Here are some tips to keep your Christmas tree healthy through the holidays—and avoid an untimely demise!
Buying the Tree
- If possible, buy a freshly-cut tree from a reputable nursery or cut your own. Many of the trees for sale were cut weeks before.
- If you're buying a tree that can be replanted later, keep in mind that a very small percentage of these trees survive after being indoors in the winter. Freshly-cut Christmas trees are farmed specifically for their purpose and support local agriculture.
- The top-selling Christmas trees, as reported by growers across the United States, are the Scotch pine, Douglas fir, white pine, and balsam fir, in that order.
- If there are lots of needles on the ground around the trees, go elsewhere.
- To check a tree's freshness, pull your hand towards you along the branch. Needles should not fall off.
- If you want to keep your Christmas tree potted and in the house after Christmas, a Norfolk Island pine would be the best choice. Check with a local florist or nursery for your area.
Caring for the Tree
- When you bring your tree home, saw a couple inches off the bottom of the trunk before setting in water. When trees are cut, pitch oozes out and seals the pores. By sawing off the base, you will open up the pores, and the tree will be able to absorb water.
- Watering is critical. A freshly-cut tree can consume a gallon of water in 24 hours!
- Fill the tree stand with water and keep it filled.
- Never let the water level go below the tree's base.
- Indoors, keep the tree away from heating ducts or other heat sources. In fact, the lower the temperature, the better the tree will do.
- One old Vermonter we knew always packed his tree stand with well-watered soil and planted the tree in the mixture. The soil should be kept wet.
- Some people add aspirin or sugar to the water; we can't say whether either helps. Again, water is the vital element.
- Prop up your old tree near your bird feeder as a staging area for small birds like chickadees and finches.
- Trim the branches from the tree, and saw the trunk into several pieces. Tie the pieces together and store the bundle in the cellar. This will make an aromatic Yule fire in your fireplace next Christmas Eve.
- Create a bird feeder and haven. String your tree with orange slices, bread, cranberry, and other bird-friendly goodies, and put it in a sheltered location.
- Remove the branches and use them as mulch in the garden.
- Use boughs from your tree to shade broad-leaved evergreen shrubs and to ward off animals.
- A fir tree's foliage can be used for stuffing small, fragrance pillows.
- Sew scraps of fabric together and fill them with the needles to make fragrant balsam sachets to freshen drawers and closets.
- Use dried-out sprigs to ignite kindling in your woodstove or fireplace.
- Give the tree to a friend or neighbor who has a woodchipper.
- One of our readers said that they sink old trees in their pond where they make cozy areas for fish and tadpoles to live, sleep, and lay eggs.
- Another reader says, “In Louisiana, we use old trees to bait fishing holes with. Just anchor them in a good location and the fish will use it for cover, especially Bream and White Perch. Go back in the spring and usually the fish will be in it or near it.”