HomePublic SafetyChristmas Tree Safety Tips

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

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Town of Salem, NH

1. Start with a healthy, vibrant tree.

This is especially important if you’re buying a specimen from a tree lot, as the tree may have been cut a couple weeks prior and transported a long distance to reach the vendor. Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor where the trees came from and how recently they were harvested.

Before bringing a tree home, run your fingers along the branches and look for soft, flexible needles that have a rich, deep green color.

Dried-out trees will often have a bleached or pale olive-colored appearance. Check how many needles fall off right away—if it’s a lot, it’s a good indication that the tree is not as fresh as it should be. Give the tree a good shake and watch for an excessive amount of needles that fall, as well as signs of thinning or browning areas.

2. Give the tree a clean, straight cut across the bottom.

Chopping down your own tree ensures you have the freshest cut possible, assuming you don’t live more than a couple hours away.

This is because it takes three to four hours for a seal of dried sap to form over the cut trunk, thereby hindering its ability to absorb water. It’s most common in non-dormant trees and those that sit out in the sun for a while.

If you’re buying a tree from a tree lot, ask the vendor to make a fresh cut for you by slicing off a thin disk of wood from the trunk. This is ideal if you’ll be placing your tree in water within 45 minutes of the cut.

Otherwise, make the cut yourself at home by sawing an inch off the bottom in a straight line (no angled or “V” cuts necessary).

You should make a fresh cut even if you cut your own tree just a few hours ago.

Why? Because when a tree is first cut, air gets into the plant tissues and disrupts the tree’s ability to absorb water. Cutting the trunk again “primes” the tree, so to speak, so it can hydrate properly.

3. Get the tree in water as soon as you come home.

The drive home on the roof of your car or the bed of your truck can start to dry out even the freshest tree to the point where it needs a drink of water immediately.

If you haven’t cleared space in your home for the tree yet, place the trunk in a large bucket of water in a cool, shaded, sheltered spot like an unheated garage (or a covered porch, if it doesn’t get below freezing in your area).

Trees can absorb as much as a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, so it’s crucial that your tree stays well hydrated.

4. Keep it cool.

As romantic as the idea of a beautifully lit Christmas tree by the fireplace is (you know, so Santa has quick access), it’s actually not the most ideal place to keep a tree.

Heat sources like fireplaces, wood stoves, space heaters, and radiators often dry out a tree much faster than you can water it, so it’s best to locate your tree away from heating apparatuses and heating vents, and out of direct sunlight.

If you love having your tree in front of a window, try to avoid a south-facing window (or draw the blinds or curtains during the day when the sun is most intense).

The warmer your home is, the more your tree will take up water, so consider lowering the thermostat to slow the drying process.

If you live in a particularly dry climate, it may also help to run a room humidifier near the tree to keep the needles fresher longer.

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