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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois
christmas gifts 2

Christmas Tree Care Safety Tips

Posted by Ron Wolford - Holidays

According to the National Fire Protection Association between 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 210 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 7 deaths, 19 injuries, and $17.5 million in direct property damage annually.

To keep your tree from becoming a statistic, follow these tree care safety tips.

After purchasing your tree place it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold (freezing) temperatures until you're ready to bring it indoors. Make a fresh one inch cut on the butt end and place the tree in a bucket of water.

When you decide to bring the tree indoors, make another fresh one inch cut and place the tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least one gallon of water, or a rule of thumb is one quart of water for every inch of diameter of the trunk.

Be sure to keep the water level about the base of the tree. If the base dries out resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly. Commercially prepared mixes; aspirin; sugar and other additives added to the water are not necessary. Research has shown that plain water will keep a tree fresh.

Keep the tree as far away as possible from heat sources such as heaters, vents, radiators and fireplaces. Keeping the room cool that the tree is in will slow down the drying process.

Check all Christmas tree lights for worn electrical cords. Use UL approved electrical decorations and cords. Be sure to turn off the tree lights when leaving the house. Unplug tree lights at night. Miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree. Be sure not to overload electrical circuits.

Many fresh cut trees if properly cared for will last a few weeks before drying out. Take down the tree before it dries out.

Recycle your Christmas tree. Many communities will pick up trees and turn them into mulch. You might put the tree in your backyard and place bread and suet among the branches for the birds.

For more information, please check out the University of Illinois Extension web site Christmas Trees and More at

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