Remember to water Christmas tree before it’s too late

Sean HubbardOSU Ag Communications

STILLWATER – Everyone is busy, especially during the holidays. If you are not Christmas shopping, you are making family travel plans. If you are not at work, you are at your kid’s school function. You are making dinner, driving to basketball practice, feeding the pets, wrapping presents and cleaning the house.

The last thing on most people’s minds is watering the Christmas tree in the living room. A Christmas tree without water is not a good thing. However, proper care can go a long way in ensuring a safe and jolly holiday season.

“Christmas trees are often made the culprit for causing fires during the holiday season,” said Craig McKinley, retired Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension forestry expert. “A Christmas tree cannot cause a fire any more than your sofa, your couch or your waste basket.”

A fresh Christmas tree can stay healthy for several weeks if given the proper care, which starts with cutting about an inch off the trunk to aid in water absorption.

Not making the initial cut prior to setting up the tree could be detrimental since the biggest key to keeping a Christmas tree happy is keeping it moist. After squaring off the new base of the tree, immediately put it in the tree stand, which should have a large water reservoir.

McKinley said the water movement through the tree is a physical process, as the tree creates a vacuum that sucks up the water and into the needles. Plenty of water is needed. A freshly cut tree can take in morethat a gallon of water per day for the first few days.

It is virtually impossible to give your tree too much water, so just keep the reservoir full. McKinley said it is vital the reservoir not be allowed to go dry because once the “vacuum” is broken, the tree may not be able to create enough pressure for suction to get the water going again, resulting in a dry, flammable tree.

The number of fires involving Christmas trees has gone down in the United States since the use of lit candles on trees has greatly decreased. That tradition continues in parts of Europe, but those trees have much more space between branches to allow for that type of decoration.

“We’ve learned candles on trees are not a good idea, even if they’re used in Europe,” McKinley said. “Trees can be a fuel source, and should be treated as such. But, a number of other items also can be fuel for a fire. Simply stated, trees don’t cause fires and are not inherently dangerous.”

Aside from lit candles in Christmas trees, much concern had been raised in the past about how hot the lights would get on the trees. With new regulations on lights, that is no longer a threat, as they stay rather cool.

The placement of a Christmas tree also will affect its lifespan. Heating vents will dry out the tree more quickly. Anything in thehouse that could produce any type of heat will increase the evaporation of water in the tree and lead to an early demise.

Also, pruning the tree is not a bad idea. Many people will prune trees to get the shape they are looking for or to create a little more space underneath the tree for gifts.

“Make sure you know where the limb is going before you cut it,” McKinley said. “Some species of tree can have limbs that start at the bottom of the tree and span several feet up.”

With proper care, a Christmas tree can stay beautiful for more than a month. The truth of the matter is if you take a fresh-cut Virginia pine and you stick it in a stand with water, you will have a hard time getting it to burn.