Davis: Properly caring for cut Christmas trees

One of the most common Thanksgiving traditions for many Clark County residents is picking and putting up the Christmas tree.

Some may prefer using a real tree over a synthetic one.

Whatever the tree of choice, it is important to install and maintain it properly.

Make sure to protect cut trees during transport from the tree farm to home. It is important to cover the tree with a tarp or put it inside the vehicle for transport. This keeps the tree from drying out and preserves its freshness.

If a cut tree is going to be kept for several days before putting it up in the house, make sure to store it out of direct wind and sunlight. If it is to be stored more than a couple of days, you might also want to consider putting it in water.

Once a real tree is brought inside, it should be placed in a properly-sized and -purposed stand. Cut tree stands enable you to keep the tree in water. Christmas tree stands are also rated for tree size, so make sure you have chosen one adequate for the size of your tree.

When you install the tree inside the house, make sure it is sturdy and will not become a falling hazard to children or pets.

If it has been more than six hours since the tree was cut (or if the time since harvest is unknown), it is important to re-cut the tree, removing one to two inches of the tree at the base of the trunk before putting it in water. The cut should be straight.

This cut removes a sap seal that would prohibit the tree from taking water in from the stand.

Once the tree is in the stand, fill the water reservoir. Add a cup of corn syrup and three teaspoons of liquid bleach to the water. The syrup gives energy to the tree and the bleach breaks down sap to promote water uptake.

Make sure to add water as needed.

If the water level gets below the trunk for more than six hours, the sap will seal and the tree base will need to be re-cut.

A live cut tree may take up from two quarts to more than four quarts of water each day.

Cut trees will keep better at lower temperatures and at a higher humidity. It is important to consider this when placing the tree inside your house. Avoid placement near heat vents and other heat sources such as fire places or portable heaters. Misting the tree with a fine-tipped spray bottle is not a bad idea either. This can also release the fragrance of a real tree that many will enjoy.

Use only approved, inspected strands of lights and extension cords. Inspect wires and cords for breaks or exposed places.

Limit the time the lights are on and never leave the lights on when you are sleeping or not at home. Heat from the lights may increase water uptake by the tree so it is important to monitor to maintain the water level in the tree stand frequently.

Live cut trees can add much to the Christmas season. They can pose some risks if not cared for properly, but if you follow these tips you can fully and safely enjoy this tradition. If you have any questions about Christmas tree care, call me at 744-4682.

David Davis is a Clark County Cooperative Extension Service agent for for agriculture and natural resources.