tips & Tricks

Keeping Christmas Trees Fresh

4 min read | Dec 9, 2015 | Plants  Resources 

Having a live Christmas tree in the house is one of my favorite parts of Christmas.  I absolutely love it!  The sap, smell, lights, decoration…it is right up my alley.  Finding the perfect, fresh tree, and keeping it that way, can be quite a job.  Particularly if you are as meticulous as I am.

North Carolina’s second only to Oregonian Christmas tree production.  Both of these states have appropriate climates, acreage, and elevations to grow different species that can be used as Christmas trees.  Trees commonly grown in Oregon include Douglas fir, noble fir, and Colorado blue spruce.  Without question, the most popular tree grown in North Carolina is the Fraser fir (Abies fraseri).  The Fraser fir is a popular choice because of its needle retention capabilities, color, and flexible, yet sturdy, branches.  There are an estimated 50 million Fraser firs growing on 25,000 acres in western North Carolina.  It seems like finding the perfect tree and keeping it fresh would be easy, doesn’t it?

There are four main keys to keeping a tree fresh and green throughout they year.

1.  Buy a fresh tree

Sounds simple, right?  A good way to determine the freshness of a tree is by running your hand against the grain of the needles, and notice how many needles fall off of the stem.  A few needles falling off can be expected, but the majority should remain on the branch.  The needles and branches should also be sappy and pliable.  Do not be fooled into thinking that trees in water buckets at tree lots are fresher than trees that are not.  Why is that?  This brings up point # 2.

Fresh Fraser Fir Cut

2.  Get a fresh cut on the trunk

Shortly after a tree is cut in the field, resins in the sap of the tree form a seal over the trunk, blocking air and water flow into or out of the tree.  This is why cutting off a small portion of the trunk of your tree before placing it in a stand is imperative for keeping the tree fresh throughout the season.  It may be reassuring to see trees at a tree lot standing in a bucket of water, but this does not necessarily mean they are fresher than trees that are not.  After they are cut in the field, stored for a few days, loaded on a truck, and delivered to the lot, the trunks are strongly sealed.  Most tree lots will not cut the trunk before displaying their trees.

3.  Water!

After the perfect tree has been found and a fresh cut has been made to the trunk, the tree should be put in a stand with fresh water as soon as possible.  The longer a fresh cut goes without water, the more likely the cut will dry and seal itself over again.  Adding fresh water to your tree stand on a daily basis is imperative to keeping your tree fresh all season long.  Some people claim that certain additives to the water will keep trees fresher for a longer period of time.  I have heard of people adding Sprite, sugar, Pepsi, and many others to water in an attempt to prolong the use of their tree.  Research has shown that plain water is the most effective.

4.  Placement

Where a tree is displayed in the home will also affect how long the tree will remain fresh.  Drafty or warm areas should be avoided.  Spaces over or under air vents tend to dry out trees quickly.  Keeping trees away from fireplaces will prevent an obvious fire hazard.  Many trees are displayed in front of windows for everyone to enjoy, but southern and western exposed windows can be create warmer environments than other areas of the house.

If this sounds like too much of a hassle, an artificial tree can be considered.  Artificial trees are totally different today than they were twenty years ago.  Todays artificial looks and feels much more like a real tree.  Manufacturers are using molds of real trees to produce their versions.  They come pre-lit with no sap and no need for watering, and can be used year after year.  The downside is that the artificial trees are more expensive than a live tree, and they do not have the fragrance of a real tree.

Hopefully these tips will help you find and take care of the perfect tree for your family!

Happy Holidays!

Brad Rollins