Live Christmas trees have been brought into homes and decorated during the holiday season for more than 500 years.
Each year, more than 33 million live Christmas trees are used in households across the United States. Live Christmas trees have an attractiveness, fragrance and tradition that cannot be matched with artificial substitutes.
Christmas trees are grown throughout the United States and Canada, and you can choose your tree from a wide variety of species. It takes five to 12 years to grow a Christmas tree, and for each tree harvested, two or three seedlings will be planted. You can select your live Christmas tree from a local retail lot, where there can be a variety of trees from the United States and Canada. Or you can visit a local choose-n-cut Christmas tree farm to cut a fresh tree from the field where it was grown.
Selecting your tree
Keep these points in mind when choosing a specific tree:
• Check the height of the ceiling in the room where you will display your tree. Select a tree that is at least one foot shorter than the ceiling height.
• Run your fingers over the branch along the needles. Needles should be pliable and adhere to the branches. They should bend, but not break or fall off.
• Shake or bounce the tree to be sure that the needles are firmly attached. If the tree is fresh, few needles should fall off. Some loss of needles inside the tree is common.
• Avoid trees that have a wilted look.
• Make sure the handle of the tree is straight. The handle must be six to eight inches long to allow placement in the tree stand.
• Check for insects and dead needles inside the tree crown. Have dead needles shaken or blown out when you buy the tree.
Caring for the tree in your home
If you don’t plan to put the tree up right away, cut one inch off of the base, put the tree in a bucket of water and stand it in a shady place. When you bring the tree indoors, cut 1/2 to one inch off of the base of the trunk and place in a tree stand that holds at least one gallon of water. Do not place the tree near a fireplace, heater vents or other heat sources.
Always keep the tree well-supplied with water. Check the water level in the stand several times each day. Trees may use several quarts of water a day. Never let the water level fall below the base of the tree. If this occurs, the cut end can seal over, preventing further water uptake. The tree must then be taken down and a fresh cut made to allow water uptake. Adding aspirin, soda water, bleach or sugar to the water in the tree stand is no more effective in keeping the tree fresh than adding plain water each day.
Fireproofing your tree
The best way to keep a tree fresh and fire resistant is to keep it supplied with water at all times. A fresh tree supplied with water presents little fire hazard. As long as the tree takes up water, it will be relatively fire resistant. Do not allow the water level in the tree stand to fall below the base of the tree. Use only UL-approved lights and nonflammable decorations. Never leave home or go to bed with the Christmas tree lights on.
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