The key to a fresh Christmas tree is water!

Maintain a fresh Christmas tree throughout the holiday season by giving the tree proper care from the time it is purchased until you recycle it.

Research has shown that keeping tree moisture content high is critical to needle retention of real Christmas trees. Tests have also shown that a well-maintained real tree is less of a fire hazard than an artificial tree. Before you set up your tree, make a fresh, straight cut across the base of the tree and place the tree in a tree stand that holds a gallon of water or more. If the tree has been cut within the last six to eight hours, it will not need to be re-cut. Make a straight cut across the trunk removing an inch or more from the bottom. Be sure the container holds enough water and refill it often making sure the water does not fall below the level of the trunk bottom.

A cut Christmas tree will absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week. A tree with a 2-inch diameter trunk may initially use two quarts of water per day; one with a 4-inch diameter trunk may use more than one gallon per day. Therefore, it is important to check your tree stand on a daily basis.

One of the most common questions concerning Christmas trees relates to the use of additives in the Christmas tree stand. Some people have seen TV or newspaper advertisements for products that may be added to the water in a tree stand. Others have concocted their own “home remedies” with ingredients such as sugar, aspirin, bleach and 7-UP. Research in the state of Washington and North Carolina, however, has shown that your best bet is plain old tap water. Some of the home remedies such as bleach and aspirin can actually cause heavy needle loss and should be avoided. Remember, clean water and plenty of it is the only essential ingredient to keep your Christmas tree fresh throughout the holiday!

Christmas tree stand
Choose a Christmas tree stand that has adequate water-holding capacity for the
size of the tree they will hold. A stand should hold at least one quart of water per
inch of diameter of the tree trunk. Photo credit: Gary Chastagner, WSU.

Dr. Cregg’s research is funded in part by MSU’s AgBioResearch.