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Tips for living tree buyers

Lauren Fick
K-State Extension

If selecting a cut tree, watch for these signs that the tree is too far gone.

- Needles are a dull, grayish-green color

- Needles fail to ooze pitch when broken apart and squeezed

- Needles feel stiff and brittle

- Needles pull easily off tree

Once you have your tree home, recut the trunk about one inch above the original cut. This will open up clogged, water-conducting tissues. Immediately place the trunk in warm water.

Locate the tree in as cool a spot as possible. Avoid areas near fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and heat ducts as the heat will result in excess water loss. Make sure the reservoir stays filled. If the reservoir loses enough water that the bottom of the trunk is exposed, the trunk will need to be recut. Adding aspirins, copper pennies, soda pop, sugar and bleach to the water reservoir have not been shown to prolong the life of a tree.

If you choose a living Christmas tree, be sure to dig the planting hole before the ground freezes. Mulch the hole and backfill soil to keep them from freezing. Live trees should not be kept inside for more than three days. Longer periods may cause them to lose dormancy resulting in severe injury when planted outside. You may wish to tag the tree at the nursery and then pick it up a couple days before Christmas. After Christmas, move the tree to an unheated garage for several days to acclimatize it to outside temperatures. After planting, water well and leave some mulch in place to prevent the soil water from freezing and becoming unavailable for plant uptake.

Lauren Fick is the horticulture agent with K-State Research & Extension in the Cottonwood District, 601 Main, Hays. Finde her at 785-628-9430 or lfick@k-state.edu.