Christmas Conifers Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

3 Simple Tips to Make Your Christmas Tree Last

How can you make a Christmas tree last as long as possible?

If you’ll be putting up a cut Christmas tree in your home this Christmas, there are 3 main things you need to know to make it last as long as possible.

  1. Choose a Tree in Top Condition
The branches need to be pliable.

How tall, wide and full your tree is: that’s a matter of personal choice… and budget. But you always want a tree that is fully hydrated, and that’s not written on the price tag. If the tree has already started to dry out before you even get it home, imagine how quickly it will lose its needles once it’s exposed to the dry indoor air?

Look for shiny needles, dark green on the top. Try to wrap a small branch around your finger: it should be flexible and not snap. Now run your fingers through the needles. Yes, a few will inevitably drop off: that’s normal. But if they fall off massively, that’s not a good sign.

  1. Recut the Base of the Trunk
Recut the tree before you bring it home.

A cut conifer tries to protect itself from potential invaders by covering the wound with hardened sap, but that also blocks water circulation… and if no water makes it from your stand’s reservoir to the needles at the very tip of the branches, they’ll dry up and drop off. So you’ll want to “reopen the wound” just before you set it in its stand. Cut off at least 1 inch (2 cm) from the base of the trunk in the 4 hours before you bring it indoors and it will be ready to drink its fill. Often the salesperson will offer to cut the trunk for you; if not, ask them to do so.

If you harvest your own tree on a Christmas tree farm, you won’t have to recut the base… at least not as long as you set up your tree within 4 hours of cutting it.

  1. Water Early and Often
This large reservoir can hold one gallon of water: just barely enough for the first day.

Keep the base of the trunk in the water throughout its stay in your house, because if the reservoir runs dry, that much less water will make it to the needles and they’ll begin to drop.

The first day, the average tree can easily “drink” a gallon (4 liters) of water. Since many Christmas stands have small reservoirs, you’ll probably need to fill the reservoir more than once the first day. The second day it will likely still use quite a bit of water, but after that, though, it’s needs decrease, so a daily check, just topping up the reservoir, should suffice from there on. There is no need to add anything to the water (aspirin, Seven-Up, bleach, sugar, distilled water, etc.): tap water is quite all right.

There you go! Choose your tree carefully, give it some basic care, and your Christmas tree should stay in top shape for 3 to 4 weeks!20161215B.jpg

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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