Shoppers are out in droves preparing for Christmas, and one large item on the list is a live Christmas tree.

Evergreen Nursery and Landscape manager Jim Frees said after a tree is selected, the buyer needs to take proper care of it so it stays fresh during the holiday season.

“The first thing I would advise people is to ask the vendor where and when the tree was harvested,” Frees said. “Freshness is the key and if the tree was recently cut and shipped, then there is a better chance that the tree will last as long as it needs to.”

Knowing where the tree came from is sometimes difficult to learn at a retail store. However, small business owners will know the answer since they are the ones who placed and received the greenery order.

If someone decides to buy a tree from a large retailer, there is still a way to check the freshness. Frees said buyers should tug on the needles. If there is some resistance the tree is fresh, if the customer ends up with a handful of needles, then the tree is probably already deteriorating and will have a much shorter lifespan.

For a tree that is already cut, Frees said it is important to keep its vascular system open. Some trees are shipped with the ends in mud balls. If that is the case, the buyer should clean all the mud off before placing it in the tree stand. Also, the tree base should be trimmed up to one-half of an inch to ensure the root system is open and capable of absorbing water.

“You need to make sure water can easily be drawn up into the tree,” Frees said. “A tree is a little like a heart. There has to be good flow of water through the tree so make sure the bottom of the tree is clean and freshly cut.”

Frees also recommends adding two aspirin to the water. Just like with heart patients who take baby aspirin, the aspirin works on trees as a vascular dilator.

Buyers with water conditioners should not use the water to keep the tree hydrated. The salt in the water can cause damage to the tree and actually shorten its life.

“If you use soft water, you will end up with nothing but a salt ring at the bottom of the tree stand,” Frees said. “I suggest you use bottled water or maybe an outside faucet that is not connected to the soft water system. Rain water is a good alternative.”

For people thinking of purchasing a potted Christmas tree, Frees said they need to realize all the additional work they will go through to eventually plant the tree outdoors. Frees said it is best to talk to a landscaper before deciding to purchase a potted tree to find out all that is involved.

For buyers who purchase trees that have been bound with cord or lying on their sides, Frees said it is best to get the tree inside 50 to 60 degree temperatures so that the sap will relax and the tree will return to its natural shape before placing it into the tree stand.

HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE

Remember, a Christmas tree is a living thing, look after it as carefully as you would a cut flower. Once you select a Christmas tree, follow these suggestions to keep it fresh and safe:

• If you buy your tree several days before you plan to set it up, store the tree outdoors or on a cool porch or patio until you are ready to decorate. An area that provides protection from the wind and sun will help the tree retain its moisture.

• If you plan to store the tree for several days, make a straight cut across the butt end of the tree about one inch from the end. This opens the tree stem so it can take up water. Store the tree upright and place the butt end in a container of water.

• When you bring the tree into the house for decorating, make another fresh cut across the trunk about one-half inch from the original cut. Use a tree stand that holds plenty of water.

• Trees are thirsty. They may drink up to 4 liters of water per day, so be sure to check daily and supply fresh water as needed. A stand which holds at least 4 liters of water is recommended. If you allow the water level to drop below the bottom of the tree, a seal will form just as it does on a cut flower, and a new cut will be necessary.

• Place your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, television sets and other sources of heat. Turn off the tree lights when you leave and before you retire at night.

• Avoid the use of combustible decorations. Check all electric lights and connections. Do not use lights with worn or frayed cord.

Following these care and precaution measures should ensure an attractive tree that stays fresh indoors for 2 to 3 weeks. 

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