The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 8, 2012

Care for Christmas tree to make it last longer

By Rick Nelson, Extended Forecast
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — If selecting a cut tree, you need to watch for these signs the tree is too far gone.

These signs include:

• Needles are a dull, grayish-green color .  

• Needles fail to ooze pitch when broken apart and squeezed.

• Needles feel stiff and brittle.

• Needles pull off tree easily. Pine needles should bend almost double without breaking. Fir and spruce needles should break like a carrot, and not be brittle when broken.

• Fresh trees do not lose needles easily when shaken.  

Once you have your tree home, recut the trunk about one inch above the original cut. This will open clogged, water-conducting tissues. Immediately place the trunk in warm water.

Locate the tree in as cool a spot as possible. Avoid areas near fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, heat ducts and television sets, as the heat will result in excess water loss.

After the tree is taken home, a section of about one inch in thickness should be removed from the base of the tree, and the tree placed in water.  Fresh trees can take up as much as three quarts of water each day, so the bowl should be checked and filled regularly. Watering should continue throughout the season.

If the reservoir loses enough water that the bottom of the trunk is exposed, the trunk will need to be recut. Adding aspirins, copper pennies, soda pop, sugar and bleach to the water reservoir has not been shown to prolong the life of a tree.

If you choose a living Christmas tree, be sure to dig the planting hole before the ground freezes. Mulch the hole and backfill soil. Live trees should not be kept inside for more than three days. Longer periods may cause them to lose dormancy, resulting in severe injury when planted outside.

You may wish to tag the tree at the nursery and then pick it up a couple days before Christmas. After Christmas, move the tree to an unheated garage for several days to acclimatize it to outside temperatures. After planting, water well and leave some mulch in place to prevent the soil water from freezing and becoming unavailable for plant uptake.

Poinsettia care

Modern poinsettia varieties stay attractive for a long time if given proper care.

Place your poinsettia in a sunny window or the brightest area of the room, but don’t let it touch cold window panes. The day temperature should be 65 to 75 degrees, with 60 to 65 degrees at night. Temperatures above 75 degrees will shorten bloom life and below 60 degrees may cause root rot. Move plants away from windows at night or draw drapes between them to avoid damage from the cold.

Poinsettias are somewhat finicky in regard to soil moisture. Avoid overwatering because poinsettias do not like “wet feet.” On the other hand, if the plant is allowed to wilt, it will drop some leaves.

So how do you maintain proper moisture? Examine the potting soil daily by sticking your finger about one inch deep into the soil. If it is dry to this depth, the plant needs water.

When it becomes dry to the touch, water the plant with lukewarm water until some water runs out of the drainage hole, then discard the drainage water.

Nelson is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension ag educator for Garfield County.