Greg Bowman

This holiday season, I have shared various articles on holiday gift plants and Christmas trees. This week, I would like to do an overall article for clients that are putting up a tree at the last minute or are purchasing plants for some final home decorating or for holiday gifts. I would also like to sneak in a plug for our Gordon Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources electronic newsletter. Right now we are offering a monthly email based newsletter on seasonal topics. The concept is pretty simple,- you call the office or send me your email address and we add you to the mailing list. Each month, you will receive our newsletter by email on timely topics for the area. We hope to double the clientele list in 2018.

Today, I will be sharing information on Christmas trees and holiday gift plant care from two UGA resources by Dr. Paul Thomas, Dr. Mel Garber and Dr. David Moorhead.

Let us start with the Christmas tree first. I know that most people will have their tree in the stand already, but there may be some that like waiting closer to the 25th. If bringing in a tree, do not forget to cut .50” to 1 inch off of the base of the trunk and put the tree in a stand that will hold at least one gallon of water. The key is a fresh cut to the tree base of the trunk. An even more important key is keeping the tree supplied with water. At the Bowman home, we go with a real tree, so we check the water level each day. It is suggested to check the water level in the stand several times a day. Keep in mind that a tree can use several quarts of water a day. Never allow the water level to drop below the base of the tree. If this happens, the cut end of the trunk can seal over, thus stopping the uptake of water. The only thing you can do to solve the problem is to take down the tree and make a fresh cutting of the tree base. I highly doubt any homeowner would want to take down a tree full of decorations. If you monitor the water levels in the stand, this should not be a problem.

I think over the years, I have heard clients talk about adding aspirin, soda water, bleach or sugar to the water in the stand. None of this is any more effective than just adding plain water when needed to keep a tree fresh. Don’t add those other items, just add water only. The best way to keep a tree fresh and fire resistant is keeping the tree supplied with water.

Use only UL-approved lights and nonflammable decorations on a tree for fire safety. Also, never leave home or go to bed with the Christmas tree lights on.

After the holidays, a Christmas tree can be ground into a mulch and used on the property. Some people may also use a Christmas tree as a fish attractor or habitat in a pond. You may have to weigh the tree down in order to sink the tree into your stock pond.

Holiday gift plants can range from the poinsettia to violets to holiday cactus. You should do specific care research for the plant you own. In general, just like a Christmas tree, proper watering is critical. Many times, you may purchase a large plant in a small container. These tend to dry out quickly. Keep in mind that the relative humidity in a home is low in the heating and air conditioning times of year, too.

You need to check the plants daily. Potted plants should not be watered until the soil is dry to the touch. You should then apply enough water until you see water drain from the bottom of the pot. Excess water should be discarded. Part of the holidays is decorations and many times the holiday gift plants will come in waterproof containers wrapped in decorative foil. You need to make sure the plant has proper drainage. If possible, remove the pot covering or at least punch holes in the bottom of the pot if needed to get good drainage. It is a good idea to put the potted plant in a saucer to protect furniture tops. It is suggested to not mist plant foliage with water. This could cause foliar diseases.

Make sure the holiday plant has adequate light. Many times, simply placing them so they will get high levels of indirect light will work. If natural light is not an option, placing under lamps may work. Again, study up on lighting requirements for your plants.

Do not forget about temperature. Most of the time, temperatures in the 60-75 degrees F range will work for most plants. Cooler temperatures in the 60-65 degrees F range seems to be best for flowering plants. High temperatures will shorten the flower display. One tip is to avoid fast temperature changes such as placing plants away from doors and from heater vents.

Finally, many holiday gift plants can be kept for years with proper care. Do your home work on care when the holiday season is over.

For more information, contact UGA Extension- Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email