Christmas Tree Care

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2 men looking at a Christmas tree in the field

Christmas trees are a holiday tradition that reminds us of past experiences and symbolizes hope for a new year. This year that hope seems to be in abundance as Christmas tree sales have exploded across North Carolina this past week. In North Carolina, Christmas trees provide a valuable addition to our economy, with North Carolina producing 26% of all the real Christmas trees in the U.S., the second-largest producer in the U.S. From approximately 38,000 acres of Christmas trees across the state, more than a dozen varieties are grown (Fir, Spruce, Pine, Arborvitae, etc.), with our native Fraser Fir being the most popular.

The popularity of the Fraser Fir is such that this single species represents 94% of all Christmas trees grown in North Carolina and has been recognized as one of the nation’s best, along with being chosen as the official White House Christmas tree 14 times. If you purchase a Christmas tree this year, there is an excellent chance it will be a Fraser Fir.

2 men carrying a Christmas Tree

Employees of Clawson’s Choose and Cut head to wrap up a Frasier fir for transport on top of a family van.

So, what can we do to help protect this valuable holiday symbol and significant investment?

  1. Best Advice – just ADD WATER. A Fraser Fir has the potential to last 4-6 weeks when displayed in water and 3-4 weeks when displayed dried.
  2. To prepare your Christmas tree for display, make a straight fresh cut and remove approximately one-half inch of material from the base of the tree before placing the tree in the stand.
  3. Use a stand that will hold a gallon of water or more. Check the water level often and keep the stand full. A tree may take up a gallon of water in the first 24 hours and a quart each day after that. Preservatives are not needed, just plenty of fresh water.
  4. Place trees away from heat sources, heating vents, fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators, and sunny windows. These sources can dry out foliage and can create fire hazards.

In some rare cases, Christmas trees can bring along unwanted hitchhikers such as Cinara aphids or spider mites. These insects are rarely a problem, but can sometimes arrive in large enough numbers to create concern. Give the tree a good shake outside and rinse the tree with a garden hose. This can help dislodge pests and loose needles, and reduce dust or pollen. If you notice insect pests when the tree is displayed, use a vacuum to carefully remove them. Try to avoid smashing insects that fall from trees, as most will leave an unsightly dark stain. The application of an insecticide is rarely needed, but insecticidal soap would be the safer option. However, insecticidal soap requires thorough coverage, which will be almost impossible once the tree is decorated. If the insect problem is significant, a return trip for a replacement tree might be needed.

If you would like to learn more about Christmas trees and their production, please visit the NC State Extension Christmas Tree portal.

To locate a Christmas tree farm, try out the new Visit NC Farm App, visit the NC Farm Fresh website or the NC Christmas Growers Association website.

For additional information on this subject please contact Daniel Simpson at 252-745-4121 or daniel_simpson@ncsu.edu.