CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Don't Be the Ghost of "Christmas Lazy"

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

[Wince. I realize the title of this blog is a stretch...]
Holiday lights in Old Town Fort Collins
(from CSU Source; photo by Bet Llavador)
I absolutely love seeing holidays lights on homes and trees. When I was younger, mom would drive my brother and me around and we would critique each light display. Mom would classify the displays as "nice" or "cheesy". It's a tradition I continue today.

So while I encourage you to celebrate the season with lights, just remember to take them down on a nice day shortly after the New Year. I know they are a ton of work to put up, but leaving your lights on plants (especially trees) can cause damage.

Remember that trees grow concentrically and add a new layer each season on the outside. I like the metaphor that Ralph Zentz, City of Fort Collins forester, uses: On your first birthday, you receive an ice cream cone (but of course eat all the ice cream and leave the cone). On your second you get another and put it on top of the first. And so on. By the time you're 10, you have 10 ice cream cones and you can look at the "layers" of each one if you flip it over. That's how a tree grows--in layers.
The "layers" in a tree
(photo from
As your trees push new growth in spring, the Christmas lights can cut into the flesh of your trees, causing damage. This is called girdling and will interrupt (or stop) the movement of water and nutrients up and down the trunk. It can kill trees if severe enough. In Extension we often talk about the damage of staking straps--lights can cause the same damage.
A classic example of damage from holiday lights wound around a tree trunk
(photo from The Calgary Herald)
Our trees have a hard enough time in Colorado's climate--so do your trees a favor and remove those lights to prevent stress. Happy Holidays!

P.S. Also, remember to throw out your wreath after the New Year--don't be "that neighbor" who leaves it up until Valentine's Day. It's served its purpose and could be a fire hazard :)

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