Let’s face it. Nothing beats a real Christmas tree. The sweet, woodsy aroma of fresh pine, spruce or fir cannot be duplicated. That smell, mingled with the dazzling lights and the crisp and shiny wrapped gifts beneath the tree, helps to cement holiday memories that last a lifetime.
But did you know that living Christmas trees not only smell better and look better — they’re actually better for the environment as well?
It can take up to 15 years for a tree to be harvested. During that time, these trees act as carbon and heat sinks — trapping greenhouse gasses and returning oxygen to the atmosphere — while providing habitat for wildlife. Plus, real trees can be mulched or composted, while plastic and metal trees must be sent to landfill.
That said, one must admit fake trees can be easier to take care of. But don’t let the idea of real tree maintenance scare you! By keeping a few simple things in mind, the living tree in your living room can stay healthy throughout the holiday season.
Just follow our five easy tips and your family can enjoy all the benefits a real tree has to offer!
Tree experts give a healthy Christmas tree a lifespan of about five weeks from the time it was cut down. So count back from the last day you’d like to have it standing — the day after Christmas, New Year’s Day, etc. — and work back from there.
While it is in your home it will be important to take the steps below to keep it alive and happy. Once the tree is dead, its dried-out branches and needles can become a fire hazard — even if it still looks beautiful decked out with lights and trim. So make sure not to let the tree linger long past its expiration date.
Pick a Winner
Starting with a healthy tree will give you the best chance for success.
Once it is taken from the ground, the tree’s lifespan is limited. So, if you picked up a tree from a roadside stand that trucked the trees in from out of state, the time it spent in transit will mean it has less time to thrive in your living room. Plus, the cold air and wind speeds involved in getting the trees to town will have dried them out as well. For this reason, tree farms where trees are harvested on the spot should be preferred to stands with pre-cut trees. When selecting a tree, run your hands through its branches, keeping an eye out for brown spots and dead needles. Pick the tree up and drop it on the ground and see many needles fall. If you see many dead, brown needles on the ground, the tree will not last as long in your home.
Mind the Transition
After you’ve chosen your tree, protect it on the ride home by having it wrapped tightly and covering it with a blanket or tarp. This will prevent it from being dried out by high wind speeds during the drive home.
Once you get home, avoid taking your tree from one extreme climate to another. If it’s a blisteringly cold and wet day outside, do not bring it straight into your warm, cozy living room if you can help it.
Instead, let the tree acclimate by placing it in a bucket of water in an unheated basement, cellar or garage for a night or two before bringing it into the living room to trim.
Hydration is Important
Your tree is thirsty. So, make sure you give it plenty to drink.
As soon as the tree is cut from the ground, sap begins to congeal at the base in order to prevent it from drying out. Unfortunately, this sap will also prevent the tree from soaking up water throughout its lifespan in your home.
Once you bring your tree home, make a cut about one inch from the bottom to remove the sap. Then, place the tree into a water source as soon as you can. This will remove the layer of resin and give the tree the opportunity to absorb water from the base of the trunk.
Make sure your tree stand can hold a gallon of water or more, and make sure to top it off or change water daily.
Monitor Your Home Environment
Once you bring your tree into your home, there are a few easy things you can do to keep it healthy and happy — and to ensure the safety of your family.
First, make sure to trim the tree. In addition to cutting an inch off the bottom of the trunk, it is good practice to cut damaged branches or dead spots, and to trim the tree into a uniform cone shape. Make sure you securely fasten it to prevent it from falling over.
Keep the tree away from any heat sources and set the thermostat to a cooler temperature. If your room is too dry, try a humidifier. And remember to turn off the Christmas tree lights when leaving the room. These steps will prolong the life of the tree by preventing it from drying out and allowing it to absorb more water.