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How can I Make my Christmas Tree Live Longer?

By J.Gunsch
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cut Christmas trees can live anywhere from four to six weeks indoors when placed in a stand with a well supplied water bucket or reservoir. Although some of its longevity will depend on the species of tree that you buy and its health when you buy it, there are things you can do to help it to live longer. Make sure that the trunk is freshly cut so that it can easily take in water. Always make sure that it has plenty of water, and keep it way from sources of both heat and cold, which can cause the needles to fall off.

Choosing a Species

Some species of Christmas tree last longer than others. For instance, an Eastern red cedar dries out quickly and lives only two to three weeks after it is cut, whereas Balsam or Fraser firs tend to hold onto their needles and can live up to six weeks. Blue or white spruce trees also hold onto their needles longer. People who are worried about not being able to water the tree daily may wish to get a Scotch pine or a white pine, as they have needles that will stay on even when dry.

Cutting the Trunk

After purchasing a Christmas tree, you or the salesperson should cut a straight disc off about 0.25 to 1 in (0.635 to 2.5 cm) from the end. Within six to eight hours of being cut, submerge the trunk in water. When a tree is cut, it produces sap to cover the wound, but this also prevents it from taking in more water, causing it to die much more quickly. If yours was originally cut down fewer than 12 hours before, you don't need to recut the base.

Storage and Placement

It's best to cover your Christmas tree before placing it on top of a car to protect it on the drive home. You can store it outside for a few days before setting it up, as long as it's in a sheltered area. It's best to place the tree in a bucket of warm water if it's going to be stored for more than a few hours.

When it comes time to place the tree in a stand, some people cut or trim off sides of the trunk to make it fit. This may make it sit more securely in the stand, but also causes it to die quicker, as the outer layers of the trunk take up the most water and without them, the Christmas tree dries out and dies. By measuring the trunk diameter and purchasing a stand that can hold it, you can preserve the outer areas and make your tree last longer.

Water

Cut trees can use up to 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water within the first 24 hours of being in the home. Some water reservoirs may appear to have enough water in them, but the water level may not be high enough for the trunk to access it. Check the water level daily to make sure it doesn't drop below the end of the trunk. Plain tap water is generally all that a tree needs to stay alive through the holidays. Though some people like to use commercial powdered Christmas tree food, aspirin, sugar, or other water additives, as they believe that it helps it last longer, although most experts say that these do not actually help.

Temperature and Humidity

Another way to lengthen the life of a Christmas tree is to set it in an area of the home that isn't near cold air drafts or heat sources, since these can cause the needles to turn brown and fall off. Cold air drafts may trigger needle drop, which is a natural response that evergreens have when they prepare for winter. Heat from fireplaces, candles, and some types of Christmas lights can be drying as well, and may cause needle loss. Using a humidifier can also keep the needles from drying out.

Safety

Dry Christmas trees can be fire hazards. Their branches and dead needles can easily catch fire when standing near the open flames of candles and fireplaces. You shouldn't use lights with worn or frayed cords, as they can spark when turned on and can start fires.

Using lights that emit low heat, such as Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lights, may reduce the amount of drying that the needles will undergo. Turning off all lights before leaving the house or going to bed can also help keep the branches cool and prevent them from drying out.

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Discussion Comments
By anon358556 — On Dec 11, 2013

Artificial trees are not environmentally friendly! They are mostly made in China and will last forever in a land fill. Real trees are the way to go. Like certain animals used for food, they are farmed and more trees are planted in their place.

To say an artificial tree is "environmentally responsible" is just plain ignorance.

By anon308176 — On Dec 09, 2012

This is the first year for us and a real tree. Thanks for the tips. I think when it came to set up I found it quite easy compared to an artificial tree. I have cut the bottom and got a base that holds almost a gallon. I plan to water it every day. Love the smell of it!

By anon234151 — On Dec 10, 2011

here is my point. Artificial trees are not environmentally the way to go. There is nothing that can replace a real tree.

By anon130349 — On Nov 28, 2010

Artificial trees are *not* environmentally friendly. When discarded, whether 5 or 15 years down the line, most do not biodegrade. Also, many are made using PVC which, by the way, in its production release carcinogens like dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride into the air.

However, real trees are produced on farms that typically create enough oxygen for 18 people. For many of these farms for every one tree cut down, two saplings are planted in its place. And most municipalities in/around my area, have disposal services that turn the trees into mulch that is spread around local parks saving our cities money on costly landscaping upkeep.

A real tree may be more work, but it is definitely more environmentally friendly than people think.

By gregg1956 — On Nov 15, 2010

Good tips on keeping your tree healthy -- my brothers and I are Christmas tree growers, and all your tips are spot on.

You would be so surprised how many people think that you can just treat a Christmas tree like an accessory, like it doesn't need water or anything.

And it's not just the buyers -- some Christmas tree growers really do treat their trees terribly, so I'm really glad that you did include some ways to find good trees.

Another good tip for getting a good one is to look at the health of the needles. Oftentimes irresponsible buyers won't water their trees properly, but they'll mist them to give the needles a good look and try to sell them faster. However, if you look at the needles down close to the trunk you can usually get a pretty good idea.

Just one more thing to keep in mind -- other than that, you've pretty much got it covered. Nice article!

By CopperPipe — On Nov 15, 2010

Now see, this is why I'm one of those hated fiber optic Christmas tree people. Why would you want to go through all this trouble just for a tree that is going to shed all over your floor and then die?

Besides, I find it more inspiring to see the trees happy and growing outside rather than slowly dying in my living room.

This is just one of my pet peeves, so forgive me getting up on my soapbox, but if you use a "real" Christmas tree, give a little thought to changing over, if you can stand it. I find that it's much more environmentally friendly and a lot more convenient.

By rallenwriter — On Nov 15, 2010

Thanks so much for these tips -- I really am one of those people who goes crazy about putting up my Christmas tree as soon as possible in the year.

Luckily, I do live in a pretty rural area, so I usually just get my brothers to go out and get one for me. I totally agree that fresh and hand-cut is the best way to go.

None of those artificial prelit Christmas trees for me! I really think that the whole Christmas tree process is such a joy -- from going out to the country to find one, cutting it down wrestling it onto the top of the car, and finally decorating it and seeing that gorgeous lighted Christmas tree.

I'm so glad that now I have some new tips for keeping my tree fresher longer. Very interesting and helpful post.

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