How to maintain a fresh christmas tree
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.
How to Make a Real Christmas Tree Last Longer
If you celebrate Christmas, you know there's nothing like having a real Christmas tree in your home. The adventure of heading to your local Christmas tree farm, picking out the perfect fir, pine or spruce, then bringing it home is half the fun — but the magic really begins once your tree is all dressed up for the holidays.
To keep your tree's sparkle alive for as long as possible indoors, the home care experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute have rounded up our best tips for making sure that your tree is still looking fresh come Christmas morning.
With proper care, most real Christmas trees should last at least five weeks or more.
That means, if you decorate for Christmas in late November, your tree should easily survive beyond the holiday festivities. However, we suggest buying your Christmas tree during the first week of December to ensure you aren't left with a dried up, brittle tree come December 25.
Follow our tips to keep your Christmas tree looking fresh long after it's cut.
1. Start with a healthy Christmas tree from a local farm.
If you buy your tree from a garden store or roadside lot, it's likely that it came from out-of-state and has been exposed to drying winds in transit — meaning, it's going to have a much shorter shelf life than one that you've chopped down yourself at a local tree farm. Either way, it's essential to know how to choose the freshest possible Christmas tree.
Keep these tips in mind as you hunt for you Christmas tree:
- Look for a healthy, green tree with the least amount of brown needles.
- Select a tree displayed in a shady location. Avoid picking from a sunny area.
- Run a few branches through your hands. The needles should feel pliable and not fall off.
- Raise the tree a few inches, then drop the trunk into the ground. Very few green needles should fall off (but it's fine if the tree loses a few brown ones).
2. Trim the trunk (and then trim it again).
When you purchase a Christmas tree, double-check that the seller makes a fresh cut straight across the base of the trunk to aid water absorption. This gets rid of any dried-over resin that might block the tree from absorbing water.
When you get home, if you're not putting your tree up right away, place it in a bucket of water. (Note that you should always store real trees in an unheated garage or area that's protected from wind and freezing temperatures.)
When you're ready to bring it inside, make another one-inch cut off the bottom of the trunk to help with water absorption.
3. Check the water level of your Christmas tree daily.
Once inside, place your tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least one gallon of water. Then don't forget to regularly water your Christmas tree — too little can cause resin to form, which means the tree won't absorb water and it will dry out quickly.
Much more is at risk than just aesthetics — a dry Christmas tree can pose a real danger to your home. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that between 2015 and 2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires started by Christmas trees each year. It can take less than 30 seconds for a dry tree to burn down most of your living room — but that's not the case with a watered Christmas tree.
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So how much water does your tree need? "Your stand should have a water reservoir that can hold one quart of water for every inch of the trunk's diameter," advises Rachel Rothman, the Good Housekeeping Institute's executive technical director. Just remember to check the water level daily and refill as needed — it should always cover the bottom two inches of the trunk.
Even though you've heard people talk about adding things like bleach, corn syrup, aspirin, and sugar to the water, we believe tree preservatives and additives are probably unnecessary. Most experts agree that plenty of clean water is all you need to keep a tree fresh.
EXPERT TIP: If you lower the temperature in the room, it can also help slow down the drying process (and therefore result in your tree requiring a bit less water), according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
4. Keep the Christmas tree away from heat sources.
Sure, there's nothing more lovely than a beautifully decorated Christmas tree beside a roaring fireplace — but, along with frayed Christmas lights, candles, radiators, air ducts and stoves, a regularly used fireplace could contribute to your tree drying out at a much quicker pace. Plus, the NFPA reports that nearly 1/5 of Christmas tree fires are caused by a tree being too close to a heat source.
If your home is prone to dryness, try using a top-rated humidifier to add moisture to the room. The Good Housekeeping Institute Tech Lab recommends the Levoit Ultrasonic Humidifier for large areas (like the living room!). It performed well in our tests and can add enough moisture to the air to keep your tree fresh longer.
5. Take your tree downbefore it dries out.
If you wait too long to take down your Christmas tree, you'll just end up with more dead pine needles to deal with. The easiest way to clean up fallen needles is by using your vacuum's hose — skip the fancy attachments and just use the end of the hose to draw needles directly into the bag or canister.
When you're officially done with your tree, you have a couple options: You can start a new compost pile with it, recycle it or turn it into mulch yourself. You can also ask your town about what types of disposal options it offers, if you're looking for a more eco-friendly solution.
- 15 Best Outdoor Christmas Lights
- 75+ Homemade Christmas Ornaments for Your Tree
Carolyn FortéHome Care & Cleaning Lab Executive Director
Carolyn Forté brings more than 40 years of experience as a consumer products expert to her role as executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute's Home Care and Cleaning Lab. Using deep analytical testing and writing expertise in appliances, cleaning, textiles and organizational products, she produces cleaning and home care advice for GH, has authored numerous books and bookazines for the brand and partners with the American Cleaning Institute to co-produce the Discover Cleaning Summits. She holds a bachelor's degree in family and consumer sciences from Queens College, City University of New York.
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How to keep the 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 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.
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 disturbing the live spruce branches once again 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.
Water supply 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 maintenance 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.
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.
Christmas trees in pots
What to do with the Christmas tree after the holidays?
For convenience, you can buy a special case for the disposal of Christmas trees. You can put a tree on it so as not to scratch the floor in the apartment, it is suitable as a decorative element that covers the stand, it will be possible to hide especially valuable gifts in it, and after the holidays, wrap the tree and take it outside without scattering dry needles.
A live Christmas tree is a real joy for the whole family. And after the holidays, you can throw it away without any regret. Wood is one of the most environmentally friendly materials; when disposed of, it does not harm nature, like plastic bags or artificial Christmas trees.
See also: "Which is better - a live Christmas tree or an artificial one"
If you do not want to think about what to do with the tree after the New Year, or the question “Who will go to throw the tree away?” is popular in your family. then you can order a special service from us - Removal and disposal of the Christmas tree, our employees will save you from these troubles, and you will continue to relax.
Packed Christmas trees
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Life hack: how to keep a Christmas tree fresh for a long time
A live Christmas tree in the house creates a special festive atmosphere, the aroma of a winter forest and a freshly cut tree appears in the air. Plus, it is environmentally friendly: after the holidays, the jewelry can be recycled, and if you live outside the city, you can plant it on the site. The only negative is the fragility, because a cut tree needs care just like a bouquet of flowers. There are several ways to keep a live tree in a room for several weeks, or even a month.
The first step is to buy a good fresh tree. After all, if the tree has been cut for a long time, it will not stand in the house for a couple of days. There are several varieties that retain freshness longer when cut: balsam fir, Colorado Blue spruce, Douglas spruce, Scots pine, fir.
Before buying, inspect the tree: it should not have yellow needles. If such needles are caught, this is a sure sign that the tree has been cut for a long time. The same should be said about pests or traces that remain after processing from them - harmful substances and insects in your house are useless. Check with the seller where and when the trees were cut, ask for certificates - this will help you not only buy a fresh tree, but also avoid the support of scammers who cut down forests.
If the tree was cut a few weeks ago or it was brought from another city, it is worth passing by. Check the needles, they should be flexible and not break. And finally, the final “test”: raise the tree a little above the ground and shake it, knocking the trunk a little on the ground - if the needles fall off a lot, the tree is stale.
Refresh the cut
By analogy with the flowers from the store, which we cut when arranging them in vases at home, it is worth refreshing the cut of the Christmas tree. After the tree is cut down, the trunk hardens and stops passing water in sufficient quantities. In order for the tree to get enough moisture at your home and not drop the needles ahead of time, cut it yourself or ask the seller to cut a small piece of the trunk from below and put the tree in the water.
Spare no water
After bringing the Christmas tree home, place it in a bucket of water. Choose in advance a special stand with a deep water compartment in the store. Place the tree in water so that it covers 6-10 centimeters of the trunk. There is an opinion that a felled tree does not need water, but this is not true. The needles on the tree hold and retain their elastic shape longer, and the lifespan is directly proportional to the amount of water that the spruce receives.
Don't forget about feeding
Our grandparents also added sugar to the Christmas tree water. Scientifically, this feeding method has not been confirmed in any way, but in practice this method often works.