With the holidays just around the corner, it is time to get your Christmas tree up — if you haven’t already! But if you are opting for a real tree this year rather than an artificial or alternative one, such as Nordic Island pine, you know how finicky these trees can be. Common Christmas tree options include fir and pine varieties, which require similar care when kept indoors.
So, how can you stop your Christmas tree from dropping needles too often, turning brown too quickly, and keep it greener and healthier for longer? Find out all there is to know about choosing the right tree, properly transporting it home, and ensuring it lasts until Christmas (and maybe even longer).
Choosing a Tree
If you want to keep your Christmas tree alive as long as possible, pick a healthy tree from the get-go. When shopping, avoid trees with brown, brittle needles, trees that are losing needles, or with a sour smell. You can shake the tree to determine if it is losing too many needles.
Also, find a tree that is the right size for the spot you’ll place it. If the tree is too big, you need to cut it, which wastes time, money, and can affect its appearance. If you are keeping it in water, the handle (or trunk) of the tree needs to be long enough to display the tree while also keeping it secure. As a general rule, there should be about 1 to 12 inches of trunk per foot of a tree.
If you are looking for a tree planted in a pot with an intact root system, ensure it is adaptable to your area so you can plant it in your yard and use it again year after year!
Transporting the Tree
When transporting the tree from the store or farm to your home, high winds can cause irreparable damage. If you can, place the tree in an enclosed trunk or camper. If you place it on the roof, wrap the tree carefully in burlap or a tarp to protect the needles. Also, face the trunk towards the front of the car, so the needles don’t blow off. Remember to tie it down securely, so it doesn’t fall off!
Tools You’ll Need
Properly caring for a Christmas tree requires a few basic tools, though the essentials will differ depending on whether you pot the tree or place it in water.
For a Potted Tree:
- Large planter with drainage
- Well-draining soil
- Watering can
For a Tree in Water:
- Reservoir-type stand
- Watering can
Caring For a Potted Christmas Tree
If you buy a tree with the roots still attached, either potted or wrapped in burlap, you must water it regularly. You can keep the tree in its original pot as long as it has proper drainage or pot the burlap ball in a large container with well-draining soil. Don’t remove the layer of burlap since it keeps the root ball secure.
Keep the tree in the coolest room of your house but never in temperatures below freezing. Water as often as necessary to keep the root ball or burlap damp but never soggy. If you want to bring the tree outside in the new year, keep it in a sheltered area for the first week and let it adjust to the new temperatures. If the ground is not frozen, you can replant the tree using mulch and a stake to protect it from the cold weather and winds.
Keep your holiday greenery healthy by keeping it out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources such as fireplaces and heating vents. Also, always inspect holiday lights before use, use only UL-approved lights, and turn them off before you go to bed or leave the house.
Caring For a Christmas Tree in Water
If you’re placing the Christmas tree in a reservoir of water, use one that is the right size. Whittling down the trunk can cause the tree to dry out faster. As a rule of thumb, your stand should hold 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter.
When you get home from shopping, cut a half inch of the tree’s trunk off to improve water uptake. Then, place it directly in water and keep the reservoir full. The tree may require more water in the first week, needing about a gallon on its first day. Generally, trees require about a quart of water per day. Remember to check the reservoir daily.
Myth Busting: Drilling a hole in the trunk of the tree will not help with water uptake. If the tree isn’t absorbing water, sap may have hardened over the cut end. Remove the tree from its stand and cut another quarter inch off the bottom of the trunk. Place it back in the water as soon as possible to prevent it from sealing again.
Christmas trees are generally low-maintenance, with regular watering being the most important thing to remember. The selection and transportation of your tree also play a role in how easy they are to care for. A healthy, carefully transported tree is much simpler to care for than one that is unhealthy and damaged!
Do you have any tips for Christmas tree care? Share in the comments below!