by Jennifer Poindexter
Are you going to decorate a live tree for the holidays this year?
If so, do you know how to care for a living tree?
It isn’t as simple as bringing the tree into the house, placing it in a stand, and decorating it. There are a few additional steps you must take to keep your tree alive and thriving until Christmas.
If you’re unsure of how to take care of a live Christmas tree, you’re in the right place. I’m going to walk you through all you should know to enjoy your tree this holiday season.
Here’s how you care for a living Christmas tree:
1. Cut the Christmas Tree at Home
Whether you purchase a pre-cut Christmas tree from a tree lot, or go out into the woods to cut your own tree, you still must cut the tree a second time.
Once you bring the tree home, cut at least an inch from the bottom of the tree trunk. The reason being, when you cut a tree, it will begin producing sap to seal the wood. It’s like a band-aid.
The problem is this will stop the tree from being able to absorb water. Therefore, you must cut the tree when you get it home and right before you place it in the tree stand to ensure you’re giving it every opportunity to survive.
2. Be Mindful of the Placement of a Living Christmas Tree
When you get home, look around for the perfect location for your Christmas tree. Be mindful that the tree shouldn’t be placed near any air vents, wood stoves, fireplaces, or any other areas where it will receive surges of heat.
By placing the tree in this type of location, you could cause it to dry out. Not only does this become dangerous, but your tree will look quite crispy by Christmas day.
Set your tree up for success by placing it in an area free of drafts to ensure every bit of moisture applied to the tree goes towards keeping it healthy.
3. Pick the Correct Stand for a Live Christmas Tree
If you typically celebrate Christmas with an artificial tree, you know the stand is basically a tripod with screws in it to hold it in place.
A living Christmas tree requires a different type of stand. It’s a larger bowl that holds water. This stand also has a method for stabilizing the tree.
Ensure you purchase the correct tree stand to not only keep your living tree in place but to provide the water your tree needs to thrive the whole month of December.
4. Water is Essential for Your Living Christmas Tree
This is the biggest point in caring for a living Christmas tree. You must provide water. When bringing the tree home, and after the second cut, fill the tree stand with warm water.
Why warm water? Because this will soften the sap and ensure the cut on the tree remains open and can absorb moisture. You should apply approximately one gallon of water during the initial set-up.
Check the water of the tree every day. Be sure it remains higher than the new cut mark on the tree.
If the water levels drop too low, the tree will seal the cut and stop absorbing water. This can happen in as little as four hours.
I’d also like to remind those of you that have pets to check the water levels more than one time per day. My first year of using a living Christmas tree was a disaster thanks to my cats.
They enjoyed drinking from the tree stand, and I struggled to keep the water levels high enough for the tree to remain open to absorbing moisture.
However, if your water levels drop too low, refill the tree stand with warm water again. This should soften the sap and stop the tree from sealing.
Water is vital to any living plant. To avoid having a crunchy Christmas tree around the holidays, pay close attention to the water levels of your tree stand.
5. Consider Buying a Local Live Christmas Tree
Another tip to consider when purchasing a live Christmas tree is to shop local. Many areas produce their own Christmas trees.
This isn’t only important to support small businesses around the holidays, but it might ensure you have a fresher tree.
Many big box stores transport their live trees. This leaves a large window of opportunity for the trees to dry out.
If you go to a local tree lot, selling locally cut trees, they shouldn’t be transported as far. It’s also wise to pick a healthy tree that’s located in the shade, as the sun can dry out cut trees.
Picking the right tree from the right location could make a large difference in the type of experience you have in celebrating the holidays with a live tree.
6. Care for a Potted Living Christmas Tree
We couldn’t round out this article without discussing potted Christmas trees. You can purchase larger potted trees or smaller ones.
I like to purchase a small potted pine tree each year for one of our Christmas traditions. I’ve found the smaller trees handle being indoors longer than larger trees do.
If you like the idea of buying a tree, celebrating with it, and planting it after the holidays this could be a good option for you.
However, you must know how to care for the tree while it’s in your home. If you’re using a large potted Christmas tree, you shouldn’t purchase it more than a week or week and a half before Christmas.
Larger trees have a hard time living in containers for longer periods. In my experience, smaller potted trees can make it longer indoors because you can keep increasing the pot size when necessary.
When you’ve brought your tree home, leave it in a garage or on a covered porch for a day or so. This will give it time to acclimate to warmer indoor temperatures.
You can decorate these trees, but you must water them regularly. I like to practice the deep watering method. I place the tree in my kitchen sink and water the soil until it’s running out of the bottom of the container.
It’s vital that you make sure the container drains adequately. Once the water is done draining, I place the tree back in its proper location.
I’ll check the moisture in the soil by dipping my finger into the dirt every few days. When the soil is dry to my first knuckle, I repeat the watering process.
If the plant begins to look root bound before Christmas, transplant it to a larger container with fresh soil. This will keep the tree healthy while it’s indoors.
If you choose to use a potted tree for Christmas, ensure the tree was grown in a pot. You don’t want to purchase a tree that was transplanted into a pot for sale. This could cause the plant to go into shock and become unhealthy.
Finally, potted Christmas trees are a good choice when you desire a live tree to decorate with because they don’t dry out as easily since they are still alive, and this makes them a little safer as well.
I hope this information has given you a foundation to build from in choosing which type of live Christmas tree you’d like to use around your home this holiday season.
Hopefully these tips will make caring for a live tree easier. We also hope that your home will be a place of beauty and comfort for you during this time of year.