Saturday, December 5, 2009

Common Questions

First, thanks to everyone who has taken our online Christmas Tree survey. If you'd like to participate and see the survey results, go to the front page of the NCTA web site

This is the week when we start seeing tons of questions from Christmas tree lovers and many of them are quite common. Maybe you or someone you know has the same question? Anyway, below is a sampling from this week with my answers in BLUE.

From: M.K.
Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 4:49 AM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas

We bought our Christmas tree two daysago. A fresh cut was made, and we did get it in the w ater within 4 hours. We did notice a slight split in the trunk but it did not appear deep, less than 1/8 of an inch?

Anyway I used the preservative from th nursery.

The next day it drank hardly any water , maybe 1 inch, and now today the same.

We have not decorated the tree as yet as we normally wait a day or so to let the limbs fall a bit.

Is there anything I can do , or will this be a problem. ?

Thank you,


I would give it some time. Trees have been dormant for months so it can take a while for the warm air in your home to “wake up” the plant tissue. If you got the trunk in water within 4 hours of making a fresh cut and it has not been exposed to air since, then the tree will start absorbing water once it begins losing moisture. Plain tap water is fine, so just keep the stand full as much as possible, because its common for a tree to absorb a LOT of water quickly in a short period of time.

From: al akt
Sent: Monday, November 30, 2009 9:00 PM
To: info@realchristmastrees.orgS
ubject: christmas tree smell, douglas fir?

Hello, my question is regarding the smell or lack of smell. My family and I went to Christmas tree farm on two days ago and chopped our own douglas fir, approx 6 1/2 feet and since bringing it home I cut about 1/2 inch off the base and trimmed some bottom branches then placed it in the stand and immediatly watered the tree but still do not have a smell. Why is this? I've gotten a tree from a douglas fir from a tree lot before that had much more smell than this fresh cut one. any suggestions?

thank you,A.Akturk

From: al akt
Sent: Monday, November 30, 2009 9:08 PM
Subject: christmas tree smell, douglas fir?

2nd email, I forgot to add that the tree is drinking plenty of water, about a 1/2 gallon a day so far. thanks again.

Give it some time. The added moisture in the plant tissue from the water it's absorbing will boost it's scent. But sense of smell is very subjective and trees are each genetically unique. Try to snap or crush a few needles on the interior and that should release some aroma.

From: petec

Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 9:22 PM


Subject: saving a tree


Stumbled upon your site after searching some articles at the weather channel. My question is a simple one and maybe even laughable but I have to know. I know that Christmas trees are just like any other tree but every year after Christmas you see hundreds of them stacked up about to be mulched and that's okay but here's my question. After the tree has been cut and used, is there anyway to "save the tree"? Is there anyway to "pot" the tree that would encourage root growth and development?

thanks for your time,


No, not once it’s cut at the trunk. But fret not, because the farmer who planted the tree in the first place and grew it to that height will plant another in it’s place this Spring. And that mulch made from harvested trees returns nutrients back to earth in a quick fashion. All plants eventually die and decompose, that’s a life cycle.

From: ryansmommy

Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 1:28 AM


Subject: CHristmas Tree Question


I found somewhat of an answer under your FAQ section however, I need to be sure of my answer. I just purchased and put up my christmas tree in my home. After putting it up I found 2 large hairy black spiders wandering about my home. I didn't think much of it. Now I have decorated the tree with lights and bows and have found several very very tiny spiders in the tree, ecspecially at the very tippy top. They seem to be jumping as well. What should I do with my tree? I have vacumed as you have said to do in your FAQ section. I am worried they will grow, multiply, or take over. Is this possible? Should I get rid of the tree?

Thanks Melissa!

I’m not an expert on spiders. Assuming they came with the tree and not with the decorations out of storage, I would just try some ordinary bug spray.

From: Jim C.

Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 12:31 PM


Subject: Info

Question for you, is it better to get a cut tree early and put in water for a week or two before bringing in the house or just wait until we want to put it up to purchase? Thinking it might be better to store in water then let it sit on a lot for 2 more weeks.


Chicago, IL

In your neck of the woods, it wouldn’t matter much. Many lots get multiple shipments throughout the 3-4 week sales season anyway. If you buy a tree later, just do the freshness test. Dry, brittle trees are easy to spot if you check.

From: Matilda
Sent: Thursday, December 03, 2009 8:39 AM
Subject: Christmas tree problem?

My husband and I have always had a real tree for Christmas. We've been getting one for about 20 years now. The tree we got this year produced a foamy residue in the top of the water, it resembled a meringue texture. When my husband went to scoop out the foam it released a horrible smell like someone had vomited in it. The tree has not drank any water except for 1/2 cup since Nov. 27. We called the tree place where we had cut the tree, and they said they have never heard of anything like this. They offered us to come back and get another tree. Would you have any idea what could have caused this. We cut a pine.


Sap most likely. I wouldn’t worry about the rate of water absorption so far. The tree has been dormant for some months and will start to take up more water the longer it’s inside the warm home. The rate will vary throughout the weeks its displayed, this is normal. If the water currently in there is gunky and foul, remove it with a turkey baster or shop vac and fill the stand back up with fresh water. You can add a little baking soda to eliminate any odors.

From: iris
Sent: Thursday, December 03, 2009 11:01 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question

Hello. My husband and I recently moved to Southwest Florida, where going out to a tree farm isn't an option. We went to Lowes and bought a Fraizer Fur there. It does have that nice Christmas tree smell, but it also smells like fish. I noticed it the minute we brought it in the door, so it can't be the water as I read in one of your earlier blog posts. Are the trees shipped down here on boats? It just smells like the ocean--not exactly what I was expecting. Is there anything that can be done about it?
Thank you very much.

First, check the full Florida list in our database and the list at the Florida CTA . There might be a farm close enough.
Second, any tree from North Carolina going to your area would not go by cargo boat and even if it did, cargo boats are quite different from fishing boats. There's no way that's the culprit.
My first guess is that there's moisture on the tree and so the odor may be a mildew kind of thing. It may have been raining when the tree was harvested, the trees loaded onto the freight truck may have been all wet when bailed and packed just may have not had time to dry out. Now, I understand what you're saying about the odor, but for what it's worth, those conditions are good for the condition of the tree itself.

I always recommend that the tree be shaken or thumped on the ground forcefully before bringing inside. That can remove access water, old needles, dust, debris, etc. etc. Is it decorated yet? If not, can you take it outside and give it a good shake? Otherwise, I would not have much more of a common sense suggestion.

From: jt brinsky
Sent: Friday, December 04, 2009 8:05 PM
Subject: Tree questions

I bought an 8 foot fraser fir last Saturday from their previous cut stock. When I cut my 1/2 inch from bottom the trunk split about 6 inches or so. I put it in the stand and it is taking some water. Took about 32 ounces today. Has taken about that for most of the week. It looks very fresh, smells good and can't pull needles off the top branches. But if you shake the tree a lot of needles fall off. Could it be from the lower branches where it was split. Should I have taken it back. I still haven't put an lights on it, sicne I am afraid it is going to dry out.

Fraser Fir does split more than other species. It does not effect the ability of the tree to take up water through a fresh cut. The reason for the trunk to split is the field conditions prior to harvest. You indicate it has already absorbed a lot of water in the first few days, ½ gallon each day …I think it’s fine. Trees do shed older needles naturally, this is why many retail locations now put trees in a shaker machine. Or some people simply shake or thump the tree outside before setting it up.

From: CDeCredico
Sent: Friday, December 04, 2009 7:00 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Care

Hello, There is a small debate on whether or not it makes a difference to put bleach in the water for a tree. Does it make a difference and if so, why?Thank you,Cesare

Do NOT put bleach in the water. Bleach is a desiccant and will break down plant tissue. It’s terrible for the tree.

Where do you stand for other things like putting ginger ale or aspirin in the water?Thank you

You know, I was once discussing the topic of what people put in a tree’s water stand with an old tree farmer, and he said to me something I’ll never forget. It’s a “salt of the earth” kind of wisdom if you know what I mean. He said, “I don’t get it. That tree spends 8 years out in my field drinking nothing but rain water. People get it in their home and think it suddenly needs a 7 Up. I never gave that tree any 7 Up.”

Plain tap water is fine. Anything else is just going to facilitate bacteria growth in the stand. Here’s our official recommended care tips. These are compiled by plant pathologists who have actually conducted controlled scientific studies on needle retention and moisture absorption. I trust scientists more than old wives tales.

Great questions everyone....keep them coming!


Unknown said...

We went to a tree farm and cut our tree down the Saturday after Thanksgiving this year. We got a concolor tree got it home and watered it. The tree took lots of water probably a half gallon to a gallon A day, then 16 ounces each day after the first few days. It has been three full days and the water is still at the top level, the tree hasn't drank any water and I'm concerned. This will be the fourth day without watering the tree, and the water is still at the top of the tree stand.

Rick Dungey said...

That's not uncommon at all. Let the tree itself be the indicator, not the rate of water absorption day to day, as that will vary due to many factors. If the branches and foliage are still pliable and green, it's doing fine.

Kathy said...

We always purchase our Fraser for at Lowes, it always has great fragrance, 2 days ago we bought the tree, and it doesn't have a fragrant, what can we do? Thank you.