How To Make A Christmas Tree Last Longer

Tips and tricks to help your Christmas tree last all season long.

Putnam Living Room
Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo

Holiday memories are made around the Christmas tree, so you want your tree to remain green as long as possible. Whether you prefer fir or pine, selecting a fresh tree will extend its life indoors, while proper care will keep your tree from drying too quickly. The following tips will help you make a Christmas tree last through the holidays.

Selecting and Preparing Your Tree

The closer to Christmas a tree is cut, the longer it will last. Cutting your own tree at a local tree farm is the best way to ensure your tree is fresh, but you can find long-lasting pre-cut trees by learning to recognize signs of freshness. Locally sourced trees are typically fresher than those shipped long distances. Check tree freshness by tugging on the needles. They should be flexible and hold firmly to the stems. Needles that pull out easily or are dull in color are signs the tree is past its prime.

Store your tree in a cool, shaded area such as an unheated garage until you are ready to decorate it indoors. Place the cut trunk in a bucket of water to keep the tree hydrated. If the tree has been cut for more than twelve hours, as most store-bought trees will be, recut the base about one-half inch above the original cut to improve water uptake. Make the cut perpendicular to the trunk. Misting the branches with water will also help maintain freshness.

Water is Key To Making a Christmas Tree Last

Providing a constant supply of water to the cut tree is the secret to making your Christmas tree last longer. A cut tree takes up a surprising amount of water. Select a tree stand that has a large water-holding capacity, around one gallon for most trees. Check the stand daily and refill as needed to keep the water level above the base of the trunk. The tree will absorb a great amount of water in the first week and take up less the longer it remains indoors.

There is much misinformation regarding additives and other tricks to extend the life of a tree. Research shows that plain water is best, and that the temperature of the water used to fill the stand does not affect water uptake. Avoid additives including floral preservatives and commercial tree preservatives, as well as water-holding gels which can actually reduce the availability of water to your tree. Likewise, drilling holes in the base of the trunk is not recommended, nor are anti-transpirants or fire retardants applied to foliage. When it comes to maintaining your Christmas tree, keep it simple—just add water.

Tree Placement and Environmental Considerations

The indoor environment in which your Christmas tree is displayed can play a role in how long the tree lasts. Display the tree in a location away from heat sources such as fireplaces, heat vents, radiators, and direct sun, which can all increase the rate of moisture loss from the tree. Temperature also plays a role. Lowering the room temperature a few degrees will reduce water loss.

Old-fashioned incandescent Christmas lights can also contribute to drying as they produce heat. Consider purchasing new LED lights which are not only more energy efficient, but also cool to the touch. Only light the tree when you are home to enjoy the display and monitor for safety.

Repurposing Your Christmas Tree

Even the best maintained trees have a limited life span indoors. Watch for signs that it is time to remove your Christmas tree. When needles become dry and brittle, or fall from the branches, it is time to move the tree outdoors where you can put it to many different uses. Cut boughs to insulate perennial beds and add a touch of greenery during the winter months. Place a few cut limbs by your bird feeders as well to provide hiding spaces for ground-feeding birds. Trunks can be ground into woodchips for paths or burned in the fire pit. And disks cut from the trunk are perfect for crafting.

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  1. Hinesley LE, Blankenship SM. Effect of water additives on Fraser fir needle retention. HortTechnology. 1991;1(1):90-91. doi:10.21273/horttech.1.1.90

  2. Michigan State University Extension. Making your real Christmas tree last through the holidays. Updated Nov. 16, 2022.

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