How do i keep my christmas tree from drying out

7 Proven Tips and Tricks to Make a Christmas Tree Last Longer – Garden Betty

If you’re as enthusiastic about the holiday season as I am, you probably like to decorate your Christmas tree early, and that means bringing home a live tree soon after Thanksgiving and hoping it lasts for several weeks.

If you’re not diligent at the start of the season, however, you could end up with more fallen pine needles than presents under the tree by Christmas Day.

There are a number of tricks to make a Christmas tree last longer, and this goes for a tree picked up at the local tree lot, a tree harvested from a Christmas tree farm, or a tree cut down in the forest (which my family does in Oregon every year as a beloved tradition).

But none of the tricks I share below involve the advice you often hear for extending the bloom of cut flowers, like cutting the bottom at an angle or adding sugar (or molasses, aspirin, commercial preservatives, or other unnecessary additives) to the water.

In fact, the only things you’ll need to ensure a nice, long life for your tree is a clean cut and plenty of water.

Don’t believe me? Read on.

Here are the exact steps I take every year to keep our Christmas tree fresh and beautiful all month long (and even past the New Year).

And if you brought home a living tree instead, learn how to keep your potted Christmas tree healthy so you can plant it in your yard afterward!



How to make a Christmas tree last longer

1. Start with a healthy, vibrant tree.

This is especially important if you’re buying a specimen from a tree lot, as the tree may have been cut a couple weeks prior and transported a long distance to reach the vendor. Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor where the trees came from and how recently they were harvested.

Before bringing a tree home, run your fingers along the branches and look for soft, flexible needles that have a rich, deep green color.

Dried-out trees will often have a bleached or pale olive-colored appearance. Check how many needles fall off right away—if it’s a lot, it’s a good indication that the tree is not as fresh as it should be. Give the tree a good shake and watch for an excessive amount of needles that fall, as well as signs of thinning or browning areas.

Related: Why Inner Conifer Needles Turn Yellow or Brown in Fall: An Evergreen Anomaly

If the tree is already starting to dry out and has stiff, brittle needles, it won’t take up as much water, and a warm, cozy home will only exacerbate the problem.

Weight also matters: a heavy tree means it’s retained a lot of water, helping it stay fresher longer.

If you’re cutting your own tree, try to wait for a few hard frosts to happen first. This sends evergreen species into a state of dormancy so they’re hardened and ready for winter. Their needles form a heavy, waxy coating called cutin to help prevent moisture loss, and they’re less likely to react to sunlight and warm indoor temperatures.

2. Give the tree a clean, straight cut across the bottom.

Chopping down your own tree ensures you have the freshest cut possible, assuming you don’t live more than a couple hours away.

This is because it takes three to four hours for a seal of dried sap to form over the cut trunk, thereby hindering its ability to absorb water. It’s most common in non-dormant trees and those that sit out in the sun for a while.

If you’re buying a tree from a tree lot, ask the vendor to make a fresh cut for you by slicing off a thin disk of wood from the trunk. This is ideal if you’ll be placing your tree in water within 45 minutes of the cut.

Otherwise, make the cut yourself at home by sawing an inch off the bottom in a straight line (no angled or “V” cuts necessary).

You should make a fresh cut even if you cut your own tree just a few hours ago.

Why? Because when a tree is first cut, air gets into the plant tissues and disrupts the tree’s ability to absorb water. Cutting the trunk again “primes” the tree, so to speak, so it can hydrate properly.

3. Get the tree in water as soon as you come home.

The drive home on the roof of your car or the bed of your truck can start to dry out even the freshest tree to the point where it needs a drink of water immediately.

If you haven’t cleared space in your home for the tree yet, place the trunk in a large bucket of water in a cool, shaded, sheltered spot like an unheated garage (or a covered porch, if it doesn’t get below freezing in your area).

Trees can absorb as much as a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, so it’s crucial that your tree stays well hydrated.

As soon as you bring your tree indoors, set it up in a sturdy tree stand with a generous water reservoir that holds at least a gallon of water.

Quick tip: Don’t decorate your tree until you’re sure it’s taking up water properly. If the water reservoir is still relatively full the next day, make a new cut or (assuming you purchased it from a tree lot) return the tree for a different one.

Use a stand that’s properly sized for your tree, as you want to avoid carving off the bark to fit the stand—it’s those outer layers that help the tree absorb the most water. Without them, your tree will dry out sooner.

4. Keep it cool.

As romantic as the idea of a beautifully lit Christmas tree by the fireplace is (you know, so Santa has quick access), it’s actually not the most ideal place to keep a tree.

Heat sources like fireplaces, wood stoves, space heaters, and radiators often dry out a tree much faster than you can water it, so it’s best to locate your tree away from heating apparatuses and heating vents, and out of direct sunlight.

If you love having your tree in front of a window, try to avoid a south-facing window (or draw the blinds or curtains during the day when the sun is most intense).

The warmer your home is, the more your tree will take up water, so consider lowering the thermostat to slow the drying process.

If you live in a particularly dry climate, it may also help to run a room humidifier near the tree to keep the needles fresher longer.

Disclosure: All products on this page are independently selected. If you buy from one of my links, I may earn a commission.

5. Opt for LED lights.

Believe it or not, the type of Christmas light you decorate your tree with can affect how long your tree lasts. Should you go incandescent or LED? Well, here’s the thing…

The new school of LED holiday lights emit very little heat, which keeps your tree from drying out too quickly and also reduces the risk of fire.

They’re inexpensive, energy efficient, don’t burn out, and last a long time, and most modern LED lights come in a “warm white” glow that mimics incandescent lights. (My favorites are these sphere lights, which have a sort of retro look to them.)

For all these reasons, it’s worth replacing your traditional light strands with LED lights, or saving those hot-burning incandescent bulbs for your windows instead.

You can find tree toppers lit with LED lights, too. Many of them are made to connect to your LED light strands, so you don’t have to deal with extra cords or batteries.

6. Check the water level every day.

Trees suck up a vast amount of water, so don’t be surprised if you find that you need to top off your tree stand daily.

Keep at least 2 inches of the trunk submerged in plain, clean water at all times to prevent sap from forming over the base. (It’ll be much harder to make a fresh cut again if your tree’s already decorated.)

Remember that sometimes there will still be water in the stand, but you won’t realize that the water level has dropped below the base of the tree.

In general, a tree can absorb up to a quart of water per day for every inch of its diameter, especially in the first week.

This is one of the reasons a properly sized tree stand is helpful. If your tree trunk is 5 inches in diameter, get a tree stand that holds at least 5 quarts of water so you don’t have to refill it twice or more each day to keep the needles green and supple.

(See my favorites, like this Tree Genie Deluxe, in the source list below. )

7. Recycle your Christmas tree in the garden.

With proper care, a typical evergreen tree should last four to five weeks before it dries out too much. After that, most people dispose of it through a local tree recycling program.

But, you can give your tree a second life in the garden and have everything come full circle.

Try cutting the branches into smaller pieces and adding them to your compost pile. Since organic brown matter (carbon) is harder to come by in winter, they’re perfect for balancing all the green matter (nitrogen) that come from your kitchen scraps. Or, run the trunk and branches through a wood chipper to make mulch for your planters and paths.

An old Christmas tree also makes a good base for a new hugelkultur bed, a type of lasagna garden that’s one of my favorite lazy gardening techniques.

If you have perennial garden beds that need mulching, you can strip the tree of its branches and place them around your plants and shrubs. Leaving the branches long like this will create a nice, thick mat of mulch for the remainder of the season.

For the crafty folks, you can also slice the trunk into thin rounds to use as coasters, place cards, gift tags, and other fun projects.

Need more inspiration? Here are 10 clever ideas for repurposing an old Christmas tree. You’ll never wonder what to do with a dead tree again!

Common questions about keeping Christmas trees fresh

How often should you water a Christmas tree?

Refill the water reservoir once a day, or invest in an extra large tree stand that only needs to be filled once or twice. (This is my favorite stand, and it’s a burly one too—you won’t have to worry about your tree toppling over. It’s also a cinch to get your tree upright. I own it and love it.)

The first week is the most crucial period for a Christmas tree’s survival—it’s when the tree takes up the most water, so keeping the water reservoir in your tree stand topped off  is very important.

After a week or so, the tree will respond to the cut on its trunk by oozing resin, which naturally seals the “wound.” At that point, it won’t take up as much water but still needs it to retain moisture in the needles.

Should you add anything to Christmas tree water?

There’s some debate about whether adding any kind of preservative to the water (like sugar, corn syrup, aspirin, or even vodka) can keep a Christmas tree fresher, but experts agree that plain, clean water is best.

Does drilling holes in a Christmas tree help?

Contrary to what your grandpa may have told you, never drill holes in a Christmas tree trunk, thinking it will help the tree take up more water.

All it needs is a clean, straight cut when you bring it home, and a good long soak in a 5-gallon bucket of water (if you aren’t able to get it in the tree stand right away).

How long will a Christmas tree last?

In general, five weeks from when you cut it is about the time your tree becomes so dry that it’s a fire hazard.

But if the tree is kept in ideal conditions (away from heaters and south-facing windows, and watered religiously), it could actually stretch into a sixth week. Just be sure to keep a close eye on the needles and how much they drop each day.

On the other hand, trees purchased from Christmas tree lots may only last three to four weeks, depending on when they were harvested.

When buying from a retail lot, ask the vendor when he received his shipment of trees. Some vendors only receive shipments at the beginning of the season, while others receive several shipments throughout the season.

If the tree arrived soon after shipment, it stands a better chance of staying fresher longer, since it was cut more recently.

What types of Christmas trees last the longest?

According to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Fraser fir is the best variety in terms of water uptake and needle retention, followed by balsam fir, Scotch pine, and Black Hills spruce (a variant of white spruce).

Can you bring a dying Christmas tree back to life?

The best way to revive a struggling Christmas tree is to give it more water. Always keep the bottom 2 inches of the trunk submerged in clean water, even if it means you have to refill the water reservoir in your tree stand daily.

You can also keep a Christmas tree green and supple by lowering the thermostat in your home (the cooler air helps it stay fresher longer) or moving it away from a large window that gets direct sun all day. Since heat causes needles to dry out more quickly, try to avoid placing your tree too close to a fireplace, wood stove, or heating vent.

Where to buy Christmas tree supplies and decorations

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This post updated from an article that originally appeared on December 5, 2018.


How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh

Plus, we have the scoop on that "add corn syrup to the water" myth.


By Roxanna Coldiron Updated September 15, 2022


Credit: Johnny Miller

Real Christmas trees make for a beautiful and traditional holiday decoration. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, approximately 25 to 30 million real trees are purchased every year. However, keeping your real tree alive during the holiday season does require providing it with some persistent care—and a good solid base.

Put the tree in water as soon as possible

Remember: You're bringing home a live plant. If you want to keep it fresh, it needs to have adequate water. "Water is the absolute most important thing you can do to preserve your tree for Christmas," says Jane Neubauer, co-owner of Sugar Pines Farm in Chesterland, Ohio. "Get a tree stand with a built-in reservoir and check it regularly. People don't always realize how much water their Christmas trees will drink up. You'll need to replenish the water regularly." You can buy additives to help water absorption and kill bacteria, but they aren't as necessary as simply keeping the tree well-watered.

Trim the trunk

When trees are first cut, sap rushes to close the wound, sealing the bottom. "When that happens, the tree isn't as able to absorb water," Neubauer says. "Add a fresh cut at the bottom right before you place it in water, and try to put up your Christmas tree the same day you bring it home."

Using a saw, trim 1/2 inch off the trunk before placing in a reservoir stand with water. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, you'll want to make the cut perpendicular to the axis of the stem, and avoid cutting the trunk at an angle or in a V-shape because it will make it harder to keep the tree upright in the stand. If you have to store the tree for a few days, Neubauer advises keeping the tree in a cool place with water until you're able to set it up.

Water, water, water (and maybe try additives)

Check the stand daily for water levels—as a general rule, you should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Despite popular belief, neither a hole drilled in the bottom of the trunk nor the water temperature impact the tree's longevity or its ability to retain water. There is some debate among experts as to whether additives such as corn syrup, aspirin, and sugar are necessary to prolong the life of a tree. And while these aren't likely to harm the tree, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point affirmed that they were not any more effective than clean water. That isn't to say you should avoid experimenting!

Be cautious of heat sources, including lights

Direct sunlight or a furnace will quickly dry out the tree. "Your tree will become dry and brittle if it's too close to a heat source," says Neubauer. "Place the tree someplace where it isn't facing direct heat, and that will help your tree not to dry out too fast. " Smaller lights on the tree might also help to slow the drying-out process, but you can still do large lights if you keep up on watering the tree. You can also lower the temperature in the room where the tree is located to slow down the drying process. If your tree does dry out, though, you will need to remove it from the house and recycle it. Do not burn the tree in the fireplace or wood stove.

Turn off the lights when leaving the room

Lights can become very hot and cause a fire hazard if left on the tree unmonitored for hours at a time. Play it safe and turn off the lights if you're not going to be around to monitor the tree. You also need to make sure that all of your bulbs are in good condition and that the cords for the lights are not worn or frayed. Real trees can catch fire, so follow general fire safety tips when keeping a real Christmas tree indoors. Turning off the lights occasionally will also slow down the drying-out process.

which spruce or pine to choose, what to add to the water?

A coniferous tree is the main decoration of the New Year holidays, their integral symbol. Today, many people prefer to purchase artificial Christmas trees or pine trees that will last more than one year. Yes, and you can dress them up long before the celebration - nothing will happen to synthetics. But what should lovers of everything living and natural do, including the unique coniferous aroma, so that the holiday passes without unpleasant surprises in the form of yellowed and crumbling needles? A live Christmas tree stands for a long time, if you follow some simple rules.

Before the start of the holiday

Here, as they say, you need to start from the very beginning. That is, from the choice of a freshly cut healthy tree.

How do you know if the tree will last a long time?

  • Fresh herringbone or pine needles are bright (not yellowed) and flexible, not brittle, oily to the touch, lush, looking up, not splayed in different directions. They can be bent for a long time, but they break off with great difficulty. Otherwise, there is a high risk of buying an already “worn out” Christmas tree, which is not long to live.
  • The needles on a fresh tree hold firmly. If you shake it and hit the base on the ground, the needles should not crumble.
  • Fresh and healthy living tree has a pronounced coniferous aroma. The opposite suggests that the Christmas tree, most likely, has already managed to freeze slightly. Accordingly, it crumbles pretty quickly.
  • In order to stand longer, the tree must not only be freshly cut, but also healthy. The disease may be indicated by a too thin trunk (less than 10 cm in circumference), the presence of fungus, mold, incomprehensible growths on it.

In order for the purchased Christmas tree to stand longer, it should not be immediately brought from frost into a warm apartment after purchase: sudden temperature changes are detrimental to it. Therefore, we make them not sharp. We give the forest beauty to get used to the temperature of the entrance (holding her there for about an hour), then you can hold her for another 20 minutes in the hallway, where it is usually a little cooler than in the rest of the apartment. And only after such acclimatization can the Christmas tree be brought to where it will stand.

Living coniferous trees are recommended to be installed and dressed up directly on the eve of the holiday, maximum 2-3 days before it. Therefore, if you purchased a Christmas tree in advance (5-10 days), keep it on the balcony or loggia until this moment so that it is not warm.

And now - install

Here, too, there are some important nuances. So, we immediately dismiss the option of installing a Christmas tree on a cross or a special stand: it will not allow you to keep the trunk in a constantly wet state (and this is one of the essential conditions for the long life of a forest beauty). Accordingly, you will have to stop at the “bucket-sand-water” option.

There are often tips on the net to put the tree just in the water, without sand, but this is not very convenient and safe. Since the spruce will not be very stable, children or animals can easily knock it over. And this means that there is a risk of dousing carpets with water and wet electric garlands.

So, for the correct installation of the Christmas tree, you need to do the following:

  1. The trunk of the tree is cleaned from the bottom of the bark by 8–10 centimeters.
  2. The Christmas tree is placed in a bucket, fixed with stones, covered with sand and carefully compacted.
  3. If it was necessary to cut off the top or several branches, the wounds must be treated with garden pitch or something similar.
  4. Now the sand needs to be moistened by watering it with a solution of water with aspirin (a couple of tablets per 1-2 liters) or with citric acid, vinegar. Depending on the size of the Christmas tree, sand can absorb from 1 to 3 liters of acidic liquid.

How to care for a decorated Christmas tree?

If you need the tree to stand for a long time and not crumble, the “set and forget” option is definitely not effective. The forest beauty will have to be looked after daily.

  • Water with an acidified solution. For nutritional nutrition, you can also add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the water.
  • Watering is carried out with settled water, from which chlorine has disappeared.
  • Sprinkle the needles with water every day. Be sure to turn off the garlands first.
  • The air in the room should also not be too dry. You should take care of its moistening, because Christmas trees are put in apartments in the winter, when the central heating is on, drying up the air.

Keep the tree away from radiators or heaters. The extra heat will dry it out faster. It is also unfavorable for her exposure to drafts. Therefore, the proximity to the balcony door is also not the best, it creates a temperature difference.

And the last. For greater safety, it is better to turn off any garlands at night. This will ensure that the tree does not cause a fire.

A fragrant, bright, lush forest beauty Christmas tree does not have to be like this only on New Year's Eve. Her life can be extended. True, like any living plant, it will require some care. But the minutes spent on this are more than compensated by the hours and days of its magnificent radiance and fragrance.

5 tips to keep your Christmas tree alive longer - Tips

©, scott feldstein

Hundreds of green beauties appeared at the Christmas tree markets in Podolsk. No matter how huge and varied the choice of artificial Christmas trees is, many residents of the district are sure that nothing can replace the unique aroma of pine needles. In order for an elegant Christmas tree to come not only to the holiday, but to please for many more weeks, you need to properly care for it. The RIAMO in Podolsk observer learned a few secrets that will help the tree stay fresh for a long time.

Christmas tree markets: where to buy a Christmas tree for the New Year in Podolsk>>

Choosing a tree

©, Christopher Jensen

There are many signs that can be used to calculate the best quality tree. For example, choose a tree with a trunk, on the cut of which there is no wide dark border, and the branches are elastic and bright, the needles of a rich green color do not crumble. When transporting, it is important not to damage the crown and tips of the branches.

The most humane option for the environment is not to buy a cut down tree, but a truly living spruce in a tub. When the holidays are over, put it on a glazed balcony, in winter the tree should sleep cool. In spring, spruce can be planted in the garden, choosing a dark place. You can replace the Christmas tree with more heat-loving trees, for example, cypress or araucaria, but you can’t return them to wildlife in our climate. If there is no opportunity to plant a tree, there have long been services in the Moscow region that offer a tree in a tub “for rent”. After the holidays, the Christmas tree will be taken back to the nursery.

Where to buy gifts for the New Year in Podolsk: shopping centers and fairs>>

We regulate the temperature

Gif: GIPHY website

You need to choose the best time to buy spruce. If you buy it long before the holiday, the choice will be greater, but in order to preserve its beauty, the tree will first have to be kept in the cold, for example, on a loggia, wrapped in paper. If you take a Christmas tree just before the holiday, it is better not to immediately bring it into heat from the street. From sharp temperature fluctuations, spruce can quickly die. First you need to hold the tree in the entrance for 15-20 minutes, and only then bring it into the apartment.

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Choosing a place

GIF: GIPHY website air will shorten the life of the tree. You should also not put a tree in the aisle, so as not to touch the branches once again.

Master class: Christmas balls in mixed media technique>>

Preparing the barrel

©, Matt McGee

Before installing spruce, the trunk must be prepared. To begin with, use a sharp knife to remove the bark by about 8-10 centimeters, updating the saw cut. When installing, remove the lower branches, they are perfect for a New Year's wreath or bouquet. Those who are going to use only the top of the Christmas tree can lubricate the cut with Vishnevsky ointment.

How to hire Father Frost and Snow Maiden and avoid becoming a victim of scammers>>

Selecting a substrate

Hyph: GIPHY website

One proven method of spruce preservation is a wet sand substrate, usually prepared in a bucket. Two tablespoons of gelatin are added to a liter of pure water, mixed thoroughly, then poured into the sand. A solution of two tablespoons of sugar and two tablets of acetylsalicylic acid will also help prevent table rotting. The solution must be poured into a prepared container with water or sand. The most famous recipe for "living water" is a few cubes of refined sugar, an aspirin tablet and a handful of salt. The tree trunk is buried in the sand by 15-20 centimeters. The substrate must be regularly moistened, about once every two days.

A container of warm water, to which a little citric or acetic acid should be added to create an acidic environment, has also proven itself. The same effect can be achieved with instant aspirin tablets. To keep the spruce, you will need a tripod, which is placed in a container of water.

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