How to Care for Christmas Tree Water

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Now that you've done the difficult work of selecting a fresh Christmas tree and delivering it to your home you need to keep your tree looking healthy through the holidays.

You will need to give it plenty of water. As for treating that water, though, most experts say there is no reason to add anything—plain tap water will do.

What the Experts Say

While many additives are available for Christmas tree water, most experts—including the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA)—say there is no reason to use them.

In the words of Dr. Gary Chastagner of Washington State University:

"Your best bet is just plain tap water added to the Christmas tree stand. It doesn't have to be distilled water or mineral water or anything like that. So the next time someone tells you to add ketchup or something more bizarre to your Christmas tree stand, don't believe it."

Still, other scientists say some additives increase both fire resistance and needle retention.

One such additive—Plantabbs Prolong Tree Preservative—claims to increase water absorption and prevent drying. Another product—Miracle-Gro for Christmas Trees —claims to deliver important nutrients and reduce bacterial growth.

If you're worried about your tree being a fire risk, you may want to give one of these products a shot. Just remember that they are no substitute for adequate watering.

Proper Watering

The best way to keep your tree fresh is to make sure it gets plenty of moisture. This starts with using a tree stand with an adequate water capacity.

The ideal stand is one that holds a quart of water for each inch of the stem diameter. That means that if your tree trunk has an 8-inch diameter, you'll want a stand that holds at least 2 gallons of water.

If the stand is too small, your tree will soak up the water more quickly than you can likely replenish it, leaving your tree dried out. Make sure, as well, to use a tree stand that is large enough to accommodate the trunk of your tree without having to trim down the sides.

If your tree is more than a day old you may want to saw a one-inch "cookie" off the tree's trunk bottom. Even a small sliver shaved off the trunk will help. This freshens the trunk and allows water to be quickly taken up to the needles for continued freshness. Make sure to cut in a straight line perpendicular to the trunk, as an uneven slice can make it more difficult for the tree to absorb water.

Even if you don't plan to decorate your tree as soon as you take it home, put it in a bucket of water to keep it fresh.

Place your tree in a cool, dry place away from fireplaces, radiators, and other heat sources. Too much heat will cause the tree to quickly lose moisture and dry out.

Check the level of the water each day to make sure it stays above the base of the trunk. Make sure to check the needles as well. If they seem dry and brittle, the tree has dried out and may be a fire hazard. If this happens it should be taken outside and thrown away.