The Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier each year. If you have a live tree and put it up early or keep it up late, there are things you need to do to keep it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
Keeping Your Tree Hydrated
The most important thing to remember is to keep your tree well-watered. A Christmas tree can absorb as much as a gallon of water or more during the 24 hours after it is cut, and a quart or more each day thereafter.
- Use cold water, and never allow the water in your tree stand fall below the tree base. Keeping the water level constant will prevent dropped needles and dry, droopy branches.
- Water the tree daily. If you do allow the water pan to become empty, dried sap will form a scar over the base of the tree, sealing out water. To prevent the tree from drying out too quickly, you will need to take it down, cut another inch from the bottom of the trunk, and set it up again. This is definitely not worth the hassle when the need to do so can be easily prevented by consistent watering.
- Do not use additives, such as floral preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin, or honey in the water. No matter what you may have heard, these are completely unnecessary, and in some cases, harmful. Your tree will stay fresh enough as long as you provide enough clean, cold, pure water.
- A properly watered Christmas tree does not present any particular fire hazard, though you should set it up at least 3 feet away from fireplaces, wood stoves, furnace vents, or where the needles might end up in electrical sockets. Keeping the tree away from heat sources will also make it last longer.
- If your tree has brown branches and is losing needles like crazy, it’s time to take it down.
Decorating Your Tree
- Use only UL approved lights, electrical cords, and electrical decorations on trees, and inspect electrical cords and lights for damage annually before using.
- Using LED lights is best, as they don’t heat up. Always turn off Christmas tree lights before you go to bed or leave the house.
- Be sure to supervise pets and children around the tree to prevent them from accidentally toppling it and becoming injured or creating other safety hazards.
Disposing of Your Tree
Eventually, the time will come to take down your tree for the season. You may decide based on a specific date — for instance, New Year’s Day or Epiphany, if that is your family’s tradition — or you may decide to enjoy your tree for a while longer.
- If you keep your tree much beyond Christmas, be sure to monitor it for dryness. Even if you water it regularly, it will eventually dry out, becoming unsightly, and a potential fire hazard.
- Be sure to disconnect all lights and other electrical decorations prior to removing them from the tree.
- Never burn a Christmas tree in your fireplace or woodstove. Pine tree sap can flare up and cause a chimney fire.
- Be sure to recycle your tree, if possible. You can either chip your tree into mulch yourself, or donate it to a local program that does so for parks and other public spaces.
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.