How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh (Hint: It Doesn't Want a Soda)

Extend the life of your tree (Getty Images)

Your Christmas tree should look and smell fresh for at least a month, unless, that is, you start treating it with soda pop, disinfectant, booze, fertilizer, or any other additives that are being touted on the Internet as life extenders. One WikiHow article favors 7-Up and some blogs recommend corn syrup and bleach. "It's my 16th year working for the National Christmas Tree Association," Rick Dungey, director of communications at the organization, tells Yahoo Shine. "And I'm always flabbergasted by some of the crazy concoctions I hear about."

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Dungey says the best way to prolong the beauty of your holiday tree is to make sure the trunk has been freshly cut and to keep it submerged in plain tap water. "At this time of year, I always remember what an old tree farmer told me: 'A tree grows out the field for eight years drinking nothing but rain, and then people get it home and give it a 7-Up.'" Adding nutrients such as sugar or plant food will cause nitrates to develop, turning the water into what Dungey compares to a "dirty fish tank." If you then try to remedy the problem with disinfectant like Pine-Sol or alcohol, you could damage the tree's healthy tissue. "Would you dump vodka into a houseplant?" he asks.

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Other tips:

  • Choose an unbaled tree from a lot or store that manages its inventory properly. Some trees are baled (covered in mesh) for storage in order to prevent moisture loss; others are displayed fully open for purchase. If you live in a hot area of the country, the trees should be stored in the shade and stacked on hardwood mulch that is regularly watered. Dungey says your tree should last through the holiday season if treated properly.
  • Before you purchase, test a branch for pliability and also run your hand along it to check for foliage freshness. Bend a twig. If it snaps, or if the tree loses a lot of needles, it's probably too dry.
  • Once you choose your tree, ask the seller to cut about a half an inch off the trunk if you can't do so at home. Freshly exposed cells improve water absorption.
  • Get the tree home and into water as soon as possible. If it's been more than three or four hours, you should cut off a slice of the trunk with a saw. Try to cut straight across for optimum water absorption. And please note: Drilling a hole in the trunk won't increase water uptake.
  • Choose a base stand that can hold enough water for the size of your tree. The rule of thumb is one quart of water per inch of trunk diameter.
  • Check the water in the stand every day. It's normal for trees to absorb water at a variable rate, so just because the base was full one day doesn't mean you can skip checking the next. The cut end of the trunk should remain constantly submerged.
  • Situate the tree out of direct sunlight and away from heating vents. Hot air acts like a hair dryer on the branches and foliage, explains Dungey.
  • Use modern LED lights, which emit very little heat, to decorate. Don't use lights that are meant for the outdoors; they burn much hotter and could start a fire.

For more information about where to purchase or how to choose, display, or recycle a holiday tree, visit the National Christmas Tree Association's website.


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