It's hard to believe, but Americans buy an astounding 33 million Christmas trees every year. That's right, 33 million live or cut trees, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), a St. Louis-based trade group founded in 1954. The association represents around 5,000 growers, wholesalers and retailers (another 12,000 people are involved in the industry but are not trade group members, the association says).
The NCTA has this to say about choosing and caring for your tree:
- A tree should look and smell fresh. To test it, grip a branch between thumb and forefinger and pull forward gently. No more than a few needles should come loose.
- When you bring the tree home, keep it in a sheltered area, out of the sun and wind, until you are ready to take it in and decorate it.
- Before you bring it inside, cut about 1/4 in. off the stem and place the tree in a stand that holds about a gallon of water. The tree will use about 1 gal. of water in the first 24 hours. Be sure to keep the water supply replenished. If the water supply drops below the freshly cut end of the stem, a layer of dried sap will form over the cut in 4 to 6 hours, and this will prevent the tree from taking up any more water. For a great product that should help keep the tree watered, see “Tree Tanker" below.
- Do not set the tree up near a heat source such as a radiator, hot-air register, fireplace or wood stove. This will rapidly dry out the tree. Besides, fireplaces and woodstoves present the danger of combustion. Approximately one-quarter of the 330 Christmas tree fires that occur every year start when the tree is ignited by a thrown spark, flame or embers, according to NCTA, which cites data generated by the National Fire Protection Association.
- Always consider the adaptability of the species of the live Christmas tree you are planning to buy. Sometimes, live trees are shipped outside their growing area to places where they will not thrive. When considering a live tree, find out if the tree is suited to the area where you live. Consult a nursery or agricultural extension office for regional species information.
- Before it is brought inside, a live tree should be stored in a garage or covered porch, out of the wind and sun. The tree’s root ball should be kept moist during this period and when it is brought inside.
- Likewise, at the end of the holiday season, the tree should be moved to a sheltered location before being brought outside.
- In most parts of the country, the ground is liable to be frozen when the tree is brought back outside, so set the tree in a hole that has been dug ahead of time. Stake the tree, and cover its base with a generous mound of mulch. Cover the base of the tree with dirt when the ground has thawed.
- In most cases, the tree’s roots and the surrounding dirt will be held in a burlap covering. Do not remove the burlap to plant the tree. For that matter, you don’t even have to remove a plastic cover. Just cut the cord at the top of the cover and roll it halfway down the root ball before placing the tree in the hole. The only cover that must be removed is a plastic pot. To remove it, tap gently around the outside of the pot, and slide it off the root ball.
- They may seem obvious, but it never hurts to review the following rules regarding electrical safety with Christmas trees, since nearly half of all Christmas tree fires have an electrical origin.
- Use only electrical cords that are listed by Underwriters Laboratories. The UL listing is usually marked on a tag attached.
- Do not use cords that have been repaired with electrical tape or that exhibit damage of any kind.
- Never overburden the outlet that the tree lights are plugged into.
- Unplug the tree lights before going to bed.
When we saw this tree stand at the National Hardware Show, we were struck by the fact that it takes a fresh approach to keeping a tree well-watered. The stand uses a detachable 1-gal. tank that is formed from clear plastic, so you can tell at a glance whether it’s time to refill. Just lift the tank off the tree stand and bring it to a sink to refill it. The stand fits trees with trunk diameters up to 6 in. and heights up to 9 1/2 ft.
An added benefit of the device: It’s a sealed system, so your pet can’t get under the tree to have a drink. It costs about $35 at Sears and specialty stores and on television shopping channels.