How to Keep a Christmas Tree Fresh + 6 Care Tips

One holiday tradition beloved by over 30 million households is decking the halls with a real Christmas tree. A fresh tree not only brings a festive aroma and warm greeting into your home but rings in the holiday season and many merry traditions. To get the most out of this jolly purchase, it’s important to keep your Christmas tree fresh and make sure it doesn’t dry out, lose its color or pose a fire hazard. To keep your Christmas tree fresh all season, trim the trunk promptly after purchasing to ensure it gets water and stays alive longer. Even if it means refilling the stand every day, tree hydration is the key to Christmas tree care by reducing needle dropping and maintaining freshness.

For a complete guide to Christmas tree care, here are some simple steps and care tricks to ensure your Christmas tree stays fresh and cheery. No room for a large Christmas tree this year? Try one of our adorable mini trees to keep your home happy this holiday!

woman smiling and selecting christmas tree

How to Choose a Christmas Tree

The most important part of Christmas tree care is selecting a fresh and healthy tree. While many Christmas trees are trimmed, they are normally harvested at tree farms and shipped great distances. Getting a healthy tree starts with asking the right questions. Ask how recently the seller harvested and where the trees came from to ensure the freshest cut. Curious what kind of tree you’re buying? While Christmas trees are commonly spruce, pine or fir, use our guide of 17 different types of Christmas trees to find the perfect fit for your home!

Christmas Tree Care Tip #1: For a strong fragrant scent, dark green coloring and branches perfect for decorating go for a Noble Fir tree. That being said, this type of tree will fit best in a wet, dark climate since it is grown in the Pacific Northwest. It will need lots of water and attention!

Finding the Freshest Christmas Trees

Once you know the trees you’re selecting from are fresh, venture to the shadiest area to make your selection. Avoid selecting a tree from a sunny area as it may be damaged and brittle even if it doesn’t seem so at first glance.

Christmas Tree Care Tip #2: If the trees were cut more than four weeks prior to purchase, try finding a fresher one.

Inspect your tree by feeling its needles, which should be firmly attached but flexible. Pass on any trees with dry and brittle needles since they are already dried out and will not stay alive as long as a fresher tree.

Christmas Tree Care Tip #3: One way to identify if your tree has dry and brittle needles is to lift it up a few inches, then drop the trunk on the ground. Very few green needles should fall off, but if the tree loses more than a few brown ones, pass for another.

boy laying in snow next to christmas tree

Handling a Christmas Tree

If you’re transporting your Christmas tree a long distance, wrap it in a plastic tarp to protect the needles and freshness on the ride home. Use a handsaw to make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk, removing about an inch of wood from the base. Avoid cutting the trunk into a V-shape, at an angle or drilling a hole into the base. These methods will make it harder for your tree to absorb water, even though some believe they make it easier. The reason for giving your Christmas tree a fresh cut is due to sap leaking out and potentially drying and sealing the wood pores, preventing it from absorbing water.

Christmas Tree Care Tip #4: A fresh cut will ensure your Christmas tree can get water and stay alive longer.

Setting Up Your Live Christmas Tree

Once home and cut, the next step in ensuring that your Christmas tree will stay fresh is deciding where to set it up in your home. The location of your Christmas tree can play an important part in how you keep your Christmas tree alive longer. Once inside, place it in a sturdy stand that can hold at least one gallon of water. If you plan to decorate your tree, choose non-toxic ornaments to keep your kids and pets healthy and safe during the holidays. Choose LED lights to ensure a flame-proof Christmas tree. They may be more expensive but they’ll ensure a safe holiday season. Plus, they last longer so you can use them for years to come.

Christmas Tree Care Tip #5: If your tree is indoors, keep the tree away from heating ducts or other heat sources. The lower the temperature, the fresher the tree will stay.

boy on ladder pointing at christmas tree

Christmas Tree Water: Tips + Tricks

Since we all want the cheerful holiday season to last as long as possible, it makes sense to ask “how do I keep my Christmas tree alive longer?” Watering your Christmas tree is critical to keep it fresh. Over its lifespan, watering your Christmas tree is vital to maintaining its freshness and color. Like we mentioned earlier, wrap the base in a wet towel for a long ride home after purchasing. Once home, fill the tree stand with water and submerge two inches of the trunk.

Aim to add water to your Christmas tree every day, especially in the first week after purchase. For a full size tree, maintain at least five quarts of water in your stand each day. As time goes on, you may see your water get murky or filled with pine needles. Monitor the cleanliness of your tree’s water and aim to change out on a weekly basis.

Christmas Tree Care Tip #6: A freshly cut tree can consume a gallon of water in 24 hours. Never let the water level go below the tree’s base.

What do you put in Christmas tree water to keep the tree fresh?

While the best way to care for your Christmas tree is maintaining its hydration, some believe commercial additives and home concoctions can actually decrease a tree’s moisture retention and increase needle loss. Some swear by Christmas tree preservatives, while others say they’ve seen success with mixing a tablespoon of corn syrup or sugar into the water as food for the tree. Some even add aspirin to the water however most of these home remedies once tested have become known to cause heavy needle loss.

children decorating Christmas tree

How long do Christmas trees last?

On average, Christmas trees last from a month to five weeks or more, but they can last longer if you take good care of them. If your holiday merriness begins before December, we suggest purchasing and decorating your Christmas tree in the last week of November to ensure it stays alive until the new year.

When should you take down your Christmas tree?

According to Victorian tradition, your tree should stay up until January 5th or 6th, but leaving your Christmas decorations up after this time is considered bad luck! Looking for a fun new tradition once the holiday season is over? Use this activity to spark a fun collaborative cleanup filled with leftover cookies, un-watched Christmas movies and festive drinks. Maybe even get started on that New Year’s tradition by de-cluttering a few of your unused decorations.

woman making wreath out of Christmas tree

Recycling Your Christmas Tree

Whatever you do, liven up packing dusty decoration boxes and vacuuming cookie crumbs by making a game plan for recycling your Christmas tree. Before taking it down, find your craftiest friend and create a new holiday tradition by thinking about alternatives to throwing it away.

Here are a few clever ways to recycling your Christmas tree:

  • Create an aromatic Yule log for your fireplace next Christmas Eve.
  • Create a bird feeder and haven by stringing your tree with orange slices, cranberries and bird-friendly goodies before placing in your yard.
  • Reuse the Christmas tree by DIYing your own centerpiece. 
  • Create foliage out of your tree and stuff small pillows for added fragrance.

Other simple alternatives include:

  • Recycle your Christmas tree with a recycling service.
  • Call a local lawn waste collection service.
  • Create mulch out of the tree for your garden

Proper Christmas tree care can ensure your holidays (and Christmas tree) stay merry and bright all season long! Looking for other decoration tips? Explore our most festive gifts and florals perfect for adding some holiday cheer in your office or home! Happy Holidays!

Statista | Michigan State University