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The Secret To Make Your Real Christmas Tree Last All Through The Holidays

Christmas tree with presents beneath it

To make sure your Christmas tree lasts throughout the holidays, always 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.

Does Sprite even exist anymore? I thought it was Starry now?

My uncle swears by vodka in the tree water.

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 those little packets that come 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 on social media has their perfect “solution” to spruce up their tree. (Getting my puns in early.) And some of them are downright weird.

Aspirin? Really? Does your tree have a hangover from all that vodka?

There is definitely something you should give your tree that will keep it looking healthy and fresh right up to the new year, and apparently it’s a big secret:

Water, Water, and More Water

Water is the best thing for your tree. Yes, just plain old water and nothing else.

Nature knows best, and any tinkering we do by adding home remedies or fancy commercial additives actually causes your tree to decay faster. Many can even cause the needles to fade or yellow. Not a great look for a Christmas tree.

As soon as you put your tree up, give it plenty of room-temperature water.

And keep giving it plenty of water.

Check it again later in the day. You may be surprised to find it needs more water already. During the first week in your home, 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.

Of course, there’s more to keeping a real tree looking good than water.

Soft focus Christmas tree with LED lights

Here are a few more tips to ensure a gorgeous Christmas tree this year.

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

Man pulling a freshly cut Christmas tree on a cart at a Christmas tree farm

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. Give Your Tree a Drink When You Get Home

Christmas tree in a pan of water

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.

3. A Fresh Cut – Fresh Cut Christmas Tree

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.

Man cutting down a Christmas tree

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.

Many Christmas tree lots will happily give a tree a fresh cut for you.

Right 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.

4. 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.

Christmas tree in front of a fireplace

While it makes for a pretty picture, putting a Christmas tree near a fireplace is downright dangerous.

5. Cool the Room

If you’re able, set up your tree somewhere cool 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.

6. Humidity

Humidifier running in front of Christmas tree

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.

7. LED Christmas lights are the way to go

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.

Christmas tree lights bokeh effect

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. They have improved so much over the years.

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.

8. Check and Water Your Tree Daily

hand pouring water into a Christmas tree stand

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.

And if you want something a little different, we’ve got plenty of Christmas tree alternatives.

Norfolk Island Pine decorated for Christmas
Merry Christmas from Rural Sprout!

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,