When buying a tree, make sure it is fresh and the stems are pliable by bending the stems. Fresh tree stems will not break; they should spring back to shape. It is best to buy your tree at night, or on a wet and rainy day. This helps the tree not dry out on the drive home. When you get it home, cut about an inch off the bottom of the trunk. This helps to expose fresh water conducting tissue in the tree trunk. Put it in a bucket of water right after you make the cut, and store it either outside in the shade or in a cool garage. Trees tend to drop needles during these first few days and having them outside or in the garage helps with the mess.
Water down the trunk several times while it is outside. It is not necessary to water the needles; doing so may help rinse dust and pollen that cause allergies for some. Wetting the trunk helps to invigorate the tree’s ability to take up water from the bottom of the stem. Just under the thin bark tissue is the vascular system of the tree. This is a layer of vein like channels that trees use to move water and nutrients throughout the tree.
Before bringing the tree inside, take a blower and blow off and shake off loose needles. If you don’t have a blower, you can lift the tree about a foot off the ground and drop it on the trunk to encourage loose needles to fall. Before placing the tree in a good tree stand (one with a deep reservoir), cut another inch-or-so off the bottom.
The vascular system will only remain viable for a short period of time after it is severed from the root system. By making another fresh cut, you can gain more time for enjoying the tree indoors.
The tree’s placement inside should be somewhere that doesn’t have direct sun exposure or hot overhead lamps. Also, if there is an air duct vent near the tree, close it. Don’t allow the air conditioning or heating to blow on the tree.
If available, place a humidifier behind the tree and set it to run at the lowest setting.
Frequently check your water reservoir and refill it as needed. Be very vigilant and do not let the tree go dry. Drying will seal the vascular system and the tree will quickly begin to dry out. If the water went dry accidentally, you may be able to encourage uptake by wetting down the trunk along the base of the tree with a spray bottle. Commercial additives aren’t effective. Just use clear cool water.
Matthew Clemons, RCA #623
Certified Arborist, TX1340 (ISA)
CLP #507 (TNLA)
Oak Wilt Certified #100
Registered Consulting Arborist (ASCA)
Professional Soil Scientist Association of Texas
Fort Worth Arborist Co.