How to Keep a Christmas Tree Alive Longer

Evelyn Long

Dec 6, 2023

keep Christmas tree alive longer

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With Christmas just around the corner, many people are looking forward to candy canes, twinkling lights and the lush scent of a real evergreen in the living room. Here’s how to keep a Christmas tree alive for weeks so you can enjoy it as long as possible. 

Don’t Get Your Tree Too Early

The first step in keeping a Christmas tree alive through Christmas is to buy or cut it at the optimal time. Cut evergreen trees usually last around five weeks with proper care. That means if you want your tree looking fresh on December 25, it’s a good idea to bring it home on the first week of December at the earliest. 

Of course, you can wait a little longer to give your tree a better chance of looking healthy on Christmas morning. Just keep in mind that Christmas tree farms are often sold out pretty early in December, so don’t wait too long. 

Choose a Fresh Tree

The fresher your tree is when you pick it out, the longer it will probably last. You have a few options:

Cut Your Own

In addition to being a fun holiday tradition, cutting down your own Christmas tree ensures you get the freshest tree possible. Chop down a tree on your property or see if a local tree farm allows people to cut their own Christmas trees. Some national forests even allow you to cut down a Christmas tree if you have a proper permit. 

Find a Healthy Pre-Cut Tree

Another option is to buy a pre-cut tree. Head to the nearest tree farm and look for a fresh, healthy tree. Choosing one from a local farm is better than getting one from a roadside lot or garden center — trees that travel a long distance are often exposed to winds that dry them out during shipping, so they have a shorter life span. They also have to be harvested earlier to ship them to another location.

When choosing a tree, grab a handful of green needles and give them a tug. If they fall out in your hand, that’s a bad sign. An additional test you can do is to raise the tree up a few inches, then tap the trunk on the ground to make sure the needles stay put. Live needles should be pliable and stay firmly attached to the branches. If a few dead brown needles fall out, however, that’s normal.

The tree should have a fresh scent and bright green needles overall. The stump should have a sticky coating of sap on it. 

Buy a Potted Tree

Many people don’t realize it, but you can actually use a potted evergreen as your Christmas tree! These live Christmas trees aren’t meant to stay indoors for long periods of time — they like a lot of sunlight and cool temperatures. However, they can tolerate coming inside and being decked out in ornaments for up to 10 days.

After Christmas, you can put your potted tree back outside in its pot and use it again next year. When it outgrows its container, plant it in the ground. 

Cut the Trunk

If you choose a Christmas tree that was cut 12 hours ago or longer, the trunk will have formed a watertight seal of sap over it. You’ll need to trim the bottom 1/4th inch of the trunk when you bring it home so the tree can absorb water. Make a fresh, straight cut across the trunk to open it up again.

Water Your Tree

Giving your cut tree around a gallon of water a day is the number one factor in keeping it alive longer. Shorter trees may need slightly less water than this, and taller trees may be thirstier. 

Place your cut Christmas tree in a stand with a water reservoir on it. The bottom two inches of the trunk should be submerged and always soaking up water. Set a timer to water your tree at the same time every day so you don’t forget. 

In addition to keeping your Christmas tree alive longer, regular watering can also prevent a serious house fire. In the U.S., Christmas trees are the source of around 160 fires — which spread rapidly and intensely — every year. 

Although you might have heard you’re supposed to add sugar, honey, bleach, soda, preservatives or even molasses to your tree’s water, research shows that plain tap water is all you need to keep a Christmas tree alive. 

Living, potted Christmas trees will also need to be watered every day, although they probably won’t soak up a full gallon of water. Just keep the soil moist while they’re indoors. Some people empty an ice cube tray into the pot so the melting ice slowly trickles into the soil.

Keep Your Tree Cool and Moist

Heat sources like fireplaces, vents, radiators and windows can all overheat a cut Christmas tree and dry it out quickly. Keeping your tree close to a heat source also poses a fire danger. The exception is that you can place a live, potted tree near a window to provide it with sunlight. 

Turn down the temperature in your house as low as you can stand it to keep your tree cool. You can mist the branches with a spray bottle to help keep them moist. Another way to add moisture is to place a humidifier in the room. 

Additionally, use LED lights rather than incandescent string lights in your tree, as they give off much less heat.

Limit How Long Your Tree Stays Inside

If you have a live Christmas tree, limit the time it spends indoors to minimize the risk of it drying out or getting overheated. Try to keep it indoors for no more than 10 days. 

Take Your Tree Down Before It Dries Out

One final tip — move your Christmas tree, whether alive or cut, outdoors before it starts shedding needles like crazy. If you wait too long to take it out, you’ll have a very big pile of needles to vacuum up afterward! 

How to Keep a Christmas Tree Alive Longer

The key to keeping a Christmas tree alive as long as possible is to water it every day. Additionally, keeping it in a cool, humid environment during its time indoors will extend its life span. Use these tips to have a holly, jolly Christmas! 


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