Proper water key to healthy Christmas tree

What’s the best way to handle my cut Christmas tree?

— Bob

Once you’ve gotten your cut tree home, you’ll want to cut 2 inches off the bottom of the trunk to allow the tree to take in more water. Put the tree into a stand with a water basin immediately and be sure not to let it dry out. (Once it dries out it can’t take in any water again and will quickly dry out.) If you were given a preservative for your tree, go ahead and use it; you’ll have a much happier tree if you do.

You will probably need to add water to the basin every day at first as the tree is getting adjusted to your home. After a few days, you’ll be able to cut back because the water won’t disappear as quickly. It’s important, though, that you check that there’s water in the basin every day so your tree doesn’t become a fire hazard.

We decided to have a potted evergreen for a Christmas tree this year. Is there any special care that we need to give it?

— Tom

We get a lot of questions about using live evergreens as Christmas trees. It’s a great idea, but they do require thoughtful care. These can only stay indoors for four or five days and need to be gently acclimated to being indoors. Start them in the garage for two to three days, move them inside for the four to five days you want to display them. After you have had them inside as your Christmas tree, they will need another two to three days in the garage acclimating before putting them outside for the winter. Once they’re back outside, I like to keep them in a shady spot which helps keep the foliage from burning and the soil from drying as quickly.

Don’t forget to water them through the winter! They don’t need much, but they want a good soaking every two to five weeks depending on the weather. Come spring, when the ground is workable, they’ll be ready for planting.


I’d like to know what the type of shrub is that has very red leaves in the fall. I’ve seen them around and they are a joy to me at that bleak time of year. I was told the name of that plant was wingtipper euonymus. Do you know what that is?

— Alan

What you’re seeing is called a winged euonymus, commonly known as burning bush. The botanic name is euonymus alatus. The stems have four distinctive corky “wings” projecting along them, hence the name. They are unrivaled for their brilliant red fall color. Standard burning bush grows into a good sized shrub, reaching 8 to 12 feet tall with a dense, rounded, somewhat spreading form.

There are also a number of different varieties of this plant. Compact burning bush (E. alatus ‘Compacta’) is the most common. Actually, what you’re seeing are probably individuals of compact burning bush, it’s much more popular than the standard one. It only grows to 5 or 6 feet tall with a slightly greater spread. There are some newer varieties like “little Moses,” “fireball,” and “Rudy Haag” that are compact, offering a little more predictable growth habit and perhaps a slightly smaller plant.


I received a beautiful poinsettia as a gift and wondered what kind of care it needs.

— Mary

Poinsettia are pretty easy to take care of if you just want to enjoy them through the holidays (it’s harder to keep them going from year to year). First, make sure your poinsettia has a nice warm, bright, spot away from drafts of any kind (hot or cold). Be careful about putting them right next to a sunny window as they can get too cold at night and suffer for it. You’ll want to water your poinsettia thoroughly and be sure to remove any excess water that collects in the saucer or in the foil wrapping as they don’t like soggy roots. Continue to water whenever the soil is dry to the touch.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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