Bad news, folks: While you may want your fresh tree to last well into the New Year, it actually doesn’t take more than a few days of heat and neglect to dry out a fresh one. With proper care, most trees can last five weeks or more. Here’s how:
- Choose a healthy, green tree with few brown needles.
If you buy your tree from a garden store or roadside lot, it has likely come from out-of-state and has been exposed to drying winds in transit. Run a few branches through your hands; the needles should feel pliable and not fall off. Then, raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it onto the trunk. Very few green needles should drop off, though it’s fine for the tree to lose a few brown ones. And select a tree that has been displayed in a shady, not a sunny, location.
- Trim the trunk (and then trim it again).
When you get home, make a fresh one-inch cut off the end of the trunk and place the tree in a bucket of warm water,if you’re not putting it up right away. This cut rids any dried-over resin that might be blocking the tree from absorbing water.
Store it in an unheated garage or area that’s protected from wind and freezing temperatures. When you do bring it inside, make another one-inch cut off the trunk and place it in a sturdy stand that holds at least one gallon of water. Fill the stand with one quart of water for every inch of the trunk’s diameter.
- Place it away from heat sources, like fireplaces, radiators, and air ducts.
There’s nothing more Christmas-y than a beautifully decorated tree beside a fireplace, but if you use your fireplace regularly, it could contribute to drying out your tree quicker. If your home is prone to dryness in general, try running a humidifer.
- Keep the water level above the base of the trunk.
Too little water causes resin to form over the cut end of the trunk. Once that happens, the tree stops absorbing water and dries out quickly. The jury is still out on whether or not additives in the water, like bleach, aspirin, and sugar, are really necessary to keep a tree fresh. They likely won’t hurt, but most experts agree that plenty of plain water is really all you need to keep a tree fresh.
- Take your tree down before it dries out.
If you wait too long, you’ll have lots more dead pine needles covering your floor. The easiest way to clean up fallen needles is with your vacuum’s hose. Skip the attachments and use just the end of the hose to draw needles directly into the bag or canister.
Carolyn Forte is the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Appliances and Cleaning Products department.
|“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” -Neil Gaiman