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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Water is essential for Christmas tree success for the season

While Christmas trees in the living room are no longer growing, they still need just as much water as if they were. Keeping the focal point of your Christmas decorations fresh and beautiful is simple, if a few important steps are taken.

“The minute you cut down the tree, it’s not alive anymore,” said Craig McKinley, retired Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension forestry specialist.  “All you’re trying to do is prevent its degradation. You’re not going to improve its quality."

A fresh Christmas tree can stay healthy for several weeks if given the proper care.

“When you get the tree home, cut about an inch off the butt end to aid in water absorption,” said David Hillock, OSU Cooperative Extension consumer horticulture specialist. “Get the cut end into a container of plain water quickly. There is no need to add aspirin, sugar or flame retardant to the water.”

Not making the initial cut prior to setting up the tree could be detrimental since the biggest key to keeping a Christmas tree “happy” is keeping it moist. After squaring off the new base of the tree, immediately put it in the tree stand, which should have a large water reservoir.

McKinley said the water movement through the tree is a physical process, as the tree creates a vacuum that sucks up the water and into the needles. Plenty of water is needed. A freshly cut tree can take in more that a gallon of water per day for the first few days.

It is virtually impossible to give your tree too much water, so just keep the reservoir full. McKinley said it is vital the reservoir not be allowed to go dry because once the “vacuum” is broken, the tree may not be able to create enough pressure for suction to get the water going again.

The placement of a Christmas tree also will affect its lifespan. Hillock suggested avoiding heating vents, because they will dry the tree out more quickly. Anything in the house that could produce any type of heat will increase the evaporation of water in the tree and lead to an early demise.

Also, pruning the tree is not a bad idea. Many people will prune trees to get the shape they are looking for or to create a little more space underneath the tree for gifts.

“Make sure you know where the limb is going before you cut it,” McKinley said. “Some species of tree can have limbs that start at the bottom of the tree and span several feet up.”

By following these simple tips, a Christmas tree can stay beautiful for more than a month.


Sean Hubbard
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
145 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-4490
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: sean.hubbard@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078