Here are some helpful hints from DoItYourself.com to keep your tree green and healthy during the holidays.
1. Don't buy a tree that is losing green needles, or has dry, brittle twigs or a sour, musty smell. Excessive needle loss can be detected by vigorously shaking the tree, or dropping it onto the end of the trunk several times from a height of about 1 ft (30 cm).The loss of old dead needles from the inside of the tree does not indicate that there is a problem with the tree. Mechanical shakers can remove these needles, and reduce the potential for a mess inside the home.
2. Do not buy a tree that is too large for the area where it will be displayed. Aside from paying more than necessary, up to $10 per ft (30 cm) of height, you will have to cut off a large section of the lower trunk, and possibly the lower whorl of branches. This might ruin the appearance of the lower part of the tree.
3. Note the location of large branches at the bottom of the tree. Be sure that the handle is long enough to allow display of the tree without cutting off the lower whorl of large branches. USDA grading rules specify trees should have a handle 1 to 2 in (2.5 to 3.8 cm) long per ft (30 cm) of height. However, some species are routinely sold without pruned handles, e.g., Fraser fir.
4. When purchasing a tree from a choose-n-cut farm, have the producer mechanically 'shake' the tree, if possible. This will eliminate dead, loose needles, especially in species such as Virginia pine, white pine, Scotch pine and red cedar. There is less potential mess to reach the home.
5. If the transport time from the retail lot or farm to the final destination is more than 15 minutes, it is best to wrap the tree in a tarp, or carry it in an enclosed camper or the back of a pick-up. Strong winds of 60 mph (100 km h-1) on the highway, especially during warm weather, can damage a tree in a short time.
6. Do not leave a cut Christmas tree lying in the sun for long periods of time, especially if air temperatures are warm. Fresh trees dry rapidly in those circumstances.
7. If the tree is carried on a vehicle, tie it securely.
8. If a tree cannot be immediately displayed in water, make a fresh cut on the base of the trunk, and stand it in a bucket of water in a cool, shaded location, either indoors or outdoors. When the tree is displayed in a water holding stand, a second fresh cut is probably unnecessary, but might enhance water uptake.
9. Use a stand that fits your tree. Some stands have circular rings at the top, so the ring must be large enough so the trunk goes through the hole. Other stands are open, which allows more range in trunk size. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
10. Do not use hot water in the stand; it is of no benefit.
11. Do not use chemicals in the stand to prevent evaporation. Water moves into the trunk at the lower cut end, and eventually evaporates (transpires) from the foliage. Evaporation from the surface of water in the stand is negligible, compared to the loss from transpiration.
12. Cut off a disk of wood about 0.5 to 1 in (1.25 to 2.5 cm) thick from the base of the trunk immediately before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Do not cut at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree plumb in the stand, and reduces the amount of water available to the tree. Do not cut off too much trunk, resulting in a handle too short for the stand. This would lead to the situation described in (2) and (3) above.
13. If no saw is available, get the retailer to make a fresh cut on the base of the trunk before departing for home. Assuming that the trip home is relatively short, put the tree in water as soon as possible. Species like Douglas-fir and Fraser fir can go 6 to 8 h after cutting, and still take up water. Do not bruise the end of the trunk or get it dirty.
14. Do not use additives in water, including floral preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin, honey, or other concoctions. Clean water is the only requirement to maintain freshness.
15. Keep displayed trees away from point sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow drying, resulting in less water consumption.
16. Use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. Using stands that are too small is a very common mistake. Fresh trees use about 1 qt (about 1 L) of water per day per in (about 2.5 cm) of trunk diameter. The stand should hold enough water to last 24 h. If the stand goes dry and is subsequently refilled, water uptake may stop or be severely limited, leading to premature drying. Contraptions are available that maintain constant water level in the stand, working on the principle of a commode float.
17. Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not affect water uptake.
18. The use of "I-V" type devices to supply water directly to holes drilled in the tree is not as effective as displaying the tree in a more traditional type of stand.
19. Do not apply film-forming anti-transpirants. The products supposedly block the evaporation of water from the surface of foliage, but in reality have little benefit.
20. Do not use water holding gels in the stand. They reduce the amount of water available to trees.
21. Use only UL approved lights and electrical cords and devices on trees. Check electrical cords and lights for damage prior to placement on the tree.
22. Disconnect all electrical devices prior to removing them from the tree.
23. Monitor the tree for dryness. If the tree is dry, remove it from the house.
24. Never burn a tree in a fire place or wood stove.