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University of Illinois Extension

Keeping your Christmas tree fresh and safe

November 26, 2012

Tips on keeping your Christmas tree fresh and safe are offered by a University of Illinois Extension horticulture specialist.

"If you are not putting the tree up right away, store it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold temperatures," said Ron Wolford. "Make a fresh 1-inch cut on the butt end, and place the tree in a bucket of water."

When the tree is brought indoors, make another fresh 1-inch cut and place it in a sturdy stand that holds at least 1 gallon of water, or 1 quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter.

Wolford recommends keeping the water level just above the base of the tree. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end, the tree will not be able to absorb water, and it will dry out quickly. It is not necessary to add commercially prepared mixes, aspirin, sugar, or other substances to the water. Research has shown that plain water will keep a tree fresh.

"Check all Christmas tree lights for worn electrical cords," he said. "Use UL-approved electrical decorations and cords. Be sure to turn off the tree lights when leaving the house. Unplug tree lights at night. Miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree. Be sure not to overload electrical circuits."

It is a nuisance to water a Christmas tree once it is decorated with a tree skirt and surrounded by presents. An easy solution, supplied by Gene and Marian Anderson of Guse Hardware in Minneapolis, is to buy a funnel and a 3- to 4-foot length of vinyl tubing to slip over the funnel outlet. Fasten the funnel/tube with a twist-tie or twine in an out-of-the-way but reachable part of the tree. Extend the tubing down the tree trunk and into the tree stand reservoir. The tree can be watered through the funnel without bending over or disturbing the tree skirt or its ornaments. (Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune)

"Take down the tree before it dries out," Wolford said. "If properly cared for, many fresh-cut trees will last at least 5 weeks before drying out.

He said that Christmas trees are not a fire hazard. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, fewer than one-one-thousandth of a percent (0.001%) of all the millions of real Christmas trees used each year is involved in a fire. With proper care, Christmas trees can keep their freshness and moisture content throughout the holiday season."

Wolford recommends recycling the tree after Christmas. Many communities will pick them up and turn them into chips. An alternative is to put the tree in the back yard and place bread and suet among the branches for the birds.

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