9 Care Tips to Make Your Christmas Tree Last

Are you worried about keeping your cut Christmas tree fresh and green through the holidays? Here are nine terrific tips to help make your Christmas tree last as long as possible

Lush evergreen rows stand proudly at the Christmas tree farm. Each tree is adorned with vibrant, needle-shaped leaves that glisten in the winter sunlight, creating a picturesque landscape ready to bring holiday joy to homes.

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I have had my heart broken more than once, waking up on Christmas morning to a dry, brown tree that drops a bucketful of needles with each gift my kids pulled from beneath it. Making a Christmas tree last through the holidays can be a challenge. At least, if you are anything like me, it can be. 

You see, I like to decorate early. Some may criticize my preemptive festivity, but studies show that decorating early may make you happier. Who couldn’t use extra cheer as the last autumn leaves fall, the days get shorter, and the winter chill sets in? So, I will continue my tradition of putting up the tree while my family enjoys the last Thanksgiving leftovers. 

As an early decorator, I’ve come to some conclusions about how to sustain the freshness of my tree and avoid opening gifts around a bundle of bare stems and a pile of brown needles. Read on, and I will share some lessons I have learned that keep my tree looking green and healthy until Boxing Day

Don’t Get Started Too Soon

A person's hand delicately secures a radiant golden star atop a festive Christmas tree. The star's gleaming surface catches and reflects the ambient light, casting a warm, festive glow that illuminates the entire tree with a magical allure.
Wait until after Thanksgiving to buy your Christmas tree for a fresher look on Christmas.

I know, I know, I’m telling you to do the thing that I, myself, have already confessed to doing. But when keeping your tree fresh, there is a shelf life that can’t be extended beyond a certain point. In other words, don’t be the first in line when the initial round of trees hits the tent. 

On average, a cut tree will last for about four or five weeks indoors. The better you care for your tree, the longer it will last, but even with the best care, it is unlikely to look fresh past the five-week mark. Waiting until after Thanksgiving is a good idea if you want it to look good on Christmas morning. 

Choose a Reputable Vendor

Bare Christmas trees stand proudly at a festive tree farm, their branches eagerly awaiting a sprinkle of holiday magic. Soon, these humble trees will be adorned with glittering ornaments, bringing joy and a touch of nature indoors.
Choose a vendor with a high turnover for fresh, healthy trees.

Not all vendors are equal regarding the health of the trees they carry. Things that affect the tree’s health before and during the time it is being prepared for sale are important factors to consider. How long ago the tree was cut, how quickly it was transported, and how it was cared for at its destination are all important things in terms of the freshness of your tree.

Choose a high volume and high turnover vendor for the best selection of fresh trees. If your tree has been sitting on the lot or a truck for weeks before you purchase it, it may as well be sitting in your house during that time. 

Look around at all the trees you can choose from and feel their branches to check for loose needles. If the needles are already falling off before purchase, they will only decline over time. I have found great trees at large home improvement stores and terrible ones on actual tree lots. The freshest, most well-kept trees often come from your local nursery.

Give It a Fresh Cut

A stack of freshly cut Christmas trees lies on the ground, bound with twine. In the background, a dreamy blur unveils yet another stack of cut Christmas trees, waiting to be chosen and adorned with memories.
A fresh cut on the trunk is the key to a long-lasting Christmas tree.

This may be the most important factor in making your tree last as long as possible. When you purchase, any retailer worth their salt will give the trunk a fresh cut before you load it up and head home. 

A tree can only go without water for about four to eight hours without the trunk healing over. You see, trees are smart. When an evergreen gets wounded in nature from, for example, a broken branch or other scrapes and scratches, it will heal itself. The tree sends sap to the cut area, which seals it up, thus preventing bacteria and disease. 

Sadly, Christmas trees have yet to evolve to suit our holiday needs, so when cut, they seal up that trunk pretty quickly. Once the cut is healed, it will not take in any water. Without water, it won’t last very long. 

Think of your tree as a cut flower. When you bring roses home from the store, you trim the ends off to help the flowers take in water and stay fresh for longer. The same applies to your Christmas tree

When cutting Christmas trees, the fresher the cut, the longer the life. Even though it may have been cut at the tree lot just a few hours before, it never hurts to take another slice off the end of the trunk just before you place it in the stand. A ½ inch cut is all you need. 

Choose the Right Stand

A close-up reveals a freshly cut Christmas tree resting on a parquet floor. Beside, is a sturdy saw, awaiting its role in the seasonal ritual. Completing the scene, a green plastic stand lies nearby, ready to cradle the tree securely.
Select a tree stand that complements the size of your tree.

That brings us to the all-important question of which stand you should choose to support your tree. The stand should match up with the size, in general. A stand that is larger than needed is better than one that is too small. 

Stands usually come in a range of sizes that they accommodate. They will indicate the maximum diameter of the trunk and the height it can be used for. 

My advice is always to pay more attention to the trunk diameter than the height, although they will generally correlate. A short and wide tree may have the same trunk diameter as a tall and thin one. They both need the same amount of water and the same size stand, even though one is significantly taller. 

Choose a stand that makes standing your tree up straight less complicated and allows for some adjustment. This is especially important if setting up is a solo endeavor. The Krinner Genie tree stand comes in different sizes; the largest size accommodates a substantial trunk seven inches in diameter.

The other important factor in choosing a stand is the reservoir. You don’t want to have to water three times a day. Once per day should be more than enough. Ensure that your stand’s reservoir holds at least one day’s worth of water. 

Water, Water, Water

A close-up of a hand delicately pouring crystal-clear water from a transparent plastic bottle into the green stand of a Christmas tree. The careful gesture reflects the thoughtful preparation for a joyful holiday celebration.
The amount of water your stand must hold depends on the trunk’s diameter.

So, exactly how much water should the stand hold? Well, that again depends mostly on the diameter of the trunk. The height and width of the tree are both factors in how much water your tree needs, but the most accurate way to make the determination is the size of the trunk.

Expect that for every one inch of diameter, it needs one quart of water per day. That means a tree with a four-inch diameter trunk takes in about a gallon of water daily. If your reservoir holds more, that means less work for you. If it holds less, you will be watering all day long, and who has time for that around the holidays?

Whatever you do, don’t let the bottom of the trunk dry out. If the cut surface is out of water for four to eight hours, it will seal back over, and you’ll have to cut it again to get it to drink. Cutting the trunk of a tree after it is decorated is a very tricky and precarious process, one that I do not recommend. 

Keep Away From Heat

A festive Christmas tree adorned with twinkling lights and colorful ornaments creates a cheerful centerpiece in a beautifully decorated white living room. Nestled beneath the resplendent tree, a collection of wrapped gifts adds an element of anticipation and excitement.
Position trees in the coolest room near a window or door.

Evergreen trees may stay green all year, but they still have a dormant period in the winter, like other plants typically do. The cold weather indicates to the tree that it is time to fall dormant, and the warming weather in the spring awakens it. You want to keep your tree cool and avoid placing it near any heating source, which will dry out the tree much faster. 

If you can, set your tree up in the coolest room in the house, preferably near a window or door where it stays a bit cooler. Whatever you do, do not place it near a radiator, wood stove, or other heating element. This is a recipe for disaster, as a dry tree is very flammable. 

Use LED Lights

A vibrant close-up captures the intricate beauty of a Christmas tree branch, adorned with radiant LED lights that cast a warm glow. The rich green needles glisten, creating a festive atmosphere reminiscent of holiday cheer and joy.
Replace old incandescent lights with LED lights to reduce the risk of fire hazards.

Another effective way to keep your tree cool is to toss out old incandescent string lights and replace them with LED lights. LED lights are significantly cooler and have little to no drying effect on a tree

I am guilty of leaving my tree lit all day long and not always switching the lights off when I leave the house. This can be a major fire hazard with traditional tree lights, especially larger bulbs that heat up. LED lights take a lot of the worry out of tree care and make it easier on those who can be absent-minded or too busy to stay on top of turning them off and on. 

Put Lights on a Timer

A close-up of a black mechanical outdoor timer, showcasing a rotating button for easy adjustments. In the background, a gentle blur captures the festive ambiance, with a vibrant array of Christmas lights in varied, dazzling hues.
Use a timer for your lights to prevent overheating.

This brings me to my next tip for making your Christmas tree last. Put your lights on a timer. LED lights are not everyone’s style. Although they make them in warm or cool white nowadays, some prefer larger or fancier lights. My mom always loved putting a string or two of bubble lights on our tree for nostalgia. These, in particular, can get pretty warm. 

If you have specialty lights that are an important part of your decorating style, you can limit the chance of overheating your tree by putting your lights on a timer. Set your timer for the period you want to enjoy the lights and have them turn off automatically when you know you will typically be away from the house.

Another great little tool is a plug with a remote to control turning lights off and on. That outlet behind the tree can be difficult to get to and can have you leaving lights on just for the sake of not getting scratched up reaching through the branches. I have my lights plugged into a special outlet extension controlled by a remote. One push of a button and poof! Lights come on and off without any added difficulty. 

Mist

A close-up captures the green hues of Christmas tree branches, adorned with delicate needles. Each needle is meticulously arranged, casting delicate shadows on the branch. The delicate details evoke a sense of tranquility and the anticipation of holiday festivities.
Regularly spray your Christmas tree with water to keep it fresh.

Finally, you can mist a Christmas tree like many other plants or cut flowers to help keep the foliage looking hydrated and fresh. This is not the best option for everyone, as not all ornaments are waterproof

You probably don’t want to spray water all over your grandmother’s heirlooms. But if you tend toward a more modern tree with ornaments that can tolerate the moisture, misting your tree every few days will go a long way toward keeping it fresh and green through the holidays. 

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of things that you can do to make your cut Christmas tree last. Keeping your tree watered and away from high temperatures is among the most effective ways to prevent it from drying out and dropping its needles before the big day. Buy from a reputable source, and never underestimate the value of a fresh cut before putting it in its stand. Happy holidays!

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