Keeping Fresh Greens Fresh

The holiday season is upon us and many of us will be putting up live/fresh cut trees.  There is nothing better than the smell of fresh cut greens indoors to celebrate the spirit of the season.  However, there are a few tips that you can follow to make sure that your tree and greens stay fresh and safe while indoors.

When working with live plant material we need to remember that they need water to stay fresh.  Tree stands need to be able to hold one quart of water for every inch of stem diameter.  As a reminder diameter is the distance across the circle.  Typically most 7 to 9 foot trees are around four inches which is about one gallon of water.   

In order to make sure that your tree is able to take up water a fresh cut needs to be made at the trunk before it is placed in the tree stand.  Most tree retailers will do this for you at their store.  If you are unable to get the tree home and in the stand two hours after the cut is made it is best to wait and do it yourself.  There are add on sales that retail centers might promote to extend the life of the tree.  Some may suggest the use of home remedies that have been passed down.  The best thing is to use plain tap water.  Adding aspirin, fertilizers, sugar or other store bought additives will not extend the life of the tree.

If the live tree is going to be displayed in public check with your local government for any regulations.  Many cities, towns and villages require that the tree is fireproofed before it can be displayed in a public setting. 

The first few days after the tree is in place it will quickly go through a few gallons of water.  You need to actively check the tree stand to make sure it does not go dry.  If it does there is a chance that the water conducting tissues will be plugged with natural resins and stop taking up water.  If this happens you will need to make a new fresh cut to get the water flowing again.

Placement indoors is will also help extend the life of the tree and greens.  Place live centerpieces and garland out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat.  Trees should also be placed in locations away from heat; including fireplaces, space heaters and furnace ducts. 

When working with fresh cut greens outdoors in containers you may want to consider using an anti-desiccant product that coats the needles in a transparent wax.  These products are designed to prevent the needles from drying out.  This will extend the use of the cut greens for season long use.

When the season is done recycle your tree.  Most municipalities offer tree recycling free of charge.  Check with your local solid waste handler to find out the drop off points.  Help them by removing all decorations from the trees.  Most tree recycling centers do not accept flocked trees but check to make sure.

With a few simple steps you’ll be able to extend the life of you fresh greens as we celebrate the holiday and Christmas season.

Bottom two to three inches of the trunk should be cut before placing in water.
Scott Evans
Scott Evans is a horticulture assistant with Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties. A certified arborist through International Society of Arboirculture and Nebraska Arborist Association. Scott is also Tree Risk Assessment Qualified through ISA. Scott co-leads the Master Gardener program in Douglas & Sarpy counties. Along with volunteer management he provides his expertise with disease and insect identification, lawn and landscape weed management, plant health, and I.P.M. practices. He also enjoys growing many houseplants ranging from African violets to cacti and succulents. Scott has two Bachelors of Science, one in Biology (emphasis in Botany, Ecology and Environmental Science) and second in Environmental Geology from Northwest Missouri State University. He earned his Master of Agriculture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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