A few simple care tips will keep your Christmas tree fresh and fragrant throughout the holiday season.

For the freshest tree possible, consider going to a tree farm to pick and cut your own “Texas Grown.” If buying a precut tree, buy early for the best selection and to ensure it receives proper care.

Before leaving home, measure the height and width of the spot where the tree will be placed. When selecting a cut tree, look for one with a healthy deep green color. Check for needles that are flexible, not brittle. Bump the trunk on the ground. It’s normal for some needles to fall but if they’re still dropping heavily after two or three bumps, the tree is too dry.

When you bring the tree home, cut 1 or 2 inches off the base of the trunk. Stand the tree in a pail of water until you’re ready to decorate.

Locate your tree away from any heat source that can cause premature drying. Place the tree in a stand that holds at least one quart of water – one gallon stands are even better. Remember, trees are very thirsty. Check the stand daily and add water as needed.

Robin Wright-Brumbelow, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Here are a few tips to remember when selecting and caring for your tree:

Check for freshness. Needles should spring back when bent. Falling or brittle needles indicate dryness.

After arriving home with vour tree, saw one to two inches off the base to encourage better water absorption. Place the trunk in a bucket of water for a day or two before bringing the tree inside. Keep the tree in a cool, shaded area.

Remove dry interior needles by tapping the tree on the driveway a few times.

Place the tree in a water-holding stand, and monitor the water level daily.

Locate the tree away from heat sources to prevent drying the needles.

Decorate with small lights, which give off little heat; or use a spotlight to showcase your collection of beautiful baubles.

Nita Wood, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


To check for freshness, sharply bend several needles between your thumb and forefinger, if the needles are brittle and snap then it’s too dry. Needles on a fresh tree will be flexible and snap back. They will be resilient when you brush your hand on the branch.

Choose varieties known for great needle retention and fragrance such as Balsam, Concolor, Douglas and Fraser fir. Scotch and White Pine, also, hold their needles longer. Norway and White Spruce are the worst.

When you bring your tree home, cut a 1 inch slice off the bottom and place in a bucket of water. This will allow the tree to drink and re-hydrate. A newly cut tree will drink up to a quart or more of water each day for the first few days. Check the water level daily. If the bottom is allowed to dry out you will have to recut the base to open the sealed bottom before bringing it indoors. Store the tree in a cool, shaded location.

When bringing indoors, have the tree stand ready and place away from any heating vents or fireplace. Make sure it can hold enough water to keep the tree from drying out. Check the water supply daily. The key to maintaining a fresh tree is to keep it in water that is cooler than room temperature. Be sure to check the needle dryness, if it becomes too dry the tree lights could start a fire.

After the holidays, recycle your tree by placing it outdoors in the yard for wintering birds to enjoy. It can, also, be submerged in a pond or lake to create a fish habitat. Branches can be chipped for use as mulch in the garden, but be sure to add extra nitrogen to the soil.

Art Phillips, former Smith County Master Gardner
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Your Christmas spirit can continue well into the New Year, and even years to come, with the simple pleasure of a live tree rather than a cut tree. Many coniferous evergreens are suitable: Aleppo Pine, Loblolly Pine, Juniper, Deodar Cedar, or Japanese Yew, to name a few. Other possibilities include broad-leafed evergreen trees like American, Burford, or Yaupon Holly.

All of these should be available at local nurseries. Simply place your choice inside a decorative container while on display in your home. The plant should be watered when dry and the room should be kept as cool as possible. Avoid direct sunlight or placing it too close to a fireplace or heater. Decorate and enjoy!

After Christmas, plant the tree in your landscape to enjoy for years. Choose a suitable site and dig a hole roughly two to three times the diameter of the tree’s soil ball. Plant the tree at the same depth as it was planted in its container. Backfill the hole carefully, watering when the hole is 3/4 full; wait for the water to be absorbed, then finish filling the hole.

Mulch the tree well with organic matter and do not fertilize until late spring. Water the tree regularly but allow the soil to dry out somewhat between waterings. More new plantings fail due to over-watering than under-watering, even in our sandy East Texas soils. Don’t kill it with love…

With proper care you’ll not only have a living reminder of this year’s Christmas joy, you’ll also have a tree ready to serve as an outdoor decoration next year, draped with lights.

Kathy Fiebig, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

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