Selecting & Caring for Your Real Tree
Choosing a real Christmas tree is a fun outing for the whole family
and easy to do. Here are a few simple steps for selecting the perfect
In most households, the holiday season didn’t begin until the
family went to the local lot or tree farm to pick out their tree. Then,
the whole family would decorate the tree. Gifts would be wrapped and
placed underneath it. And, on Christmas morning, the family would once
again join around the tree waiting for the festivities to begin. The
scent, aroma, and the real tree itself were an integral part of the
family unity as well as the holiday season itself. This tradition
continues to this day as more than 37 million families celebrate with a
real Christmas tree.
The celebrating of Christmas with a real tree has been a tradition
for over 400 years. At one time, all Christmas trees were cut from
natural stands (or straight out of the forest). As you can imagine,
these wild trees looked nothing like today's professionally grown and
sheared trees. Today, 98% of trees are grown on tree farms. These tree
farms may sell them to local lots, or act as a choose and cut farm
where people go to select and cut down their own fresh tree.
To make your tradition a more memorable and pleasant one, we’d like
to offer a few helpful hints when selecting a tree:
- Do a freshness test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and
forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off
in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its
stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall
to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and
will occur over the lifetime of the tree.
- Once you've chosen your tree, keep it in a sheltered, unheated
area such as a porch or garage to protect it from the wind and sun
until you are ready to decorate it.
- Before you set up your tree, make a fresh, straight cut across the
base of the trunk (about a quarter inch up from the original cut)
and place the tree in a tree stand that holds a gallon of water or
- Warning: Keep the tree stand filled with water. A seal of
dried sap will form over the cut stump in four to six hours if the
water drops below the base of the tree, preventing the tree from
absorbing water later when the tree stand is refilled. If a seal
does form, another fresh cut will need to be made.
- A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the
first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter. Water is
important because it prevents the needles from drying and dropping
off and the boughs from drooping. Water also keeps the tree
- Warning:In addition, keep your tree away from heat and draft sources like
fireplaces, radiators and television sets. Test your light cords and
connections before hanging them on the tree to make sure they're in
good working order. You don't want to use cords with cracked
insulation or broken or empty sockets. Also be sure to unplug the
lights before you go to bed or leave the house. Never overload
Sensible precautions such as these will help preserve the unique
beauty and tradition that only a real Christmas tree can provide.
Watering Your Real Tree
We've gotten some interesting mail on this topic. Some people have
seen TV or newspaper advertisements for products that you add to the
water in your tree stand. Others have concocted their own mixtures, with
ingredients such as sugar, bleach, 7-Up, syrup, or the ever-popular
what's the best thing to add to your tree stand?
Dr. Gary Chastagner, a researcher at Washington State University, has
been working with Christmas trees, and his findings suggest that your
best bet is plain old tap water. It doesn't have to be distilled water
or mineral water or anything like that. So, the next time someone tells
you to add ketchup or something even more bizarre to your tree stand,
don't believe it. Just add water!