Tips for Proper Christmas Tree Care

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Christmas Tree Care
Minimizes Fire Risk

Did you know that Christmas tree fires are more deadly than other house fires? 

That’s because of the tremendous heat energy emitted by a blazing tree within an enclosed space, which can cause flashover. But proper Christmas tree care greatly reduces that risk.

Averting Disaster

The following video clip, prepared by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, illustrates what can happen when a Christmas tree is not adequately maintained:


To keep such a disaster from happening in YOUR home, we’ve compiled the best tree selection and care tips from The Old Farmers’ Almanac, the National Christmas Tree Association and Travelers Insurance.

Selecting a Tree

If possible, buy a freshly cut tree from a reputable nursery or cut your own.

Christmas tree careMany of the trees available from standard retailers were cut weeks earlier. (If  you see a lot of needles on the ground around the trees, go elsewhere.) Freshly cut Christmas trees are farmed specifically for their purpose and support local agriculture.

The top-selling Christmas trees, as reported by growers across the United States, are the Scotch pine, Douglas fir, white pine and balsam fir, in that order.

To check a tree’s freshness, pull your hand towards you along the branch. Needles should not fall off.

Preparing the Tree

At the nursery or once you bring the tree home, saw a couple inches off the bottom of the trunk before setting it in water. When trees are cut, pitch oozes out and seals the pores. By sawing off the base, you’ll open up the pores, allowing the tree to absorb water.

Use a stand that fits your tree. Do not whittle the sides of the trunk down to fit in the stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed. (Also, drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does NOT improve water uptake.)

Christmas tree careWatering is critical! A freshly cut tree can consume a gallon of water in 24 hours. As a general rule, stands should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter.

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Christmas tree careDecorating and Maintaining the Tree

Christmas tree careIndoors, keep the tree away from heating ducts, fireplaces or other heat sources. (In fact, the lower the temperature, the better the tree will do.)

Use approved lights and connect them properly. Choose lights tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Avoid connecting multiple extension cords and more than three strands of lights.

Christmas tree careToss damaged lights and decorations. Don’t attempt to repair light strings if they’re worn, frayed or show other problems. Instead, discard them and buy a new set of lights.

Avoid using candles near the tree. In one-fourth of Christmas tree fires measured by the National Fire Protection Association, a candle or other heat source was too close to the tree.

Christmas tree careAvoid using combustible ornaments. Pine cones and other flammable decorations can add fuel to a Christmas tree fire and should be avoided.

Never let the water level in your stand dip below the tree’s base; keep it filled. (The temperature of the water used is not important and does not affect water uptake.)

Unplug your Christmas tree every night. Never leave it plugged in when you are away from home or asleep.

When It’s Over

With proper care, a Christmas tree can stay fresh for about a month. But all good things must come to an end.

And when the season is over, and it’s time to remove your tree, don’t just kick it to the curb! There are plenty of ways to recycle it.


The Old Farmers’ Almanac

National Christmas Tree Association

Travelers Insurance

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