Local experts offer advice on Christmas tree safety

By: Kayla Dimick | C&G Newspapers | Published December 3, 2014

SOUTHFIELD — For those who celebrate Christmas, December is a magical month when we haul out the holly and carefully unwrap each ornament, painstakingly untangle our Christmas lights and, if we decide on a live tree, spend hours in the cold to find the perfect one. 

A Christmas tree may be the symbol of the season, but if you forget to take proper care of it, you could be cleaning that symbol’s needles out of your carpet for months.

Jenny Drenning, who is the first assistant in hardware at Menards home improvement store in Livonia, said a fresh cut is important so your tree doesn’t take up too much water once in the stand.

“The basic care of a tree is really simple,” Drenning said. “Whether you cut a tree or buy a tree, make sure it’s freshly cut.”

Once you get your tree home and in a stand, Drenning said to keep an inch of water in the stand at all times.

Although Menards carries a variety of trees, including Douglas firs, Fraser firs, Scotch pines and several others, Drenning said all Christmas trees require the same basic care.

“The different types do not require different care,” Drenning said.

Menards also carries an array of Christmas ornaments and decorations, and also sells fresh garland and wreaths.

According to Marsha Gray, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, proper care of a live Christmas tree starts even before you cut it down.

The Michigan Christmas Tree Association promotes Michigan’s farm-grown Christmas tree industry through research and promotion, according to its website.

Once you find a tree you think you might want, Gray said to first check out the branches. Do they look soft and green, or do they look brittle?

“You can take your hand down a branch and it should be soft and supple,” Gray said. “If it’s dry and green needles come away, you don’t want to pick that.”

Gray said the next and most important step is to make sure your tree has a fresh cut.

“We recommend taking off a half inch,” Gray said.

Gray said new trees can take up a lot of water at first, so keeping water in the stand will prevent it from drying out.

“We recommend getting it in water within a few hours. The first few days, it will take up quarts of water, but there will be a lot of days you don’t need to add water,” Gray said.

As far as special water or including additives in your tree’s water to help keep it fresh, Gray said regular water will do just fine.

“We don’t recommend any of those things. Just plain old water,” Gray said.

Gray and Drenning both said that once you have your tree set up, safety should be a priority, since they can be a fire hazard.

“Keep the tree away from things that would dry it out,” Gray said. “Heat registers, sunny windows,” Gray said.

“When the tree gets really brittle, it’s extremely flammable. Don’t put anything flammable near it, or it will ignite,” Drenning said.

Drenning also said to keep pets and children away from the tree to prevent it from falling down.

“Make sure it’s not going to be jumbling around,” Drenning said. “Kids tug on trees, and (the trees) can collapse.”

Gray said the best time to take down the tree is when the needles start falling off.

“If you bump into it and you see a lot of needles, it’s probably a good time to get it out of there,” Gray said.