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Proper care adds to Christmas tree's life

By Linda Breazeale

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Christmas trees need special attention before, during and after their magical season under the lights.

Steve Dicke, forestry specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said producing Christmas trees is labor intensive. Growers have to be good retailers during the holiday season, and good farmers during the entire year.

“Leyland cypress are easier to grow and produce a higher percentage of acceptable Christmas trees,” Dicke said. “Leyland cypress take about three years to mature, compared to five years for Virginia pines.”

Michael May, co-owner of Lazy Acres Christmas Tree Plantation in Newton County, said the key to maintaining a fresh, cut tree is to keep it watered. People can maintain a Mississippi farm-grown tree for five to six weeks inside. It may still loose needles when it is taken down, but it will look good.

“When you bring a tree home, cut about half an inch off the trunk before placing it back in water. You may want to cut slightly more if it was purchased at a tree lot where it may have gone without water longer,” May said. “A typical Leyland cypress will drink about a gallon of water a day, so the stand should hold about twice that amount.”

Leyland cypress will stay fresh the longest. Virginia pines also hold up pretty well. Native trees that people may cut in the wild, such as red cedar, will not hold up as long.

May warned people not to put the tree near a heat source, such as a fireplace, space heater, overhead heat vent or large window, especially with Southern sun. Pure water typically works as well as water with additives.

Plan ahead to put the tree to good use after the lights and other decorations are removed. Discarded trees can enhance fish habitats and lucky spots for anglers. Group individual trees with others to provide secluded hiding spots for fish. Weigh them down to submerge in three to 10 feet of water.

Using discarded trees to attract fish can ideal in private ponds, but may not be legal in public waters. Check with local lake managers first. Remember to keep safety as a high priority, especially in the winter months when cold water can be more dangerous.

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Released: Nov. 16, 2006
Contact: Dr. Steve Dicke, (601) 857-2284

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