seal  Purdue News

November 11, 2003

Purdue expert: Proper tree care crucial to safe holiday season

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – With Christmas just around the corner, many people will begin their search for a fresh tree, but picking one that will look good and last through the holidays involves some work, according to a Purdue University tree expert.

Daniel Cassens, a Purdue Extension specialist and tree farmer, said fresh trees are the best bet for beauty and safety during the holidays.

"A fresh tree's branches are not crumpled or drooping, the needles are tight and the color is good," Cassens said. "And a fresh tree isn't dried out so it's more safe."

To test for freshness, the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) suggests gently grasping a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pulling it toward you. Only a few needles should come off in your hand. Another way to test freshness is to shake or bounce the tree on its stump. If green needles fall to the ground, the tree isn't a good choice.

In addition to selecting a fresh tree, proper care at home can keep it looking festive. If the tree is not set up immediately, it's a good to idea place the trunk in a bucket of water.

"When you get the tree don't let it sit in the sun or wind – those things will dry the tree out quickly," Cassens said. "Don't tie the tree to the top of a car if you're driving long distances, as it can dry it out quickly. Also, covering a tree with plastic can bake it should the sun come out."

Instead, Cassens suggests having the tree bundled at the site and placed in the trunk.

"Most trees will fit in the trunk or in the back of an SUV or truck," he said.

Just before putting the tree in its stand, Cassens said a fresh cut should be made about one-half inch from the bottom of the trunk.

The tree stand should hold one quart of water for every inch in diameter at the bottom of the trunk. Plain water is best and should be added daily. Cassens said commercial and other homemade additives may actually increase water loss.

However, he said, there's little risk to having a Christmas tree in your home.

"A tree doesn't just burst into flames. It has to dry out and be exposed to a flame to catch fire," he said.

To ensure safety, Cassens suggests placing both real and artificial trees away from heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces and other heat sources.

About one-tenth of 1 percent of residential fires involve either an artificial or real Christmas tree, according to NCTA. Most holiday fires, according to the organization's Web site, are caused by overloaded outlets or faulty wiring.

Writer: Kay Hagen, (765) 494-6682,

Source: Daniel Cassens, (765) 494-3644,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes,
Agriculture News Page

Related Web sites:
Indiana Christmas Tree Association
Cassens Trees

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