Think safety first when caring for Christmas trees

(11/21/18) BATON ROUGE, La. — As the holiday season gets into full swing, safety should be on top of your list when putting up the tree.

AgCenter forestry specialist Niels De Hoop reminds consumers that one of their greatest concerns should be providing enough water for the tree when it’s brought into the house.

“The first night is really critical because the tree will take up a lot of water at first,” he said.

If you are not able to purchase the “choose-and-cut” variety to be sure of the tree’s condition, there is a freshness test for trees bought off a lot.

You never know when those trees were cut that you buy from retail stores, he said.

“If you have to buy from retail, gently grasp a branch and pull it toward you,” he said. “If the tree is fresh, you won’t pull off many needles. If a lot of needles fall off, that’s not a tree you want to buy.”

De Hoop said you can’t really look at a tree and know how fresh it is. The trees you buy at retail are sometimes sprayed with a light green paint called Greenzit to make them look greener.

He said there are some things you can do to make sure the tree takes up water and stays fresh once you get it home.

“You should make a straight cut across the base of the trunk about one-quarter inch above the bottom and get the tree in water as soon as possible,” he said.

During the first few days, the tree will take up a lot of water, so make sure you monitor the tree, and don’t let the water get low.

If the tree sits out of water for more than a day or two, you should make another cut on the base to allow the tree to take up water, he said.

De Hoop said he’s seen trees run out of water the first night (or during the first weekend in office buildings) and refuse to take up more water.

To prevent this, some people put their tree in a big bucket of water for a day or two to let it “drink up” before bringing it in the house.

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to keep fresh water in the stand as long as the tree is up, De Hoop said. “That’s all you need, just fresh water, nothing added to the water.”

Not only will water help keep the tree looking fresh, but it also will avoid creating a fire hazard, he said.

“For this area, the Leyland cypress is the best tree,” De Hoop said. “They are the longest-lasting and are allergy-free.”

Other important tips to help you be safe this Christmas season include:

— Make sure the tree is placed away from any heat source, like a furnace, which causes the tree to dry out more quickly.

— Inspect the wires and connections on all lights before placing them on the tree.

— Keep gifts and other flammable materials away from direct contact with the tree.

— Only plug lights in if responsible individuals are at home and are keeping an eye on the tree.

— Unplug lights before you go to bed.

As a faculty advisor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, De Hoop oversees a Christmas tree sale by the Society of American Foresters student chapter at LSU.

The annual Christmas tree sale will be held Nov. 26-27, from 4 to 8 p.m. or until all are sold, he said.

The location is behind the Renewable Natural Resources Building at the Nicholson Extension at Highland Rd.The driveway on Nicholson Extension is the closest, De Hoop said.

“Trees are Leyland cypress, grown in our school’s forest in Washington Parish, freshly cut Sunday afternoon, and transported Monday morning to campus, he said.“Leyland cypress are treasured for being hypo-allergenic.”

For information on where to find a “choose-and-cut” farm in Alabama, Louisiana or Mississippi, visit the Southern Christmas Tree Association website at

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Garden centers are stocked with Christmas trees for sale. LSU AgCenter experts recommend checking for freshness and choosing a tree that’s right for your location. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

11/21/2018 5:10:12 PM
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