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How to care for a fresh-cut Christmas tree

Maria Korneeva/Getty Images A young couple holding their baby daughter while decorating a Christmas tree
LASTING MEMORIES: A child’s first Christmas tree is exciting. However, there must be some care of the tree to keep it in shape through the holiday season.
A tree farmer offers tips to keep fresh trees, wreaths or swags alive for the holidays.

You picked out, cut down and took home that prized Christmas tree over the weekend from a choose-and-cut farm. Now, how do you keep it alive and fragrant throughout the season?

Carol Freeman, owner of Christmas Ranch Tree Farm, offers a few suggestions on caring for fresh trees and wreaths. She and her husband, Roy, have been raising and selling trees on their farm outside of Excelsior Springs, Mo., for more than 30 years.

Members of the Missouri Christmas Tree Association and Missouri Grown program, the couple offers a “care guide” with every purchase to keep those fresh items  festive throughout the holidays.

Care for the trees

When caring for a fresh-cut Christmas tree, Freeman offers the following recommendations:

Prepare the base. Real trees should have their base opened before placing it in water. Freeman says trees harvested from a farm will have this done when cut. However, fresh trees purchased at a lot or precut trees on a farm should all have 1 inch of the stump removed. This allows the tree to take up water, she adds. The base should not be cut on an angle, but straight.

Provide ample water. Freeman recommends trees be placed in a stand with water within three hours of cutting. The bowl should hold at least 1 gallon of water or more. Never let the water go below the base of the tree or the stump, she adds, because then it will no longer be able to take up water because sap builds up on the stump when it does not have access to moisture.

Check water daily. Make time to check the water levels at least once a day.

Avoid heat. Keep the tree away from a heat source. Do not place a tree near a furnace duct, fireplace or in direct sunlight by a window, Freeman warns, as this will cause the tree to prematurely to dry out.

Small lights. Freeman recommends using miniature lights on a tree. It reduces the amount of heat on a real tree and helps it maintain its freshness.

Maintain healthy wreaths

Like many other tree farms, the Freemans offer more than just fresh trees. They also sell fresh wreaths and swags. When it comes to keeping them in top shape for the holidays, it all starts with the initial purchase.

Here are a few suggestions:

Best buy. When buying a fresh-made wreath, feel its tips. Are they pliable or flexible? If not, it may be too dry, Freeman says. A Christmas tree farm is a great source of fresh wreaths.

Avoid sunlight. To prevent a fresh wreath from drying out, do not hang it in direct sunlight. A wreath is made of clippings, Freeman explains, and can only moisturize itself by absorption. Heat and sunlight prevent absorption, so avoid placing them in these locations.

Location matters. While many people want to hang a fresh wreath between a storm door and another door, Freeman says don’t. She notes heat builds up between the doors and will cause the wreath to dry out over time. Wreaths last longer in a shaded area.

Mindy WardA fresh cut wreath with ribbon and glitter ornaments

Trees are not the only fresh Christmas decoration. Holiday wreaths are a popular accent in many homes. To keep them fragrant and green, avoid hanging them in hot locations.

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