Keeping Christmas Greens Fresh and Safe from Fire

12/04/2014 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Christmas, Plant Care, Tips, Uncategorized

Lisa and GrandsonsIn their inimitable states of seasonal freshness, cut garlands, wreaths, swags, and Christmas trees, have arrived at our greenhouse. A tree’s freshness is determined by its weight, which comes from its water content, so the heavier the tree and other decorative greens, the fresher they will be. A truly fresh tree should be so heavy that it is difficult to lift and maneuver. Fact: the heaviest trees on the lot are the freshest-cut trees on the lot.

Three factors play important roles in how long a tree will maintain its freshness: the moisture in the tree itself, placement of the tree in your home, and the local weather. If a couple of good moist storms roll through the area while the tree is set up, the extra moisture keeps the trees from drying out too quickly. Of course, there’s nothing we can do about the weather, but we can control the other two factors that will extend the enjoyment of our Christmas trees, fresh garlands, wreaths, and swags. Here’s how:

Tip 1: A needle from a fresh tree should have good color, emit a strong fragrance, and bend rather than break. To test the tree of your choice simply grasp a needle between your thumb and forefinger and bend it.

Tip 2: A fresh tree should have good weight, an indication that the tree has plenty of moisture left in its trunk and limbs. The larger the trunk, the more moisture the tree can retain; just make sure the trunk isn’t too large for your tree stand. Might this be the year to upgrade your stand?

Tip 3: Make a fresh cut across the base of the trunk and immediately place it in a large container of lukewarm water. If the water level is allowed to drop below the cut, a seal will form reducing water uptake, so check the water level often.

Tip 4: Add liquid ‘tree preservative’ to your tree stand’s water basin. The additive keeps the tree pores open and allows water uptake deeper into the tree. Stay away from adding sugar or carbonated drinks to the water; they simply clog the tree’s system and reduce water absorption. Trees can drink over a pint of water each day, so check the water level daily and supply fresh warm water as needed. Again, this may be the year to upgrade your stand. A good stand easily should keep a tree straight up without special tie downs and hold 11⁄2 gallons of water.

Tip 5: Place the tree away from south-facing windows, close or remove heat sources blowing directly onto the tree, and keep it away from a fireplace or stove. All of these sources of warmth can zap moisture from the tree in a matter of days.

cloud cover qtTip 6: ‘Cloud Cover’ is my choice to guarantee that a tree will last through the New Year. This clear spray coats the needles with a festive sheen that prevents the tree from perspiring, so it maintains its freshness longer. If you have worried about your tree being a fire hazard, and you should, I highly recommend this added step. Our family tree will be an eight food Nordman Fir that will be sprayed with Cloud Cover, which provides peace of mind during the season and reduces needle cleanup after the celebrating is over. And, yes, Cloud Cover has the same effect on cut wreaths and garlands.

Tip 7: When setting up your tree, use the largest ‘Christmas tree bag’ you can find. The gigantic white trash bag is placed under the tree and can even be used as the tree skirt. When ready to take down the tree, pull this huge plastic bag over the tree so that it is swallowed up, preventing needles from invading your rugs and upholstery. On the top of my list of dreaded household jobs is vacuuming tree needles out of the carpet. A Christmas tree bag eases this headache so effectively that it unquestionably is worth the expense of the bag!

Tip 8: Misting cut greens once a day will extend the life and fragrance of smaller wreathes and evergreen arrangements. While for sale at the garden center, all greens and trees are misted and often down right drenched. Extend the life of your greens by continuing this practice at home.

Interesting Note – Many people believe the misconception that poinsettias are poisonous. Poinsettias are not poisonous, but we should keep these beautiful plants away from small children and pets as ingestion could cause mild gastric discomfort. As part of the Euphorbia family, poinsettias do produce a milky sap that can cause skin irritation for some of us.

Until next week, I’ll see you among the Christmas trees.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at or Facebook page .