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Christmas tree care and fun facts

December 3, 2020
Decorated fir tree in a home with a man and a white dog nearby.
The larger the tree, the more decorations needed. Hang the delicate ornaments out of reach of children (and dog tails).

Every year, my husband and I visit a local nursery and buy our Christmas tree the Friday after Thanksgiving to take advantage of plentiful stock (and the 25% discount!). We like the “field run” trees — those that are not quite so pruned and maybe have some unique features. 

We once bought a tree with six leaders! It took every ornament we had to decorate and a run to the local hardware store for more lights! 

This year, we chose a fragrant, field run Frasier fir. It, too, required all the ornaments and lights. Breakable ornaments hang high out of reach of our dog’s wagging tail, and I’m happy to report she’s only “modified” one ornament to-date!

Why buy a real tree vs. a manufactured one? 

The Minnesota Christmas Tree Association launched a promotional campaign in 2008 saying live trees are renewable and sustainable because they:

  • Change carbon dioxide into oxygen.
    • An acre of Christmas trees can remove 8,000 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Are biodegradable and recyclable (into mulch).
  • Provide more than a holiday decoration:
    • Habitat and shelter for birds and small animals.
    • Shade and cool the soil.
    • Help prevent erosion.
    • Provide year-round beauty in our Minnesota landscape.

Buying locally gives us a fresh tree and supports local businesses. The Minnesota Christmas Tree Association notes that buying real trees grown on local farms vs. artificial trees supports the local economy by providing jobs. “Many young people work on these farms and gain an appreciation for the land and valuable life lessons”. 

Christmas tree care

Wooded area with man and two children dressed for cold weather walking into the woods.
Going to a local tree farm to cut a fresh tree provides an opportunity to teach kids about nature and how trees grow.

If you want to keep your tree looking great for as long as possible, follow these tips from the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association: 

  1. Make a fresh cut. Before you bring the tree into your home and place it in a stand, re-cut the trunk at least one inch from the bottom just before putting it in the stand. Even if you just cut it on a choose and cut farm, this re-opens the tree stem so it can drink water. 
    • Christmas trees are very thirsty! It is not unusual for a tree to drink 2 gallons of water the first day it is the stand.
  2. Choose a spot away from heat sources. Heat sources like heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, televisions, computer monitors, etc. speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.
  3. Water immediately. After making the fresh cut, place the tree in a large capacity stand with warm water. The stand you use should hold at least one gallon of fresh water.
  4. Don't add anything to the water! Research has shown that plain tap water is the best. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually decrease a tree's moisture retention and increase needle loss.
  5. Check the water level daily. Do not allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut or the stem will reseal and be unable to drink. 

What can I do with my tree after the holiday season?

Many communities have a collection program where the trees are picked up and taken to a recycling facility where they are chipped and recycled into mulch for use by tree farmers, home gardeners, cities and counties. Mulch moderates soil temperatures, suppresses weeds and helps hold soil moisture. 

After removing indoor decorations, you can also set your tree in its stand outside and decorate it for our winter birds. (No need to water it). The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust recommends a variety of homemade treats such as suet cake ornaments, branches of berries, popcorn, pinecones smeared with peanut butter, and other treats. 

Will we ever run out of trees?

The National Christmas Tree Association reports that for every tree that is cut, 2 to 3 trees are planted the following spring. So the more trees sold, the more that are planted. And the more trees planted, the more carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, releasing even more oxygen. This helps reduce our carbon footprint.

Authors: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension horticulture educator and Gail Hudson

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