Once you have your tree, it’s important to start taking care of it right away.

If you bought a pre-cut tree, it’s important to make a cut across the bottom, removing an inch or an inch and a half off the bottom. That’s because once it is cut, the sap in the tree will start sealing over the base, and this will hinder its ability to absorb water. This process takes about three hours. As long as you live reasonably close, we can make the cut for you.

As soon as possible, get the tree in water. Either set it up in its stand or place it in a bucket if you aren’t going to trim it right away. The base of the cut tree should never dry out, in order to keep the needles fresher.

A rough rule of thumb is that a typical tree might absorb a quart of water for each inch of its diameter. This means many stands need to be topped off daily.

As a last resort, if your tree does end up getting dried out in its stand, you can try drilling some shallow holes at the base and refilling with water.

To Feed or Not to Feed?
Some people swear by commercial Christmas tree preservatives, which can be mixed into the water in the stand. “Many people have found success in their tree longevity by mixing a tablespoon of corn syrup or sugar in the basin water as a food source for the tree (some people say they use aspirin.)

The jury is still out on this procedure, with some experts arguing that adding such substances “doesn’t do anything” and that using additives is “totally unnecessary.”

Keeping the tree away from direct sunlight, heaters or fans, as these will speed up the drying process. You can try using a room humidifier, which can help keep the needles fresher longer, as well as reduce fire risk.

Speaking of fire risk, make sure any lights you put on the tree are in good working order, and are designed for the purpose. Newer LED (light emitting diode) holiday lights cost only pennies a season to run, so they are a good value, while they also decrease fire risk because they stay cooler. Also make sure to keep any open flames away from the tree.

Once you are done with your tree for the season, don’t just toss it on the curb, where it will end up taking landfill space. Recycle it! The city of Billings has a program to collect Christmas trees and turn them into mulch.