Caring for Your Fresh Christmas Tree

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the
eyes of children, they
are all 30 feet tall.
~Larry Wilde

Nothing says Christmas like the spicy scent of a fresh-cut Christmas tree — a real tree. Keeping your tree fresh through the holiday season can be tricky though! Here are a few tips from the pros on how to make that forest freshness last.

When purchasing your fresh Christmas tree, be sure to bring a blanket or tarp to cover the tree if you are tying it to the top of your car. This will protect your tree from drying out on the way home. Be certain your vehicle can safely transport the tree you purchase to your home. Bring rope or bungee cords to secure the load adequately. 

Begin by cutting 1-2″ off the trunk of your tree, and immediately place it in water. Why? When trees are cut, pitch oozes out and seals the pores. By sawing a bit off the base, you’ll open up the pores, and the tree will be able to absorb water. Then add tree preservative to the water.

The best way to keep your Christmas tree fresh is to keep it hydrated. It’s the single most important thing you can do for your tree. A Christmas tree may “drink” a gallon or more of water each day, so check the reservoir often! Making sure your tree has enough to drink each day will prevent needles from drying, boughs from drooping, and will help to keep the tree fragrant.

Never let the water level go below the tree’s base! A seal of dried sap can form over the cut stump in just four-to-six hours if the water drops below the base of the tree. If the reservoir goes dry — even once — the tree cut will seal and may not take up water again.

A Christmas tree may look beautiful next to a fireplace, but heat sources will only serve to dry out your tree. Place your tree away from fireplaces, wood stoves, heating vents, and direct sunlight. The lights on the tree produce drying heat as well. Always turn the tree lights off when leaving home or going to sleep for the night.

Lower the temperature in the room with your tree. It’s another way to slow down the drying process. The lower the temperature of the room, the better the tree will do.

Professionals use products like Wilt Stop to prolong the freshness of Christmas greenery. It’s a natural, non-toxic product derived from the resin of pine trees. It has the unique ability to form a soft, clear flexible film on plants, and it’s what the pros count on to extend the life of fresh-cut Christmas trees. It’s a great way to prevent moisture from escaping and drying the branches out!

The end of Christmas doesn’t have to be the end of life for your Christmas tree! Fresh-cut trees are useful in the garden in a number of ways.

You can use the pine needles for mulch. Pine needles are full of nutrients that enhance the pH of your soil and can prevent soil compaction in the winter.

Put your leftover Christmas tree outside, and decorate it with strings of popcorn and cranberries to feed the birds. Add pine cones which have been spread with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. The birds will love you!

Use branches as extra insulation. Cut off the branches of your tree and lay them on your garden bed, the boughs will protect your plants from winter freezes and spring thaws. By laying them on your garden you’re giving your plants an even, steady temperature through the coldest months of the year.

A fresh-cut Christmas tree can be an easy and enjoyable part of your holiday celebrations. With just a little know-how, attention, and maintenance, your tree can provide that forest-fresh scent throughout the holiday season.

Caring for Holiday Bloomers


It’s just not the holiday season without these bright, festive classic plants! You can’t go wrong with rich red poinsettias, but they’re available in everything from a snowy white to candy pink — even speckled and marbled varieties! They’re easy to care for, and with a few tricks, they’ll last through the holiday season and beyond.

Poinsettias prefer a bright area away from cold drafts, fireplaces, radiators, or heat vents. Keep them from direct sun. Never expose the plant to cold temperatures for more than a few minutes; a chilled or frozen plant will begin to drop leaves very quickly. Never allow the soil of you poinsettias to dry out completely, but be sure they are not constantly wet or sitting in water inside the foil wrap. Water the plant thoroughly only when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Remember to discard excess water from the saucer.

Be careful of locations where the hot afternoon sun may shine directly on the colorful bracts and cause the color to fade. Temperatures ideally should not exceed 70° during the day, or fall below 65° at night. To prolong the bright color of the bracts, temperatures should not exceed 72 degrees Fahrenheit during the day or 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night.


These statuesque bloomers are a Christmas tradition for many! Their large, colorful blooms bring life to the darkest days of winter. They offer a variety of brilliant festive colors, and are extremely easy to grow.

Amaryllis bulbs will bloom 7-10 weeks after planting. Choose a pot about 2″ wider than the bulb and one that is heavy enough to keep from tipping. Fill the pot part way with potting mix. Set the bulb so that the top 1/3 of the bulb will be above the top of the soil when you fill the pot to 1″ below the top edge of the pot. Give the plant about 4 hours of bright light a day. Plant every 2 weeks for a spectacular color show all winter.

Once the blooms have faded, the plants are not dead! You can rebloom the same bulb the following year. Just cut back the flower stalks to 1-2″ above the bulb, and allow the leaves to continue growing into spring and summer, watering and rotating regularly. Around mid-August, allow the bulb to go dry and allow the foliage to naturally die back. The bulb can then be stored in a cool, dark spot for 8-12 weeks of dormancy. Once the dormancy period is met, the bulb can be repotted in fresh soil, watered, and set in a sunny spot to bring life to another holiday season.


These are wonderful plants for brightening your home during the holidays. The pink, red, white or maroon flowers will continue for weeks. They prefer a cool, dry and bright place.   Choose a plant with plenty of unopened buds to get the most flowers this season. 

With proper care, cyclamen will bloom indoors for several months and can be kept through the summer to provide another display of blossoms next winter. This plant does best in a cool room and in bright light, but away from direct sunlight.  A north or east-facing windowsill is ideal. General Care:  Remove faded flowers and old leaves.  After the plant has stopped blooming, reduce watering and stop feeding.  Place the pot in a cool spot and keep it dry until July.  Then repot the cyclamen tuber in fresh compost, burying the tuber to half its depth.  Place the pot in a cool, well-lit spot and water to keep the soil moist.

Christmas Cactus

Holiday cacti make a great addition to your holiday décor. Their intensely colored blooms droop gracefully at the end of bright green branches. They’re available in an array of different colors, and can continue to bloom long after the holidays are over.

They prefer cooler rooms. Keep the soil on the dry side in November. Only water when the soil feels dry about an inch below the surface. To ensure flowers for Christmas, keep your plant in a room with bright daylight hours and no light after sunset.  Flower buds should set and the plants will be in flower by late December.

Fragrant Herbs

To bring fragrance into your home during the holidays don’t forget herbs! Rosemary, lavender and thyme along with many other herbs will add a delightful aroma to the home. Use the wonderful scent of fresh greens and pine trees to add to the traditional holiday atmosphere.

Don’t wait until spring to enjoy fresh flowers. Keep the bloom going, and add color and life to your winter season with these popular indoor plants.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Poinsettias


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Peterstar Marble Poinsettia with tightly budded flowers framed by the colorful bracts of foliage.

Millions of poinsettias are purchased each year during the Christmas season by people who enjoy the color and warmth they provide to their home.  Healthy plants will last throughout the holiday season.  How do you choose the perfect poinsettia?  Poinsettia plants should be stocky with dark green foliage, well-formed richly colored bracts (modified leaves) and very few open flowers (golden-yellow clusters located at the center of the bracts.) Proper selection will help to insure a long lasting plant that you will enjoy throughout the holiday season.


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Sturdy branches filled with deep green leaves indicate a healthy plant.


Healthy poinsettias have lush leaves and bright colors.


There are few tricks to get your poinsettia home safely.  If temperatures are below 50° F, the plant must be sleeved to protect the plant as it leaves the warmth of the garden center.  Avoid exposing poinsettias to cold temperatures.   A chilled plant will begin to drop leaves very quickly.   Once inside,   remove the protective wrapping.  It is often easier to carefully slit the side of the sleeve to remove it.  Because poinsettia bracts are a little sticky and can adhere to plant sleeves, pulling them down will result in branches breaking.   Don’t leave them wrapped for more than the time it takes to get your plant home.   Leaving them covered can result in blackening, curling and overall plant distress.  If you plan to give the plant as a gift at a later time, ask for a second plant sleeve to use when you transport it to its final destination.

Contrary to popular belief, the Poinsettia is not likely to harm your pets or your children.  Research at Ohio State University, working with The Society of American Florists, has proven that no toxicity was evident at experimental levels that would well exceed the amounts likely to be ingested in the home environment.   Were a person to consume a great many leaves, the result would likely be mild stomach upset.  The white sap can cause skin irritation which can be remedied by washing with soap and water.

How to care for your Poinsettia

• TEMPERATURE: A cool room (65-70F during the day and 60-65F at night) is ideal. Avoid hot or cold drafts or excess heat from appliances, fireplaces, radiators or ventilating ducts.

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Glace, the brightest of the white poinsettias

• LIGHT: Very bright, indirect light is essential for proper growth and color retention.

• WATER: Plants should be checked daily and watered thoroughly whenever the soil feels dry to touch or the pot becomes light. If the plant is wrapped in foil, slit the bottom to avoid water accumulating at the bottom of the pot.  If it is in a basket, be sure to discard any drainage that collects.  Poinsettias hate to have their pots standing in water and they aren’t very forgiving about it.

• FERTILIZER: Plants should be fertilized with a well-balanced all purpose fertilizer like Peter’s 20-20-20 until the poinsettia is in full color. Once in full color, reduce fertilizing to ½ strength once every 3-4 times that you water.


Reflowering Your Poinsettia

If you have a gardener’s green thumb, you may want to try your hand at reflowering your poinsettia next year. If you follow these directions very carefully, it is possible to have your poinsettia in flower by Christmas.  The following describes the cycle of poinsettia color.

• December: Full bloom. Water as needed.

• Late March to Early April: Color fades. Keep near a sunny window. Cut stems back to about 8”. Water as needed and fertilize with a well-balanced, all purpose fertilizer like Peter’s All-Purpose Plant Food. Around May you should see new growth.

• June 1st:  Re-pot if necessary in a well-drained potting mix.  You can put your plant outside if you would like as long as the night temperatures are consistently above 55 F and it is protected from the hot sun.

• July-August:  Pruning may be required to keep your plant compact and bushy.  Do not prune after September 1st.

• Starting October 1st:  Provide complete and continuous darkness for 12-14 hours night combined with 6-8 hours of bright light a day. During the night, stray light of any kind, streetlights or household lamps, may delay or halt the re-flowering process.

• Remember: The key to success is to follow the strict light-dark requirements very carefully.

• Once your poinsettia is in full color, stop fertilizing until it loses its color and the cycle starts again in March.

Poinsettia Facts

The assigned botanical name is Euphorbia pulcherrima, meaning “the most beautiful Euphorbia”. The United States’ first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett, sent several plants back to his home in Greenville, South Carolina in 1825. The common name, poinsettia, comes from his last name.


Make it Merry and Bright

92b6e661f7fd05e2a0faf2f2face96f3 Festive decorations set the mood for holiday celebrations. The fresh scent of pine and cedar boughs brings forth memories of evenings spent with friends and family, and excitement for the gatherings to come. Wreaths and garlands made up of fresh cut evergreens have a long-standing tradition of welcoming visitors to our homes. A wreath can also serve as a centerpiece. Simply lay it flat on the table and place pillar candles in the center. Add ornaments and ribbon to suit your style. Similarly, boughs strewn down the center of table, accented with pine cones and berries, will add charm to your holiday table. There are few tricks to keeping fresh cut wreaths and greens looking nice, in our dry climate. Before decorating your wreath, spray it with Wilt Stop. Wilt Stop reduces moisture loss from the needles, keeping your wreaths and garlands looking fresh for a longer period of time. Display wreaths and garlands in shaded areas. Direct sunlight will dehydrate them quickly. If you are using them indoors, keep in mind that heat from the fireplace will dehydrate fresh greens and can pose a fire hazard. Limit use of the fireplace, or choose permanent wreaths and garlands to adorn the mantel. It will help to mist them lightly on a regular basis, too.wilt-stopchristmas-wreath

A favorite way to welcome guests is to create a holiday porch pot. Leave the potting mix in your summer planters, and wet it thoroughly. Fill the pot with fresh cut boughs and colorful branches. Add a festive garnish of ribbon, pine cones and holiday trim. Keep the soil moist and your bough filled planters will decorate your home into the New Year. This a great alternative to attempting to keep a living evergreen in your patio pots, a feat which is exceedingly difficult in our

We can’t forget about the centerpiece to our holiday décor, the Christmas tree. Fresh cut Christmas trees bring out the holiday spirit in everyone. There’s nothing quite like the feeling generated by admiring a beautifully lit tree, filled with decorations that often span generations in a family. If you can, select your tree from a store where they are kept indoors. Your tree will have experienced less exposure to the elements, resulting in greater moisture retention in the needles. Your tree should receive a fresh cut and be placed in water within 20 minutes. Otherwise, the cut will seal and the tree won’t be able to draw up the water. It’s a good idea to wait 24 hours before decorating the tree, just to be sure it is drawing water. Be sure to use a tree stand with a large water reservoir and check to see that it is filled regularly. If the basin dries out just once, the tree will dry out quickly. Crispy Christmas trees are not only unattractive, they pose a fire hazard in your home. A few other tips include; display the tree out of direct sunlight and away from heat vents. Don’t leave the lights on when the tree is unattended. Disposal will be made easier if a tree bag is placed under the stand before the tree is set up. Then, when it’s time to take down the tree, just slide the bag up to prevent dropping needles through the house as it is removed. That’s what I call “merry.”

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree has been the centerpiece of the home through the holidays for several hundred years.  What began in Germany in the 1500’s has evolved into a time honored tradition that has spread across the globe.   Today,  there are many choices available to suit most anyone’s decor and style.   Typically, these choices are centered on three types of trees;  permanent trees, fresh cut trees and living trees.  Each has it’s benefits, so how do you choose?  Here’s some of the basic information to making the most of your holiday tree.

decorated permanent tree

Permanent trees require little maintenance and can be enjoyed for years.  Most are hinged, making assembly a  simple matter of sliding each section’s center post into the next, then fluffing out the branches.  The fluffing is the key to making your tree look full and lush look.  In most cases, permanent trees are pre-lit.   Traditional bulbs come in both clear and assorted colors.  They have a softer look than the newer LED lights.  LED lights are energy efficient and long lasting, but are significantly brighter than their traditional counterparts.   In both types, the lights will remain lit as long as the circuit isn’t broken.  That means if one light goes out, the rest will still remain lit, unless you remove the bulb from the strand.   Permanent trees can be found in an array of colors from black to red, to purple.  However, most of us will choose the life-like green trees.  The construction quality of permanent trees is the key to their durability and determines the years of enjoyment the tree will provide.    Many newer styles incorporate injection molded branches which mimic living trees with greater accuracy.   It’s a good idea to have a bulb tester handy as your tree ages.   Most of them will last 10 years or longer, which means you may need to replace a bulb or two over its lifetime.


Fresh cut Christmas trees are the preferred tree for most people.  Their fragrance fills our homes and delights the senses.  There are quite a few types of fresh cut trees available.  We stick to those we feel perform best in our dry winter climate.   Fraser Fir, Noble Firs, Nordman and Douglas Fir are some of the most popular choices.  Frasers and Nobles hold their needles longer and have sturdy branches to hold larger ornaments.  For a little something different, try a Princess Pine.

The average humidity in Colorado homes is 30% or less.  That means the needles don’t retain their moisture well.  There are a few things we can do to help.   First, give your tree a fresh cut, removing two inches from the bottom.  then place the tree in a stand that holds adequate water.  The larger the water reservoir, the less likely your tree is to run out of water and dry out.  You can also apply products that reduce the transpiration rate of the needles.  These are sprays like Wilt Stop and should be applied outdoors or in a garage before bringing the tree indoors to its final destination.  Once your tree has a fresh cut, is in place and water fills the reservoir, allow your tree to stand for a day or so to insure it is taking up water before decorating.    This is important because no one wants to remove the decorations because the tree needs another cut or isn’t taking up water.   Keep water in the reservoir at all times.  Once it runs dry, the tree may stop taking up water.  Products like Keeps It Green can aid in the preservation of your tree through the season.   Please read instructions on anything you plan to add to the water, particularly if you have young children or pets who may attempt to drink water from the stand.  If you are unable to prevent them from gaining access to the stand, stick to using plain water.

Decorate your tree with lights appropriate for indoor use.  Older outdoor lights are too hot and can easily result in fire.  Leave your lights on only when there is someone present to monitor them.   Remember to follow instructions.  Most light strands will tell you not to link more than 3 strands, end to end.   Safety first.

The average 6 foot tree takes about 6 years to grow.  Christmas trees are grown as sustainable crops,  meaning farmers replant their tree fields for future holiday’s use.  If you don’t like the idea of cutting down a farmed tree, then perhaps a living Christmas tree is the choice for you.


Living Christmas trees are beautiful and can become a wonderful tradition that promotes giving back to nature.   They do have some special needs in order to preserve them.   Live trees aren’t meant to live in our indoor temperatures for an extended time.  Keeping them indoors interrupts their winter dormancy.  In order to preserve their dormant period, they shouldn’t be indoors for more than 10 days.  They can be kept potted, outdoors in a protected area until the ground can be worked for planting, following their use indoors.

When trees are potted, they are no longer part of nature’s care.  It’s up to you to look after them until they can be planted and become an established part of the landscape. This means you’ll need to water them when their soil dries about half the depth of the pot.  Don’t fertilize them.  Fertlizer stimulates growth that would be damaged in the next freeze.  Larger potted trees are a bit easier to maintain, simply because the size of their pots provides greater soil volume to protect the roots from freezing.  Raised above ground, there is a risk of the root system being damaged from greater exposure.  It’s helpful to water them just before a freeze, as this acts as insulation to roots.  Well hydrated plants are less susceptible to dehydration from winter winds and arid cold spells.   Pots can be wrapped in bubble wrap to provide a barrier to the cold, as well.  Remember to water them and keep them out of dry winter winds.