How to keep your christmas tree longer

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 Make a Christmas Tree Last Longer

Everlasting Evergreen


It’s the time of year when Christmas tree lots start appearing around your community, bringing with them a difficult decision—will bringing home your evergreen so early in the season mean having a Charlie Brown-style tree come Christmas Day? Luckily, with these few tips, you should be able to preserve your fresh pine from early December into the new year.

Related: Solved! How Long Does a Christmas Tree Last?

Pick the Right Tree


First off, pick the right tree. Before leaving the lot, give your choice a good shake and watch the type of needles that fall. Only a few needles should come off if the tree is fresh. While the loss of some brown needles is normal, fallen green needles are usually an indication the tree has gotten dry.

Related: Your Guide to Picking the Perfect X-Mas Tree

istockphoto. com

Get A Fresh Cut


Just before setting up the tree, it’s important to trim a little off the bottom. Make a fresh, straight cut, removing an inch or an inch and a half of wood from the base of the trunk. Without the cut, the tree will dry out from not being able to absorb water properly.

Related: 10 Things You Should Know Before You Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree


Add Water Immediately


Once you’re home, get the tree in water as soon as possible. If you aren’t ready to decorate just yet, place the tree in a full bucket of water. For the first 24 hours, a tree can absorb as much as a gallon of water or more, so refill the water as needed.

Related: 8 Things You Never Even Knew About Christmas Trees

Invest in A Quality Tree Stand


The goal is to find a tree stand that fits the tree properly and can also hold at least a gallon of water. For maintenance, check the stand regularly to make sure that the water level does not drop below the base of the tree. The JACK-POST Welded Steel Christmas Tree Stand from Amazon is one of our recommended picks due to its ability to fit various tree sizes and ease of use.

Related: The Best Christmas Tree Stands for Every Size of Evergreen

Replenish Water Daily


The key to keeping your tree fresh is replenishing the water daily. Watering helps preserve the tree’s fragrance and also prevents the needles from drying and falling off. The bottom two inches of the trunk should always submerged in water. 

Related: 12 Christmas Tree Decorating Fails


Place in Cool Area


Make sure to place the tree in a cooler area of the house, away from heat sources, such as fireplaces and heaters, and preferably away from the sun (or just keep the blinds drawn). As long as your tree stays moist, it should last several weeks—hopefully even until New Years.

Related: 10 Ways to Decorate Your Xmas Tree for Under $10

Check Lights


Using low-heat decorative lights will help slow the drying of the tree. LED holiday lights, like these from Amazon, are inexpensive and will decrease the risk of a fire because they stay cool. If you opt to reuse lights, always inspect them prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set.

Related: The Best Christmas Lights for Any Indoor or Outdoor Display

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5 tips to keep your Christmas tree alive longer - Tips

© flickr. com, 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 to buy not 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, in the Moscow region there have long been services 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.

How to learn to ski or snowboard: tips for beginners>>

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, you should 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 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

Gif: 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. You can give the tree stability by removing part of the lower branches with pruning shears.

To prolong the life of your spruce on a cross stand, you can wrap the trunk with a wet woolen cloth, such as an old sweater. Wool should be regularly moisturized.

Tree branches also need to be periodically watered with water from a spray bottle, and, of course, it is worth turning off all electric garlands in advance. In order not to damage the toys, it is better to moisten the branches closer to the trunk, where there are no decorations.

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  • How to keep your Christmas tree fresh longer after purchase - Articles


    • How to care for a Christmas tree?
    • How to keep your Christmas tree fresh before installation
    • Christmas tree installation
    • Water supply to the shaft
    • Caring for the tree after installation
    • Christmas trees in a pot
    • What to do with the Christmas tree after the holidays?

    How to care for a Christmas tree?

    Everyone who would like to buy a real live Christmas tree for the New Year thought about how long the Christmas tree will last at home, and how many days before the holiday you need to buy it?

    We answer - the life of Christmas trees, firs and pines is different, but none of them will stay warm in your house for more than two weeks.

    Russian and Norwegian Christmas trees begin to crumble after about 5-7 days, pines stand a few days longer, firs do not crumble, but gradually dry out and change the color of the needles, it becomes paler. For more information about the properties of New Year trees, in our article "Types of New Year Trees."

    This applies, of course, to trees already unpacked and installed in a warm room. However, it is possible to buy spruce long before the New Year and keep it fresh for the holiday, up to a month or more. We'll show you how.

    Christmas tree in the interior

    How to keep your Christmas tree fresh before installation

    The first thing to do is to decide on the date when you will need it, already beautiful and dressed up. We recommend installing Danish Spruce, Fraser Fir, Canadian Pine 5-7 days in advance, and Russian and Norwegian Christmas trees 3-5 days in advance.

    All the time until this moment, it is better for the tree to stay in a cool place, at a temperature not higher than 5-10 degrees Celsius, with a minimum amount of light and, preferably, with high humidity.

    The key to success is to reduce the amount of moisture evaporated from the plant. For this purpose, a garage or an unheated balcony is perfect. In our experience, there was a case when the Christmas tree remained green and fresh even six months after purchase. And one of our employees set up a Christmas tree on March 8, as an unusual gift for loved ones.

    By the way, live Fraser fir comes to Russia from North America, from where it is transported for 45 days in cold stores across the ocean, with a minimum amount of light and with 100% humidity.

    This does not affect its quality in any way, since Fraser Fir is considered the highest quality Christmas tree that can be bought in our country for the New Year: it stands for a very long time, does not crumble at all, and the branches of this fir are so strong that they can withstand even very heavy toys and real candlesticks.

    Tree seedlings

    Christmas tree installation

    The cut Christmas tree begins to dry out only from the moment it gets into heat and the process of “drying” begins, the evaporation of moisture from the needles, so after installing the Christmas tree, you need to provide it with a regular supply of water to the trunk, and cool, humid air.

    A place for a Christmas tree is suitable away from open flames, electric heaters, radiators and other heat sources. It is very good if the room is sometimes ventilated in order to slightly lower the temperature, and the air is regularly humidified.

    After unpacking, the tree must be shaken off dry needles. A certain number of such needles should not scare you, this is quite normal, since spruce branches rub against each other during transportation and packaging. The total mass will still remain green.

    Separately, it is worth mentioning that if there is a severe frost outside, less than 15 degrees, then the needles and twigs become very fragile and can be easily damaged. In such weather, we do not recommend once again disturbing the live spruce branches immediately after you brought it home. It is better to hold it for the gradual adaptation of the tree to room temperature, and only then unfold it.

    Tree nursery

    Water intake to the shaft

    The next thing to do is to ensure a regular supply of water to the trunk. In order for the tree to better absorb water, the trunk is cut down 2-3 cm from the log house or notched with a knife to form a fresh cut and a larger area for absorbing moisture.

    When delivering a Christmas tree from our online store, this is done without fail, and at our Christmas tree markets - at the request of the buyer. If you do it yourself, try not to cut the trunk at an angle, such a tree will be difficult to establish, and also do not accidentally cut the bark above the water level - this will greatly reduce the amount of moisture absorbed.

    You can use special Christmas tree stands with water tanks. In them, the Christmas tree is securely and quickly fixed in the desired position, and it is easy to add water as it evaporates. We also recommend using hydrogel - a special tool for retaining moisture.

    Trees on stands

    Tree care after installation

    All trees crumble differently. The Russian Christmas tree, as well as the European (Norwegian) spruce, will begin to lose needles in a few days, the Russian and Canadian pines stand a little longer, their needles may dry out, but if they are not disturbed, they will not crumble much, especially in Canadian pine. And, for example, Danish spruce (Nordmann fir) and Fraser fir do not lose their needles at all, they dry out right on the branches, only slightly changing color. You can take them outside after the holidays, losing perhaps 10 percent of the needles.

    Spruce needles

    Potted Christmas trees

    There is an option to do without shedding needles at all - this is to buy a spruce in a pot. The price of this Christmas tree will be higher than that of a cut tree, but it will not give you any trouble with cleaning. This is a beautiful, well-wintering, world-famous ornamental plant that can be planted in the spring in the yard or at their summer cottage. See also "All about spruces in containers"

    The higher the air temperature in the room, the sooner your cut spruce will begin to crumble. At a temperature of 10 degrees above zero, the New Year tree will stand for a long time, up to a month. But in winter it is quite hot in our apartments, and every 5 degrees increase in temperature reduces the life expectancy of spruce by 1 day. That is, if your house has 28-30 degrees, then with all the tricks, the tree will stand for only a few days. We advise you to regularly ventilate the room in which your Christmas tree stands in order to lower the air temperature by at least a few degrees. You should also not forget that electric electric heaters dry out the air a lot, so it is better not to use them where a live Christmas tree is installed.

    Spray the branches as often as possible with a spray bottle, but you need to do this only after making sure that the electric garland on it is turned off!

    There are also special products for extending the life of Christmas trees - in the form of water-soluble tablets (1 tablet per 2 liters of water) or liquid fertilizer (2 caps of the product per 1.5 liters of water). We will not claim that this is a panacea for shedding, such products prolong the life of cut fir trees by only 2-5 days, but, as a rule, this is enough to celebrate the New Year holidays and spend the weekend comfortably without thinking about urgent cleaning.

    Learn more