Christmas tree food or tree preservative helps a cut tree take water, while discouraging mold, mildew, and algae. It’s essentially the same as floral preservative, except you make it in a bigger batch because trees drink a lot of liquid. The commercial product is pricey, but it’s easy and economical to make homemade Christmas tree food.
Christmas Tree Food Ingredients
Both Christmas tree food and floral preservative contain the same key ingredients: water, food for the plant, a disinfectant, and an acidifier to help the plant absorb food and water. Here are two simple recipes that cover all the bases:
- 1 gallon water
- 2 cups light corn syrup
- 4 teaspoon chlorine bleach
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar (if you have hard water)
If you don’t have corn syrup handy, dissolve 4 teaspoons of sugar into the water instead.
- 1 gallon water
- 1 can Sprite or 7-Up
- Splash of bleach (about 4 teaspoons)
The soft drink is naturally acidic. Be sure to use the sweetened kind (not sugar-free) to provide the tree with a food source.
How to Make Christmas Tree Food
- Stir the ingredients into the water.
- Some people add a penny (or any copper coin) to the liquid to act as a fungicide and algicide. This is purely optional.
- Prepare the tree. Cut off the end of the base of the tree. Ideally, place the tree in a cool location away from direct sunlight. Once you set up the tree, make sure it always has a supply of “water”. If you like, you can spritz the tree with water from a spray bottle to help it stay hydrated.
- You can store the solution for four or five days at room temperature in a sealed container or up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Floral Preservative Recipe
You can use the same recipe for cut flowers. Just cut the ingredients down so you won’t make as much:
- 1 quart water
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon bleach
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (if you have hard water)
Don’t drink Christmas tree food. It’s a good idea to label the container and store it out of reach of children or pets. That being said, if your pet laps up a tiny bit of tree water, it shouldn’t do any harm. Bleach can be added to drinking water to disinfect it, plus it naturally degrades into salt water. However, if you added a copper coin to the solution, the solution becomes more toxic.
Mixing bleach and vinegar (or lemon juice) releases toxic vapors. Adding these ingredients to the water (rather than the other way around) dilutes the chemicals and minimizes the risk. It’s best to mix Christmas tree food containing both ingredients outdoors or in a well-ventilated room. Any vapors are released upon mixing, so they won’t linger in the tree food. If you already have soft water or are concerned about the risk, it’s fine to omit the acidic ingredient.