Christmas tree care and safety tips
by Ron Wolford
December 14, 2014

According to the National Fire Protection Association from 2007 to 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage annually.

To keep your tree from becoming a statistic, Wolford recommends following these tips.

• After purchasing your tree, place it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold (freezing) temperatures until you’re ready to bring it indoors. Make a fresh 1-inch cut on the butt end and place the tree in a bucket of water. Continue to water your tree on a daily basis. If the tree is not taking up water, make a fresh cut.

• When you decide to bring the tree indoors, make another fresh 1-inch cut and place the tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least one gallon of water, or a rule of thumb is one quart of water for every inch of diameter of the trunk.

• Check the water level in your tree stand daily. Keep the water level about the base of the tree. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly. Commercially prepared mixes that include aspirin, sugar, and other additives added to the water are not necessary. Research has shown that plain water will keep a tree fresh.

• Keep the tree as far away as possible from heat sources such as heaters, vents, radiators, and fireplaces. Keeping the room where the tree is located cool will slow down the drying process.

• Check all Christmas tree lights for worn electrical cords. Use UL-approved electrical decorations and cords. Be sure to turn off the tree lights when leaving the house. Unplug tree lights at night. Miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree. Be sure not to overload electrical circuits.

• Many fresh-cut trees, if properly cared for, will last a few weeks before drying out. Take down the tree before it dries out.

• Recycle your tree after Christmas. Many communities will pick up trees and turn them into mulch. You might put the tree in your backyard and place bread and suet among the branches for the birds.

For more information, please check out the University of Illinois Extension web site Christmas Trees & More at

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