Christmas tree food is used for cut trees to help the tree absorb water and ensure the tree remains properly hydrated, reducing needle drop, and potential fire hazard.
The issue with purchasing commercially prepared Christmas tree food or Christmas tree preservative is that it often contains ingredients that aren’t pet safe or kid friendly. For this reason, each year we use our own homemade non-toxic Christmas tree food to extend the life of our tree.
Non-Toxic Christmas Tree Food
Christmas tree food recipes can vary, but to be effective it must contain a food source, (usually sugar in one form or another), a disinfectant, (to prevent bacteria, yeasts, and mold), as well as an acid, to allow for easier absorption.
- 1/4 c. light corn syrup
- 1 gal of Water
- 4 tsp of lemon juice or vinegar
Combine the ingredients together, and keep the tree topped off daily for continuous feeding.
Christmas Tree Food Recipe #2
1 gallon of water
1 can of 7-UP (or equivalent)
splash of bleach
Combine the ingredients and use it to top off the tree stand daily. The splash of bleach can be omitted if you have pets or small children. Do not use diet soda.
Old Fashioned Christmas Tree Food Recipe
1 gallon of water
4 tsp sugar dissolved in water
1 copper penny (pre-1982)
Combine the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Place a copper penny in the tree stand base, the fill the stand with the mixture. Copper surfaces rapidly kill bacteria, yeasts, and viruses by disrupting the protective layers of the organisms, thereby interfering with vital processes (such as growth and reproduction).
This one may be a little trickier as you’ll need to find a penny that is dated prior to 1982, which is when penny composition changed from 95% copper to 97.5% zinc and just 2.5% copper.
How Much to Water Your Christmas Tree
Cut Christmas trees absorb a surprising amount of water. It is not uncommon for a 2-inch diameter tree to use two-quarts per day, while a larger 4-inch diameter tree trunk may use a gallon or more per day.
It’s a good habit to top off the tree in the morning and in the evening to ensure the tree is properly hydrated. If you have pets that may drink the water or young children that may play in the water, it should be checked more frequently.
How to Tell if the Christmas Tree will Absorb Water
Whether cutting your own tree, or purchasing a cut Christmas tree, ensure that the base of the trunk is cut straight across, never at an angle. A fresh, straight cut aids water absorption. In addition, it helps prevent dried-resin which may prevent the tree from absorbing water.
If you purchased the tree and don’t know if it was freshly cut, just prior to securing the tree in the stand, make a fresh cut straight across the bottom, removing at least 1-inch of trunk. It only takes a few hours for tree sap to ooze out of a cut and seal it, preventing absorption.
Christmas Tree Watering Tips
Be sure your tree is fresh to begin with. Once the tree has begun to dry out, there is no way to save it. Cutting the bottom will not make a difference at this point. Oftentimes, tree farms spray trees green to keep them looking lush, longer.
To check the freshness of the tree, gently pull a branch through your fingers. They should be pliable, bend easy, and remain on the tree. Needle fall or stiffness is an indication the tree is not fresh.
Do not drill a hole in the trunk. This does not help the tree absorb water, and can, in fact, have the opposite effect. Avoid removing the bark from the base of the tree. The inner bark, known as phloem, acts like a pipeline and is conducive to “drinking”. Imagine breaking your water pipe, then turning on the faucet- that’s what happens whey you remove the bark from the tree.
Why Isn’t My Christmas Tree Drinking?
Christmas trees are sometimes sprayed with fire retardant chemicals, paint to give them a fresh appearance, or other products. Trees tend to dry out and die-off faster in homes that are too warm.
You can tell whether your tree is absorbing water by how frequently you need to water it. Freshly cut trees often don’t absorb a significant amount of water right away. It may take a few days, so get in the habit of checking it twice daily, just to be on the safe side.
How to Make My Christmas Tree Last Longer
A few more interesting tips that you might not have known… Christmas trees are sensitive to ethylene gas. So don’t place a bowl of fruit near your tree, you’ll actually cause needle drop. If you get a fruit basket for Christmas, don’t put it under the tree.
Light color affects needle drop as well. According to Raj Lada, of Nova Scotia’s Christmas Tree Research Center (yes, there’s seriously a Christmas tree research center!!), white light has a better needle retention rate than colored lights.
In fact, using white lights on trees makes the needles last 30-35 days LONGER than using colored lights. Blue lights have the least retention, causing needle drop right away.
Once you get your tree up and safely secured in the stand, here’s how to get sap off your hands.