Tree Care

Please click one of the links below for more information: Tree Care | Consumer Care | Retail Care | Christmas Tree Safety | FAQ’s

Tree Care

You must care for your tree whether you are a retailer or consumer. Over the years, common myths and other misconceptions over the care and handling of cut Christmas trees have resulted in wasted trees, reduced tree quality, poor tree care and sometimes dissatisfied customers. Also, recent trends of setting trees up earlier during the holiday season increases the chances the trees will not meet consumer expectations of quality during the entire display period unless the trees have proper care. The market is demanding more NC grown Fraser Firs each year…Why? Families are continuing to find that the Fraser Fir’s resistance to shipping stress and temperature fluctuations, its excellent needle retention, its wonderful fresh-cut aroma and its deeper green color make it perhaps the nation’s premier Christmas tree.

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Consumer Care

Do all species keep equally well after harvest?” Certain species simply last longer and remain fresh much longer than others. Some of the best are the North Carolina Fraser fir, Balsam fir, Scotch pine and Douglas-fir. Regardless of species, consumers must make the final judgment of quality by looking at, touching, feeling, smelling and shaking the tree. How much of the trunk should be cut off before setting up the tree? Removing a thin disk (1/4 to 1/2 inch) off the trunk before placing the tree in a water holding stand is all that is needed. It is always a good practice to make a new cut before putting the tree into the stand. What is the minimum amount of water a tree stand should hold? As a general rule, a tree can use up to a quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter. The warmer the temperature and the lower the relative humidity where the tree is displayed, the greater the amount of water required by the tree. If the base of the trunk has a split, will this affect the quality of the tree? It should not affect the ability of the tree to take up water, assuming a fresh cut is made on the base, nor have any effect on how long the tree lasts after it is displayed. :: back to top ::

Retail Care

Are imported trees always drier than locally grown trees because of differences in harvesting dates? Research has shown that trees shipped into markets from some of the major Christmas tree production areas generally arrive with as high a moisture level as “fresh” cut locally-grown trees. Generally, the handling of trees on the retail lots has the greatest effect on their moisture levels (freshness) and quality. What’s the best way to prevent trees from drying out? Trees being stored should be held in a shaded area that is protected from temperature extremes and wind. In most cases, covering trees with shade cloth, burlap or boughs and spraying the piles with water is more effective than using plastic, which may allow light to pass through it and result in damage to the trees. Will spraying trees in hot climates cause the needles to discolor? The greatest potential for drying occurs once the trees are unbaled and displayed. Retailers can significantly reduce the rate of drying on trees displayed by spraying their foliage during the night and early morning. Can you determine if a tree is fresh by bending the needles? Needles on fresh fir trees break crisply when bent sharply with the fingers. Trees that have lost a significant amount of moisture are more pliable and tend to bend without breaking. The needles on fresh pines do not break, because of their fibrous nature, unless they are very dry. View articles about retail lot care and safety. :: back to top ::

Christmas Tree Safety

Be Safe With Your Tree Christmas trees do not start fires, people do! Here are some helpful hints so that you and your family can enjoy the Christmas season and your Fraser fir tree to the fullest.

  • Check all electric lights and connections before decorating. Don’t use any lights with worn or frayed cords.
  • NEVER use lighted candles on your tree.
  • Don’t overload the electrical outlets.
  • Place your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, television sets, and other heat sources. These elements can prematurely dry out your tree.
  • Always make sure that your tree has plenty of water to prevent drying.
  • ALWAYS turn off all decorations before going to bed at night or anytime that you leave home.

Sensible precautions like these will help you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season. Remember that it is not the trees that cause the fires! :: back to top ::

Frequently Asked Questions

I see cut Christmas trees being hauled on the highway in October or even earlier – How early do most farmers cut their trees?

The first cutting date varies, depending on how early we get a good frost.  In general, Christmas Trees are not cut before the first week of November, and most are cut very close to Thanksgiving. To be sure that you get a fresh tree perform a simple freshness test on the tree by gently grasping a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pulling it toward you.  Very few needles should come off in your hand.

Is it okay to buy a tree that is losing its needles?

Some dropping of older, interior needles is natural and normal. However, if the overall color is faded, the bark of the outer twigs is wrinkled and the green, exterior needles easily fall off at a gentle touch or when the tree is bounced on a hard surface, it is excessively dry. Select a different one.

Is a fresh cut really necessary before putting a tree in a water stand?

Always make a fresh cut if possible. After time, generally 3 to 6 hours, the cut stump gets air in the plant tissue, which lessens a tree’s water absorption capacity. A fresh cut will reopen the pores that take up water.

How much should be cut off?

Only one half inch is necessary, not one or two inches as is sometimes instructed.

Will tapering the base or cutting it at an angle increase the area that takes up water?

No. This reduces the surface area of plant tissue that absorbs water molecules. Once the water level falls below the exposed surface on a tapered trunk, drying will begin. An angle or “V” cut will require more water depth to cover the cut surface. It also makes the tree more difficult to hold upright in a stand and less stable.

Should I add bleach, aspirin, fertilizer or other things to the water to make my tree last longer?

No! Research has shown that plain tap water is best. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually be detrimental to a tree’s moisture retention and increase needle loss. Water holding stands that are kept filled with plain water will extend the freshness of trees for weeks.

How large should my water stand be?

Choosing a large capacity stand is one of the most important steps to maintaining your tree’s freshness. Avoid small “coffee cup” stands. Check the water level frequently since trees can drink large amounts of water each day, particularly pre-cut trees during the first week of display. Generally, a tree can use up to one quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter. Therefore, a stand that will hold a four-inch trunk should hold at least one gallon (4 quarts) of water with the tree in the stand.

What kind of tree stand should I use?

There are several different types and styles of tree stands to choose from. The most important characteristic is water capacity. You should also make sure the stand “fits” the tree — if it is too big or too small it might cause the tree to tip over. Do NOT trim the sides of the trunk to fit it in a stand. Ask the retailer if you need advice.

What if my tree doesn’t seem to be absorbing water in the stand?

If you’ve followed all the care tips there are a couple of things to consider. First, if you cut your own tree at a choose and cut farm, it will not absorb water right away since it has not had time to begin drying out. Second, the best indicator of dryness is the tree itself, not the water level in the stand. The rate of water absorption will fluctuate from day to day. This is normal.

What if I forgot to make a fresh cut off the base of the tree before setting it up?

If a fresh cut was not made the tree will still take up water, but at a reduced rate. Hot tap water in the tree stand increases water uptake in some trees. If you’re still concerned, do a freshness test every few days and continue to add water to the stand.

Do Real Trees present the type of fire hazards we often hear about on the news?

Less than 0.0004% of Real Christmas Trees used each year are ignited in home fires and NEVER has a Real Christmas Tree caused or started a fire. Even though the chance of a Christmas Tree fire is very slim, you can ensure that your Real Christmas Tree stays fresh and safe by following the recommended care tips.

Should I be concerned about bugs being in a tree?

Although extremely rare, a number of different insects and spiders have been found in Christmas trees after setup. Cleaning and shaking trees before setup are valuable preventive actions. If troublesome after setup, the first thing to do is to vacuum. If necessary, household insect sprays specifically labeled for use indoors on ornamental plants and evergreens may also be used, following label directions. It is important to turn off and unplug all tree lighting before any sprays are applied to your Christmas tree.

I can’t seem to find the tree that I want. It is often referred to as a Charlie Brown Tree because of its sparse look with short needles. I love these trees and don’t know what they are or who might have one for sale.

The sparse look is dependent somewhat upon the genetics of the tree, but mostly through the shearing practices of the grower. The more open, less dense look is starting to become more popular among consumers, so the Christmas Tree farmers will be working to meet that demand; however, the average Fraser fir tree takes 10 – 12 years to get to 6 or 7 feet high and the majority of consumers still want a full, thick tree. Check with farms in your area and ask them if they have a “less sheared” tree or one that would be graded a “cull.” The grower will understand what you are looking for.

Isn’t it bad for the environment to cut down a tree and use it for Christmas?

It is much better environmentally to use a natural agricultural crop and recycle it after the holidays. Real Christmas Trees are a renewable, recyclable, natural product grown on farms throughout North America. Unfortunately many people have the misconception that Christmas Trees are cut down from the forest. Real Christmas Trees are grown as crops, just like corn or wheat, and raised on a farm. Once they are harvested, new seedlings are planted to replace harvested trees. These would NOT have been planted if trees hadn’t been harvested the previous year.  Fake Christmas Trees however are a non-renewable, non-biodegradable, plastic and metal product most often made in overseas factories.

I thought I’d buy a living tree with its roots intact and plant it after Christmas. How do I do that?

If you need landscape trees anyway, then a rooted tree may be a good option but make sure it can survive in the climate and area you live in. Whether “balled & burlapped” trees or potted, you can find care tips here for trees with its roots still intact.

Where can I recycle my tree after Christmas?

Successful tree recycling programs are coordinated on a local basis. In most communities, the news outlets (TV stations, newspapers and radio) will provide the info on drop off locations and dates for any curbside pick up programs.

How do I get information on how to start my own tree farm?

Growing trees varies a great deal, depending on your climate, soil, terrain and what kind of tree species you’re interested in growing. We recommend that you contact a county extension agent and the state association closest to you.