Water is the essential ingredient in keeping your farm-grown Christmas tree fresh

Clean water and plenty of it is the only essential ingredient for maintaining tree freshness.

As a general rule, your tree stand should hold at least 1 quart of water per inch of diameter of the tree trunk. Photo credit: Gary Chastagner, WSU

As a general rule, your tree stand should hold at least 1 quart of water per inch of diameter of the tree trunk. Photo credit: Gary Chastagner, WSU

Keeping your real Christmas tree fresh throughout the holiday season involves giving it proper care from the time you purchase it until it is disposed of. 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 1 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; however, any longer than that then the end should be re-cut. Make a straight cut across the trunk, removing 0.5 inches or more from the bottom.

Cut Christmas trees will absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week. As an example, a tree with a 2-inch diameter trunk may initially use 2 quarts of water per day; a tree with a 4-inch diameter trunk may use more than 1 gallon per day.  The water capacity listed on a stand’s label or box can be misleading. Usually they list the capacity of the reservoir when the stand is empty, but you also need to allow for the amount of water that will be displaced when the tree trunk is put in the stand. So when choosing a stand for an average tree, you will want to choose a stand that holds at least 1 to 1.5 gallons of water. In addition, make sure you are checking your tree stand at least daily to make sure the container holds enough water and refill it often to make sure the water does not fall below the level of the trunk bottom.

One of the most common questions Michigan State University Extension educators receive 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 you add to the water in your tree stand. Others have concocted their own “home remedies” with ingredients such as sugar, aspirin, bleach and 7UP. Research in Washington and North Carolina has shown that your best bet is plain tap water. Some of the home remedies such as bleach and aspirin caused heavy needle loss and should be avoided.

More information on selecting and caring for your Christmas tree from MSU Extension

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

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