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So you have decided to display a natural tree this holiday season but are a bit unsure of how to keep that piney perfection alive. Whether you’ve opted for spruce, fir, or pine, there are tried-and-true methods to ensure your Christmas tree stays vibrant and green throughout the festive season, and this post will show you how to keep a Christmas tree alive all season long!
Fresh trees during the holidays require a bit of care, but the unique look and enchanting aroma of a fresh Christmas tree make it all worthwhile! Over the years, I have had many different types and sizes of live trees and have learned some important tips that will help them last the whole season! Let’s start with what to look for and the proper care to keep your Christmas tree alive all season!
Choosing the Right Tree
Before diving into the maintenance tips, let’s start with the foundation – selecting the right tree! Whether visiting a tree lot, a local tree farm or heading to the forest, as my family does, to cut down your own Christmas tree, be sure to look for the freshest tree with vibrant green needles that are firmly attached. A good sign of a healthy tree will also be if it has a fresh scent or strong fragrance, which can be a sign of freshness.
If you are getting your cut Christmas tree from the forest or local farm, you are usually pretty safe and in good condition, but if you are picking up fresh-cut trees from a lot, make sure to do your due diligence. After all, the Christmas tree is the star of the show when it comes to your holiday decorating.
Christmas Tree Prep
Once you’ve chosen the perfect tree, it’s time to bring it home and prepare it for its grand debut. A live Christmas tree is a lot like caring for cut flowers, and the steps for caring for one are very similar. Here are a few tips to help learn how to keep a Christmas tree alive all season long.
Use the Right Stand
Before doing anything to your tree, you must have a base ready! Try and invest in a sturdy Christmas tree stand that can hold an ample amount of water. The general rule is one quart of water per inch of trunk diameter. This easy DIY Scandinavian tree stand would work great.
Trim The Trunk
Make a fresh cut at the bottom of the trunk when you bring your tree home. This helps the tree absorb water more efficiently by removing any sap that may have sealed the cut, especially if the tree is coming from a tree lot where it has sat for some time. Aim for a straight cut across the tree trunk, removing about an inch from the bottom.
As soon as you’ve cut the base of the trunk, place the tree in water; plain tap water works just fine. A tree can absorb a surprising amount of fresh water, especially during the first 24 hours. Ensure that the water level remains consistently high during this crucial period.
Make A Watering Routine
Now that you have the tree in its place, you must continue caring for it properly. I do a daily check to make sure my trees never run dry! I also try to keep as much sap off the base as possible, as that will only prevent your tree from proper water absorption.
A well-hydrated tree is a happy tree. Check the water level daily, and never let the reservoir go dry. Christmas trees are thirsty, especially in the initial days after being cut, and make sure to avoid using hot water, as it could potentially damage the tree.
Christmas Tree Location Matters
Avoid Heat Sources
This one can be a bit tricky to avoid, but try to set up your tree away from heat sources such as radiators, fireplaces, wood stoves, or space heaters. Excessive heat can accelerate needle dryness.
You also want to make sure you are using LED Christmas tree lights on your tree that don’t heat up! A tree that is nearing the end of its life or a brittle tree becomes a big fire hazard, so using LED lights should help prevent any accidents.
Limit Direct Sunlight
Who doesn’t love a tree in the front window? We have six bay windows in our home, so that tends to be where all of our natural trees end up, but I do try, and keep them out of a south-facing window. Take a look at my holiday home tour from 2022.
While some sunlight can add to the festive ambiance, direct sunlight for extended periods can lead to dehydration. Choose a spot that balances light and shade.
Prolonging the Freshness
Misting the Needles
For some of us, especially up here in Canada, the cold climate and winter months mean lots of additional heat sources and not a lot of moisture in our homes. Spritzing the tree with water can help maintain moisture, especially if your home tends to be on the drier side.
Add Tree Preservatives
Additives like tree preservatives to the water can aid in keeping the tree fresh by providing essential nutrients. There are ones you can purchase, like this tree, or you can try making an easy homemade preserver at home, which can be a more cost-effective way to keep your tree fresh throughout the holiday season.
Adding a crushed Aspirin is also said to help as it contains salicylic acid, acts as a mild acidic agent, and is a source of nutrients for the tree.
Here’s an easy recipe for the tree preservative that I use, made using common household ingredients:
Christmas Tree Preservative Recipe
- 8 cups water
- 1 cup corn syrup or sugar
- 2 teaspoons bleach
- Mix together the 4 cups of water, 1 cup of corn syrup, and 2 teaspoons of bleach.
- Stir the mixture thoroughly to ensure that the ingredients are well combined.
- Pour the mixture into the tree stand reservoir, ensuring that it covers the base of the trunk.
Knowing When to Say Goodbye
Even with the best care, Christmas trees have a natural lifespan. As needles begin to shed excessively and the branches lose their resilience, it’s time to bid farewell. I usually put my fresh trees up the last week of November or the first week of December, and by the end of December, it is time to take them down.
Consider recycling your tree to give it a second life, perhaps as mulch for gardens or wildlife habitats. I donate all of my fresh trees to a local goat farmer in my area; her goats simply love them!
More Holiday Inspiration
I hope you find these tips on how to keep your Christmas tree alive helpful! Here are a few other Christmas “go to’s”
The best way you can keep your Christmas tree from dying is to make sure you choose a fresh tree, to begin with and then care for it properly! Once you bring the tree home, make a fresh cut at the base of the trunk, removing about 1-2 inches. Ensure that the tree stand is filled with water at all times. Christmas trees can absorb a significant amount of water, especially in the first few days. Avoid placing your tree next to any heat sources and in direct sunlight. You can also try using a tree preserver too.
Once a Christmas tree has become significantly dry, it’s challenging to fully rehydrate it, and the needles that have already dried out will not regain their original moisture. You can take steps such as re-cutting the base of the tree to aid in water uptake and fresh water, but it may never return to how it was before.