How to care for a fresh Christmas tree

Should you use sugar water? What happens to it when the holidays are over? We’ve got you covered.

A 75-ft-tall Douglas fir tree stands in the middle of a red brick public square surrounded by tall white buildings on a sunny winter day.

As long as your tree isn’t as big as the one in Pioneer Courthouse Square, you can chop it up and put it in your green curbside roll cart.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

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If you brought home a real Christmas tree this year, you probably know it needs a little TLC to stay fir-esh. We dug up some tips to help get your tree through the holidays. Also — and please don’t think we’re being super Grinchy — we’ve included some ideas on what to do when the time comes to take it down.

Water

Letting the water drop below the stump will signal the tree to form a seal of dried sap, at which point you’d need to make another fresh cut or it’ll start dropping needles. To keep this from happening, the experts at Furrow Farm in Hillsboro recommend adding water twice a day. And skip the sugar — farmers at Quail Creek Ranch Christmas Trees say plain old tap water is best.

Location, location, location

Putting a tree next to a heater, fireplace, or air vent will only hasten its demise (and make for one crispy fire hazard), according to the folks at JTB U-Cut Christmas Trees in Gresham. Lowering the temperature in the room, keeping it out of direct sunlight + even turning on a humidifier can help slow this process.

Saying goodbye

Your Christmas tree doesn’t need to stop spreading cheer just because the holidays are over. Once you remove all decorations from its boughs, you can take it outside and turn it into a bird feeding station — try hanging popcorn garlands, suet, or homemade birdseed ornaments, then sit back and watch the neighborhood wildlife enjoy your efforts.

If you have outdoor space, you could rent a chipper and make some mulch to spread along pathways or gardens. Wood chips can also be added to a compost pile, placed at the base of downspouts to prevent erosion, or shared with neighbors.

Portland also has a trunk-load of recycling options.

🎄 Leave it on the curb with your yard debris.
🎄 Take your tree to a local Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts troop.
🎄 Topaz Farm will take old Christmas trees and turn them into carbon-storing biochar (or give them to their goats) at no cost.
🎄 Drop it off or schedule a pickup with Portland Legacy Lions. Donation fees support hearing aids, eyeglasses, food assistance, and exams for people in need.

Note: As of 2023, the Christmas for Coho program is no longer in operation.

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