Skip the Sugar Water - Best Care for Christmas Trees

Skip the Sugar Water - Best Care for Christmas Trees

Decorating the Christmas tree is a quintessential holiday moment. The soft glow from the twinkle lights dances around the room. The ornaments burst with memories as you pull them from their storage. And you look around, and soak up all the joy!

Now, all that’s left is to make sure your Christmas tree stays alive and full of wonder throughout the holiday season.

Below, tree care industry experts share their best care tips to keep your tree looking fresh.

Christmas Tree Care Tips – Sugar Water, Brown Needles and More

Image result for rj laverne

What do you put in Christmas tree water to keep it fresh? Sugar?

R.J. Laverne, Davey’s manager of education and training and an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist®, answers below.

“I’m not aware of any substantial benefits of adding anything to the water,” Laverne says. Instead, he says it’s far more important to make sure that the tree always has enough water.

“If you keep the basin of the Christmas tree stand filled on a regular basis, you won’t have to worry about placing any additives in the water,” Laverne instructs.

How long can a Christmas tree live without water?

Coe Roberts, a certified arborist and manager of digital strategy at the Arbor Day Foundation, fields this question.

“Trees bought in early December that don’t receive adequate water will likely be unacceptably dry by the time the 25th rolls around,” Roberts says.

That’s why his best piece of advice for Christmas tree care is, “Water. Water. Water.”

He recommends putting your tree in water as soon as you bring it home. From there, provide a quart of water for every inch of tree diameter. Be sure to check and replenish your Christmas tree’s water every day. “It’s normal for your tree to take in a large amount of water one day and just a little the next. The cycle can be random,” Roberts says.

How do you best preserve a Christmas tree? Does drilling a hole in its trunk help?

Image result for Tchukki AndersenTchukki Andersen, a board-certified master arborist and staff arborist at the Tree Care Industry Association, shares her tips.

“Your tree preservation efforts need to start at the Christmas tree lot or farm. Give the tree a shake before you buy. If lots of needles fall off, you’ll be doomed,” Andersen shares. Instead, pick a fresh, healthy tree.

To help preserve your tree on the drive home, wrap it in plastic or a net. Once your tree is home, “cut an inch of the trunk if you bought it precut and place it immediately in a bucket of water,” Andersen says.

If you cut your tree and brought it right home, there’s no need to cut again. Just pop in water. Andersen says this works better than drilling a hole in the trunk because it exposes more of the flat surface area and helps the intake of water.

How can I stop needles from falling from my live Christmas tree?

Brian Sayers, a certified arborist and Chair Elect at TREE Fund, answers this one.

First, Sayers advises picking a tree that holds its needles better, like a fir. More on choosing the perfect type of Christmas tree here.

Once you’ve got your tree, resist the urge to bring the tree inside sooner than necessary. And most importantly, Sayers recommends “making sure that it never goes dry.”

Or Sayers says you could always go a different direction. Try “a tree that is in its original root ball. When the holiday season is over, take it outside, keep the root ball from freezing and plant in the spring.” Learn more about how to preserve a Christmas tree with roots here. 

Have a question about caring for your live Christmas tree we didn’t cover? Post it below for an answer. 

  • the Tree Doctor November 30, 2018 >Hi Taylor, The most critical factor in keeping your tree from shedding needles is making sure it has enough water. Adding sugar or other preservatives cannot substitute for the importance of water. Check the water level every day. Any condition that increases heat or lowers humidity in the room adds moisture stress, increasing the drying forces on the tree. If you have a humidifier, either on your home heating system or a free-standing unit, keeping it running can add humidity which will offset some of the drying forces. Hopefully, this helps. Happy holidays, Taylor.
  • Taylor Humphries November 28, 2018 >Should I do anything else beside making sure my Christmas tree has plenty of water if I'm using a wood stove in the same room? It's about 12 to 13ft away from my wood stove
  • The Tree Doctor November 27, 2017 > Hi there, Teresa. To best answer your question, we would need to know what kind of tree you are referring to. You can send your response to Talk more soon, Teresa.
  • Teresa Santalucia November 25, 2017 >Ok I live in hot humid Florida. I always was told that the 🎄 needed a tree preserve, this year I have been able to find any. I do water daily. Any secrets of what I could use as Home made solutions?
  • Bill Lewis March 28, 2017 >As the president of my Christmas decorating business, The World Of Fantasy--- Over the past 38 years I have decorated hundreds of Commercial and Residential Christmas trees. The last thing I remind my customers as I leave is, "Don't go a day without topping off the water! It only takes a half hour without water for the tree sap to begin to seal the truck. Once that occurs the tree will no longer drink." That's not always possible to do that on time, so many years ago I started using the plastic 2 liter soda bottles as an extra precaution. Once the tree's water reservoir is filled to the top, I quickly flip a filled 2 liter "capless" bottle upside down, sinking the opening a couple inches into the reservoir's water. When the bottle opening is submerged in the water, it forms a vacuum in the bottle which resists draining any further. This creates a 2 liter reserve of fresh water. As the tree's reservoir level is reduced by the tree's drinking, the 2 liter bottle releases just enough water to replenish some water into the reservoir. Depending on the size of the tree and the space around the trunk, that 2 liter supply can add several hours to the day's water supply before the reservoir needs to be refilled again. This is only a precautionary back-up in case the tree reservoir can't be filled on time. For larger trees, I use up to (3) 2 liter bottles as a reserve supply of water. This procedure has saved many a tree over the years. The water will remind you when it's time to replenish the reservoir and the 2 liter bottle by the glug-glug-glug heard from under the tree. Merry Christmas!
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