Christmas tree care and feeding 101

After Thanksgiving, most tree lots are busy welcoming the crowds for a festive annual tradition – choosing the Christmas tree that will warm your home this December.

After you find that perfect tree, you’ll want to keep it fresh for the holiday season. Chal Landgren, a Christmas tree specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, says there are several things you can do to keep your tree fresh through the holidays.

The first thing, Landgren said, is to look for trees with firm needles.

“In a tree’s late stages, its needles will break,” Landgren pointed out. “On a tree that’s fully hydrated, its needles will be firm-looking and when you bend them they will tend to bend back.” Species that stay freshest the longest include Noble fir, followed by Nordmann trees, he added.

Other tips on trees include:

To store it before bringing it inside, leave it outside, preferably in a bucket of water. It should keep well in a cool, shady spot.

If you leave the tree out longer than a day or so, make a fresh cut consisting of about a quarter inch off the base of the trunk to improve the tree’s water uptake.

Once you bring the tree inside, make sure its stand is regularly filled with water. Trees drink a lot of water at first. A stand should hold a quart of water for every inch of stem diameter. A tree with a six-inch stem diameter will need a stand that holds a gallon and a half of water.

Additives in the water are not recommended. Plain tap water is best.

Keep the tree away from heat sources as best as possible. Heat and air movement dry out a tree faster. If it’s in water and not near a heat source, the tree could easily last three weeks, Landgren said.

When you’re done enjoying your tree for the season, recycle it. Several groups, including the Boy Scouts, recycle Christmas trees. You can also bring it to organic recycling facilities.

For more gardening stories and advice, visit the Extension Service’s website at

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