2011-12-01 / Front Page

Christmas tree care

By Frank Watson
County Extension Coordinator

It seems like every year Christmas decorations go up even earlier than they did the year before. When a live tree is used in the home, it really shouldn’t be put up over three weeks prior to Christmas but most people start putting them up soon after Thanksgiving. Putting up trees early can lead to a fire hazard if certain precautions are not taken.

Extension does not recommend the addition of fertilizers, sugar, bleach or soft drinks to the stand water to preserve the freshness of Christmas trees. WATER ADDED DAILY to a large capacity stand (holding one gallon of water) is the most effective means of maintaining tree freshness. You may think this type of stand is hard to find but I’ve seen them in several stores right here in Washington and I think the price was around $25.00.

Sometimes people question the safety of colorants that are commonly applied to many Christmas trees to enhance their natural color. Questions have specifically concerned flammability and toxicity. Colorants labeled for use on Christmas trees are essentially acrylicbased pigment suspensions, or in laymen terms, paint. These are very similar to latex paints for interior use in homes. The most commonly used products contain nontoxic blue, black and green pigments, the same as in crayons, but do not contain lead or cadmium pigments. Labeled colorants have no hydrocarbon or petroleum distillates and are not flammable or combustible. Colorants are a safe and common treatment used on many Christmas tree species nationwide. Use of colorants does not indicate poor tree quality or management.

Consumers should carefully inspect trees before taking them indoors. Shake and bounce the tree on a hard surface to dislodge dead needles, insects and other trash. If insects show up after the tree is in the house, unplug the lights and allow them to cool down. Then cover the area under the tree and spray the tree with an indoor-outdoor approved aerosol insecticide containing pyrethrins or chlorpyrifos. Be sure to follow label directions when using any insecticide.

If you like to cut your own tree, the Market Bulletin usually has a list of choose and cut operations in Georgia.

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