8 Tips for Keeping a Christmas Tree Fresh, Merry and Bright
Follow these tips and your Christmas tree will stay lush and lovely through every festive gathering and into the New Year.
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1. Choose the right tree
Begin by researching the types of fresh-cut or cut-your-own trees available in your area. Varieties such as balsam fir, Colorado blue spruce, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, Scotch pine and white fir tend to hold onto their needles longer than other tree types. (And this means less mess on the family room floor.) Hanging heavy trims or weighty edible ornaments? Consider trees with sturdy branches, such as black hills spruce, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine and white spruce. If you’re looking for something smaller, a succulent Christmas tree might be a good option.
2. Inspect it for freshness
First to the tree farm? Hunt down the freshest tree on the lot. The ideal tree should be free of brown needles or dried-out bark. Check that the needles feel supple—snap a few in half to see if they release sap. Supple, snappable and sappy are good signs of a fresh tree. Shake the tree well—if loads of needles scatter to the ground, choose a different one.
Psst: If a visit to the tree farm is one of your holiday traditions, here are a bunch more to try.
3. Check for pests
As field and forest natives, Christmas trees may harbor a bug or two. Happily, outdoor critters that hitch a ride inside aren’t likely to live long and won’t damage your home. That said, check branches for small insects, spiders and egg sacs. Inspect trunks for small holes and lines of sawdust that may indicate the presence of bark beetles. Remove birds’ nests, which are likely to house lice and mites. And before bringing a tree inside, bounce the base a few times on the sidewalk or driveway to dislodge unwanted hitchhikers.
4. Properly prep
To make sure your fresh tree doesn’t dry out before Santa arrives, store it in a bucket of water until you’re able to put it in a stand. Prior to placing the tree in its stand, make a fresh cut across the base. This will help the tree absorb more water. Trim off lower limbs or twiggy sprigs as needed. Save the trimmings to use in a centerpiece or wreath.
5. Pick the right stand
Buy a reservoir-style stand that fits your tree base. How do you know if there’s enough water to keep the tree fresh? It’s simple math: Measure the tree’s diameter, and for every inch, you’ll need a quart of water. That said, for a holly-jolly Christmas tree, you’ll want to replenish the stand with cold water often, as the cut base of the tree should always be submerged. Though some folks add sugar, vodka, bleach or aspirin to the water, there’s no evidence these additives enhance the look or life span of a cut tree.
6. Keep it cool
Heat dries out the freshest of evergreens, and dried evergreens can become fire hazards. It’s important to place your Christmas tree in a cool-ish room, away from radiators, heat vents and space heaters, fireplaces, direct sunlight and even big-screen TVs. Opt for strings of miniature or LED lights that produce very little heat. It’s best to turn thermostats down, too. Worried about the room being frosty come Christmas morn? Use it as an excuse to break out the long johns and snuggle up with your loved ones.
7. Prevent accidents
If a tree falls in the living room, will you hear it? You betcha! A toppling pine makes noise aplenty, as branches and ornaments break upon impact with the floor. Keep your tree standing tall by positioning it clear of traffic paths. If curious cats and toddlers roam your home, use fishing line to connect the treetop to molly bolts or cup hooks screwed into wall or ceiling studs or nearby window trim.
8. Clean up
Christmas-tree care continues even after the tree has been hauled to the curb or compost pile. Use a vacuum cleaner hose attachment to remove fallen tinsel and needles; using the hose attachment prevents tree debris from gumming up a vacuum’s brushes and rollers. Wipe sap from wood or vinyl floors with a microfiber cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Treat sap stains on carpeting as you would gobs of gum: harden the sap with an ice cube or ice pack and then pick off the frozen sap.