Tips for Holiday Greenery

Written by Gloria Ballard

November 27, 2023

For many who celebrate the Christmas holidays, there’s something special about bringing in a real tree to hang with twinkling lights, sparkling garlands and special ornaments. Once inside, though, that temporary houseguest needs attention to remain as healthy and last as long as possible. 

“We will have fresh cut Fraser fir trees available,” says Trevor Bradshaw, Gardens of Babylon’s director of retail sales. Read on for tips on caring for a cut Christmas tree, along with how to manage a living tree (with the root ball intact) decorated indoors during the holidays: 

How to care for a cut Christmas tree

The cut tree that you purchase at a garden center, Christmas tree lot, big box store or the nearest grocery has been raised as a crop, much like corn or tomatoes, then cut and shipped to their various destinations. When you buy it and bring it home, it likely was cut weeks ago, so it’s important to prepare it right away for its temporary stay inside your home.

Once a tree is cut, it begins to form a callus of sorts at the base, so to allow the tree to absorb water more easily, give the tree a fresh cut at the base, removing about an inch of the trunk. Place it in a sturdy stand that holds plenty of water. An internet search turns up a variety of water “recipes” that may help the tree stay fresher a bit longer; ingredients may include bleach, corn syrup, aspirin or other additives, but water – and plenty of it — is the most necessary ingredient.

For a tree that’s been in an outdoor lot, it’s a good practice to acclimate it to the temperature change inside your home by keeping it in an unheated but protected area (think garage, if possible) for a couple of days before you bring it inside. A sudden temperature change may cause needles to drop sooner.

Once it’s in place (in a safe location, away from heat sources) and decorated, check the water level in the stand daily. 

Gob Holiday Lauraschneiderphoto 52 Websize

How to care for a living Christmas tree

It’s also possible to use a container-grown or balled-and-burlapped tree as a Christmas tree that you plan to plant outdoors later, but more care is necessary. “We have live conifers that technically could be used as Christmas trees, but we don’t usually recommend it,” Bradshaw says. “They won’t live very long indoors.”

Indeed, trees are meant to be outdoors, so plan to bring your new spruce, juniper, pine or cypress tree inside as late as possible and take it back out (and get it in the ground) as soon after the holiday as you can. Expert sources advise that a living Christmas tree should be kept indoors no longer than ten days.

During that time, think of it as a finicky houseplant. Keep it away from heating vents, fireplaces, space heaters, stoves or anything else that would cause it to dry out more quickly. If you use lights on the tree, turn them off overnight and while you are away during the day.

Be sure the root ball stays hydrated; check the soil moisture every day. And when Christmas is over, get the tree back out and in the ground as soon as you can. A tip for planting: If the ground is not frozen, dig the hole where you plan to plant the tree before Christmas, and cover it and the soil you remove with a tarp. That way, when you take the tree back outdoors, it’s easier to remove any containers or wire fittings, place the tree in the ground, backfill the soil and water it well.

Gob Holiday Lauraschneiderphoto 91 Websize 1

Holiday greenery

Even if you opt for an artificial tree for the holidays, you can bring that Christmas fragrance inside by using other cut greenery – swags, garlands, wreaths and arrangements made from the branches of fir, pine or cedar trees as mantel and table décor. “We will have fresh wreaths, garland and branches available,” Bradshaw says.

To help cut greenery last longer, an anti-desiccant spray may keep it from drying out as quickly. Place any greenery away from heat sources such as fireplaces or heater vents, and be especially careful if you use greenery around lit candles.  

And, of course, those fragrant wreaths and garlands can dress up your home outdoors, as well, around doors and lampposts. Here, too, is where an anti-desiccant can keep the greenery green longer.

Gob Holiday Lauraschneiderphoto 77 Websize

Christmas and holiday trappings at the Gardens of Babylon Garden Center include fresh cut Fraser fir trees, along with fresh wreaths, garlands and branches. Indoor selections include poinsettias, Christmas cactus, amaryllis and paperwhites. Visit the garden center soon (800 Rosa Parks Blvd.) soon for the best selection.

This year we’re offering pre-booking of delivery for Christmas trees – we are Nashville’s source for the most beautiful trees and greenery that will elevate every celebration! To book & learn more, visit our Christmas Tree booking page!

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