Care for Christmas Trees and Greens

For centuries, evergreen trees and boughs have been used to celebrate the winter solstice. Evergreens have always symbolized the promise of plant rebirth in spring. The custom of using evergreens as decoration traditionally marks the Christmas season. At one time all “Christmas trees” were cut from natural forest stands, but today almost 98% are grown on plantations. Don’t feel guilty about buying a cut tree, you are helping to sustain a farming industry.

To ensure their freshness, beauty and safety through the season, take appropriate steps in selection, conditioning and care of trees and greens. Warm indoor temperatures and low humidity will cause desiccation unless certain measures are taken at the outset. Firs and pines stand up best indoors, while certain species such as hemlock and spruce are notorious for dropping their needles.

All trees and greens will hold up better if they are conditioned, kept well watered and away from heat sources. Here are the requirements for success:


Obtain your tree early in the season before it begins to dry out in the open tree lot. Ideally, choose a tree that has been grown in your own region. Measure the ceiling height where the tree is to be placed to be sure that it is at least one foot shorter; this also compensates for the height of the tree stand. When you gently pull a branch toward you, the needles of the tree should be pliable and bend but not break. Shake the tree and bounce the trunk on its stump to test for freshness; if more than a few needles drop, put the tree back and try another. By shaking and bouncing the tree, insects and other foreign objects will also be dislodged.

Please come in to our Garden Center and view our large selection of Christmas Trees. We have extended hours during December.

Preparation and Conditioning

Every four hours that a tree is out of water a new dried seal forms on the cut surface, preventing the tree from absorbing water. So after the tree is brought home, make a fresh cut 1/4″ above the end of the trunk to facilitate water absorption, and wrap the end in a damp towel until it is placed in a bucket of water. Spray your tree with an anti-desiccant to reduce drying and transpiration. Store it in a cool place either outdoors or indoors until it is ready to be set up. Make a new cut across the trunk 4″ above the dried seal of the original cut. Place the tree in a clean stand that will hold at least one gallon of water, as a newly placed tree can absorb up to a gallon of water the first day. Be sure that the bottom of the trunk is continually immersed and that the water is checked and replenished daily. Set up the tree in the coolest part of the room, away from the fireplace, TV set, heater and other heat sources.

To condition evergreen branches (boughs) to be used for holiday decoration, wash them thoroughly in warm water to remove dust and dirt, and then rinse them in cold water. Remove any defective leaves and needles and split the stems about 2 to 3″ up from the ends. Place the material in warm water and store in cool temperatures for at least eight hours prior to use. Keep the water level high by replacing any water that has evaporated in the container.

Care and Preservation

All evergreen material will last longer if conditioned prior to use. Storing it in cool temperatures before bringing it into a heated room will make a difference when you set up the tree or make wreaths, garlands or holiday arrangements. A tree in a warm room can absorb several quarts of water per day, so keep the reservoir well supplied with water.