The air is crisp. It’s getting dark at 4 p.m. The mailbox is stuffed increasingly desperate sales flyers. It must be the holiday season, which means it is high time to get a Christmas tree (unless you’re one of those happy souls who already decorated weeks ago, in which case, good for you).
And whether you believe that it’s Santa is coming down the chimney, or that the Soviet-era Grandfather Frost and his trusty chaperon the Snow Maiden will be visiting your non-denominational “New Year’s tree,” or that the Bishop of Turkey will be swinging by for a little eggnog, you are going to want that tree you so carefully picked out smelling and looking good all month. Here’s how to keep those needles hydrated through Krampus Night, the winter solstice, and into Christmas Day and beyond.
Make sure your Christmas tree can take a drink
Much as you need to trim the stems of flowers before putting them in water, unless you are getting your tree fresh off the farm, you need to make sure the trunk is not gummed over with sap on the bottom. This is not something you can likely do yourself at home unless you happen to have a saw and a lot of space handy—so when you buy your tree, ask the seller to cut off a thin disk at the very end, about half an inch or so, to ensure a fresh cut at the bottom that will allow the tree to drink up water. Put the tree in water as soon as you get it home so the bottom of the trunk can’t dry out again.
Get the right kind of tree stand
You want your tree to be elevated so there is space between the end of the trunk and the water dish. You also want the stand to be able to hold a gallon of water or more. A simple plastic stand made up of a water dish with several screws designed to hold the tree firmly over the bottom of the water dish is perfect. Make sure you tighten the screws so the tree is firmly held in place. Leave about an inch or so of space between the bottom of the tree trunk and the water dish.
Choose the right spot in your home
It may seem obvious, but don’t place the tree next to the radiator. Since you usually don’t place furniture close to the radiator either, it is often the free corner of the room that would fit the tree best, but it will also dry out a tree a lot faster and can eventually also become a fire hazard. Same goes for space heaters and any other heat sources you have in the house—make sure to place the tree away from them.
How much should you water your Christmas tree? A lot
Trees drink a surprising amount of water—just when you think you have refilled the tree’s water dish, it will empty out, so check it every day. In fact, during the first week to week and a half that you have the tree home, it can’t hurt to check the water level twice a day, in the morning and evening, to gauge how much it is going through. It is normal for a tree to drink as much as a gallon a day or more, depending on the diameter of the tree trunk. And according to the PennState Extension of the Penn State College of Agricultural Science, you don’t need to use any commercial tree foods and preservatives—good old-fashioned water works best.
This article was originally published in 2018 and updated in 2021 with a new header photo and lede and refreshed links throughout.
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