Ask Elaine: Live and Cut Christmas Trees

I don’t know if I should get a cut Christmas tree or a live Christmas tree. What is the difference in care and maintenance? Thanks. Happy holidays!


Dear John,

Getting ready for the holidays should be fun and easy, including Christmas tree selection. 

A fresh cut tree, if properly cared for, will last about four weeks before drying out. Select the freshest tree. Run your hands along the limbs and look for fallen needles. Bend a branch to see if it snaps back. Needles should snap like a fresh carrot. Shake the tree a few times to get rid of old needles.

A fresh cut tree needs a stand with a large water reservoir because a six-inch trunk can use 1½ gallons of water per day. Consider fir trees, such as Douglas, Frasier, or concolor/white fir. We grew concolor fir trees on our former farm in Warren County. It is a beautiful tree with soft blue-green needles and smells like clementine citrus fruit.

Make a fresh ¼” thick cut on the bottom of the trunk. Position your fresh cut tree as far as possible from any heat source, including radiators and fireplaces. Water it every day. Do not use anti-transpirants or water holding gels or other water additives. Miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree, especially the new LED lights. Recycle your tree.

If you are thinking of purchasing and planting a “live” Christmas tree this year, dig the hole outside before the ground freezes and cover the excavated soil so that it doesn’t freeze. Place the tree’s root-ball in a tub or bucket big enough to hold it and store the tree out of wind and sun for at least two days before bringing it into the house. Mist down the needles and water the root-ball just enough to get it damp, not wet.

Inside, keep the tree away from the heat sources. Limit the hours that electric lights are on. Live trees should be inside no more than one week. Take the tree outside to a protected area for two or three days and mist the needles. Plant in the prepared hole, removing the wire basket, the burlap and all the twine. Fill the hole with the reserved soil. Water thoroughly and apply two inches of mulch.

To all of the FOLA members, friends and family, have a wonder winter holiday and best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.

All the best,
Elaine Fogerty, Executive Director

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