Christmas Tree CareOur Christmas trees arrived early last week, and they’re ready for a new home!

There are a lot of myths surrounding the care of Christmas trees, it turns out. Is there any merit to any of them? When is the best time to purchase a Christmas tree to ensure a good compromise between selection and needle retention? We’ll answer all of these questions this week.

What Causes Needle Drop?

Needle drop is directly related to moisture loss. The less moisture present in the tree, the quicker needles will begin to fall. Everything we can do to slow the loss of needles revolves around keeping water in the tree! If you want your tree to stay looking good until Christmas, you must place it in a suitably large stand and keep the stand topped up with fresh water. If you only do one thing to preserve your tree, let it be that!

Some trees are generally better at holding their needles. Short-needled firs are the best (in fact, we only carry Fraser and Balsam Firs for that reason!).

When a tree is cut at the base, it will take immediate steps to protect itself. A thick layer of sap collects at the base of the plant, plugging up the wound and preventing additional moisture loss. This is great for when the trees are sitting in the nursery waiting to be claimed and taken home.

Give it a Fresh Cut

However, once you pick out a tree, this process needs to be reversed. This layer of sap will prevent the tree from taking up moisture once you place it in a stand filled with water. This is where a fresh cut comes in. Fresh cuts are free of charge, so be sure to take advantage when you’re in purchasing your tree!

We clear out this gunky sap collection by removing around half an inch off the base of the trunk. This allows water to freely travel up the tree again! There’s a catch, though: you must place a freshly-cut tree into a stand filled with water as soon as possible after the cut is made, otherwise the tree will begin to seal the cut off with sap once more. During mild weather, this may happen even more quickly. Try to make your Christmas tree purchase the last stop on your errand-runs for the day so you can take the tree home immediately.

Don’t Notch!

Some sources might recommend cutting a notch or drilling a hole into the base of the tree to aid in water uptake. The argument is usually that this increases the surface area of the cut, allowing more water to travel up the trunk quickly. This is 100% false. Only very specific sections of the tree’s bark (a band of permeable tissue called sapwood) are responsible for the uptake of water. The best cut is a simple, straight cut perpendicular to the trunk. Any other shape of cut will likely inhibit the uptake of water through the sapwood to some degree.

Ensure your stand is wide and deep enough for the tree you pick. Shaving off the outer layers of bark to force a tree to fit in a small stand will reduce the amount of water the tree can take up – avoid doing this at all costs! It’s a good idea to bring your stand with you while picking out a tree to test it.

Other Myths/Pitfalls

Here are a few other pointers that will ensure your tree stays vibrant and green right through to January:

  • Some sources insist that you fill up your tree’s water reservoir with warm or cold water, but there is no evidence that the temperature of the water helps with needle retention.
  • Some products claim to improve needle retention if they’re added to the water reservoir; there is no evidence that any of these products actually work!
  • Be sure you set up your tree in a location far from fireplaces and hot air registers. Any major source of heat — even a sunny, south-facing window — will dry the tree out more quickly than normal.
  • Use miniature Christmas lights or low-heat lights to prolong needle life, and turn off the lights when you leave the house (in fact, leaving them on is serious a fire hazard). Consider using timers to avoid having to remember to turn them off all the time.

When Do I Purchase?

Buying early gives you superior selection. So long as you follow the above advice, you can buy your Christmas tree as early as mid-November without worry.

Have more questions about Christmas Trees or Christmas Tree care? Call us. We’re happy to answer all of your questions!