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11 Sure-Fire Ways to Make Your Christmas Tree Last Longer

A dried out Christmas tree with the ornaments on it and all the needles laying on the floor.
To avoid your Christmas tree looking like this, read on.

To make your Christmas tree last throughout the holidays, add half a cup of sugar to your Christmas tree water.

No, no, no, everyone knows it’s a can of Mountain Dew.

Are you sure? I thought it was a can of Sprite.

My uncle swears by vodka in the tree water.

A smiling man holds a shot of vodka, he is sitting in front of a Christmas tree.
Are you sure your Uncle is putting the vodka in the tree water?

You have no idea what you’re talking about; you’re supposed to crush up an aspirin tablet and add it to the water.

Really? Because Miracle-Gro has this stuff which says it reduces needle-drop.

I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to use that stuff that comes with a bouquet of fresh flowers. Right?

No, you’re all wrong. It’s a mixture of bleach, corn syrup, and Epsom salts. That’s what does the trick.

Confused about how to make your Christmas tree last?

It’s no wonder. It seems as though everyone has their perfect “secret family recipe” to spruce up their tree. (Getting my puns in early.) And some of them are downright weird.

Aspirin? Does your tree have a hangover after all that vodka?

There is something you should give your tree that will keep it looking marvelous right up to the new year, and I’ll tell you what it is in a bit.

But first, there are a few things you should do right away that will ensure a gorgeous Christmas tree this year.

A young girl dressed in winter clothes pulls a sled with a freshly cut Christmas tree on it through the snow. And older man dressed in winter clothes pushes the sled from behind.
Now that you’ve got the perfect tree, let’s keep it looking great through the holidays.

And it all starts when you pick out your tree.

(You are getting a real tree, right? You aren’t going to use one of those plastic abominations, right?)

If you’ve already got your tree up, there are still a few things you can do that will help keep your tree fresh. We’ll get to those in a bit too.

1. Choosing Your Tree

A field of fir trees covered in frost.
Ensuring a long-lasting tree starts right here.

Whether you’re at a Christmas tree lot or a Christmas tree farm, look for a tree with good coloring. It should be a deep, vibrant green. Anything yellowish isn’t a good sign.

Of course, orange isn’t great either. It’s normal for a tree to have a few spots of dead needles on its interior, but if there are lots of needles on the ground under the tree, skip it and find another one.

2. Cut Straight

A close up photo of the bottom of a Christmas tree trunk, freshly cut down.
A straight cut is the best way to cut your Christmas tree.

If you’re cutting your own tree, ignore the old advice to cut it on an angle. This does nothing to allow more water to be absorbed and makes getting your tree to stand straight in the tree stand a headache. (In which, you should take the aspirin, not your tree.)

A good flush-cut straight across the trunk allows for plenty of surface area for the tree to absorb water.  

3. Drilling a Hole in the Bottom of the Trunk?

Someone is drilling a hole in the bottom of a Christmas tree trunk with a cordless drill.
Unless your tree stand requires it, skip drilling a hole in the bottom of the trunk.

This always seemed odd to me – the idea that drilling a hole in the bottom of a tree trunk allows the tree to take up more water. That tree was doing just fine taking water up from the ground without a hole in the trunk.

I understand that some Christmas tree stands necessitate a hole to be drilled in the trunk. However, doing so isn’t necessary for the tree to absorb water. Plant cells are pretty good at absorbing water without our helping out.

4. Give Your Tree a Drink When You Get Home

Christmas tree in a bucket of water on the ground outside.
Keep your tree cool and refreshed until you can put it up in the house.

Riding home on the top of your car can strip your tree of moisture. If you won’t be putting your tree up right away, store the tree outside in a cool, shady location with the trunk submerged in a bucket of water.

5. A Fresh Cut-Fresh Cut Christmas Tree

A Christmas tree is on the floor next to a tree stand and a wood saw.
A fresh cut right before you put your Christmas tree in the stand is recommended.

If it’s been more than three hours since you cut your tree down, you’ll need to make another fresh cut immediately before you put the tree up to allow it to absorb water again.

The tree’s natural defenses will seal off the cut with resin in an attempt to heal the wound. This natural scab makes it hard (if not impossible) for the tree to absorb water. Also, air will have been absorbed by the exposed cells, drying out that area of the trunk.

Most pre-cut Christmas trees are cut a couple of weeks before reaching you, so pre-cut trees need to get a fresh cut.

One man holds a bailed Christmas tree in a saw horse while another man cuts the trunk with a chainsaw.
Many Christmas tree lots will happily give a tree a fresh cut for you.

Immediately before you put your tree up, cut a straight 1/2” to 1” off the bottom. Go with 1” if you bought a pre-cut tree. This new cut will re-expose new cells and allow the tree to absorb water again.

6. Water, Water, and More Water

Someone is watering a Christmas tree with a bottle of water.
Water is the best thing for your tree.

Remember when I said there was something you should feed your tree to keep it looking great?

This is it. Water. Plain water, and nothing else.

Nature knows best, and any tinkering we do may actually make your tree decay faster or cause the needles to fade or yellow. Not a great look for a Christmas tree.

As soon as your tree is up and in the tree stand, give it plenty of cool water.

And keep giving it plenty of water.

During that first week, trees may need to be watered every day to prevent them from drying out. You don’t want the cut portion of the trunk to be exposed to air again once it’s in the stand.

Make it a habit to check the water level on your tree daily.

Set a reminder on your phone if you have to. Remember, keeping the tree watered well isn’t just about a beautiful Christmas tree; it’s also about fire safety. A dry tree is a fire hazard.

7. Location, Location, Location

As with real estate, location is everything. Set up your tree in a room that can be kept relatively cool. Don’t set your tree up near a heating source. If you have to, close nearby vents or radiators and move any space heaters.

And by all means, ignore every Christmas card you’ve ever seen. Never set a Christmas tree up near a fireplace. It’s a fire hazard and will dry your tree out in no time.

A traditional Christmas scene, a decorated Christmas tree near a fireplace in a cozy, dark decorated living room.
While it makes for a pretty picture, putting a Christmas tree near a fireplace is downright dangerous.

What to do once your tree is up

Even if you’ve already set up your tree, there are still things you can do to ensure a green tree with little needle-drop this Christmas.

8. Cool the Room

A thermometer resting on the branches of a Christmas tree.
Okay, maybe not that cool.
“What did you get for Christmas?”
“Pneumonia.”

If you’re able, relocate your tree to somewhere cooler in the house. However, if you can’t move the tree, consider closing or turning off any heat sources close to the tree.

Is your tree near a south-facing window? Close the curtains during the day to keep it cool.

9. Humidity

A cold mist vaporizer running in front of a Christmas tree.

Add extra moisture to the air by running a cool-mist humidifier or adding a few pebble trays filled with water in the room. Not only is this good for your tree, but it’s also good for you too, as winter air is especially dry.

10. LED Christmas lights are the way to go

A ball of tangled LED Christmas lights.
LED Christmas lights light up your holidays while keeping your tree cool.

It’s taken me a while to warm up to LED lights. There’s something nostalgic about the colors and soft glow of incandescent Christmas lights. LED lights always seem overly bright to me. Is that a Christmas tree or a UFO?

However, that nostalgia dissipated after I saw how much lower my energy bill was in December when I did switch to LEDs. And they last longer with fewer bulb problems, which means I’m not buying new lights every year – a good thing on so many levels.

LED lights use far less energy, and they don’t create heat as incandescent lights do. Again, this keeps your tree from drying out and helps prevent fires.

11. Check and Water Your Tree Daily

I’m repeating this here because it’s the most important thing you can do to ensure a lovely Christmas tree all through the season. In fact, I think you should stop reading and go water your Christmas tree right now.

A tall Christmas tree decorated with white lights and white and gold Christmas ornaments, gifts are tucked underneath the tree.
Merry Christmas from Rural Sprout!