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How to keep a Christmas tree alive

Looking for tips on how to keep a Christmas tree alive? Here’s everything that you need to know about real Christmas tree care and tips for troubleshooting a dying Christmas tree!

Christmas is a magical season, and one magical tradition for many families is a live Christmas tree.

I don’t blame you – a live Christmas tree just really feel special. It has that smell and that look that can be very hard to replicate with a faux tree.

But, real trees do require real work to keep them looking good.

It is super important to maintain your trees freshness, because a dried out Christmas tree can be an extreme fire hazard. And it’s kind of a downer.

Today we want to talk about how to keep your Christmas tree alive and some tips to keep your real Christmas tree as fresh as possible for as long as possible.

how to keep a christmas tree fresh

How long do fresh Christmas trees last?

Wondering how long does a real Christmas tree last? A healthy Christmas tree should last 4 to 5 weeks after being cut. However, this assumes that the tree is kept in water, out of direct sunlight, and provided careful Christmas tree care.

This rather short lifespan is why it’s important not to buy your Christmas tree too soon. It’s tempting to buy a tree November 1st, but you will likely end up with a dead Christmas tree by December 25th.

If you want a tree to last extra long, I highly recommend a fake Christmas tree.

close up of the christmas tree 2021

Why Do Christmas Trees Dry Up?

Christmas trees are cut plants that need to be kept in water in order to keep them fresh and healthy.

If the bottom of the trunk dries out, it will seal up with sap and will no longer absorb water, no matter how much you give it.

At this point, the tree will dry up from the trunk outward. The needles will dry out, turn brown, and fall off.

Water is essential for how to keep a real Christmas tree alive. Unfortunately, if you even mess up once and forget to water it, that can be the end.

Preventing Christmas Tree Drying

The most important way for how to make a Christmas tree last longer is to maintain a consistent water supply. You never want the water level in your tree stand to fall below the base of your tree trunk.

Once a tree stops drinking water, it’s really hard to get it to drink water again. If you work quickly, it is possible, but after a while, it is not.

Watering your Christmas tree

The daily water requirements of a tree vary depending on the tree and the age of the tree.

I definitely suggest using your finger to check if there is water in the stand 2 times a day – morning and night – at first.

Fresh cut trees will drink at least this much, if not more.

Addressing watering problems

If your tree seals up, it is not 100% a lost cause. The best solution is to remove your tree from the stand and make a fresh cut on the trunk.

This is very hard to do on an already decorated tree, but it is the best way to get it drinking more water.

Personally, I would only go through this if it was early in the season and your tree dried out. Remember that a dried out tree can be a huge fire hazard as they are extremely flammable.

2020 Christmas tree

Tree Maintenance Tips

Here are some of the best ways to keep a Christmas tree fresh!

Soak it

Your tree can dry out as soon as your drive home from the Christmas tree farm. Seriously!

Hopefully, you picked the freshest tree and your local tree farm cut the trunk freshly for you.

When you get home, if the tree stand is not ready, put it in a bucket of water. Lean it outdoors or in the garage and let it soak and stay wet until its stand is ready

See our DIY tree stand tutorial here!

Choose the right stand

If you anticipate having a hard time remembering to water your tree, set a reminder on your phone!

Associate the task with something you do twice a day, like feed the dog.

And, consider getting a tree stand with a water reservoir. These stands hold a lot more water than your typical stand and can help keep your tree wet for longer!

Trim the branches

Extra branches means extra energy needed by the tree. If the tree is starting to look sad, trim off the lower branches or any that look dry.

This will allow the tree to focus it’s energy on the remaining branches and needles.

Pick the right placement

Keep Christmas trees away from heat and direct light. Any heat source can dry out the tree and cause brown spots and dry needles!

Increase humidity

You might consider running a humidifier near your tree to help it from getting dry. This is optional and has had mixed results, but it can’t hurt.

Choose LED lights

Incandescent Christmas lights get hot to the touch, which can dry out your tree. LED light bulbs do not get hot and will help preserve your Christmas tree.

Additionally, if your tree is seeming dry, cut the lights off as much as possible. Even slight heat can dry out the branches quicker.

Using tree food

There is a lot of controversy around feeding trees Christmas tree food. Some people swear by it, while others say it does nothing.

Some people similarly like to add sugar to the water for the tree. I think this is supposed to mimic sap.

No sugar? You can also use:

  • corn syrup
  • coca cola (my great aunt Charlotte swore by this!)
  • 1 asprin
Charleston Coastal Christmas Tree with sand dollars, pastel houses, and beach ornaments

Common myths about Christmas trees

Some people might attempt to drill holes in the base of the tree or remove bark from the base of the tree to help improve water absorption.

Well, turns out that this is incorrect.

Christmas trees absorb water through the underside of their bark. If there is no bark in the water, it is much more likely to dry out quickly.

Troubleshooting: When Your Tree Stops Drinking

When your tree stops drinking water, it can be really upsetting. I get it, Christmas trees are expensive and you certainly don’t want a dry tree before Christmas.

The most important thing to do is keep the tree wet. If it dried out just once or for a short period of time, it’s pretty likely that it will perk back up with water – assuming it stays wet.

Follow the above suggested tips of cutting dry branches, running a humidifer, and keeping it out of direct sunlight to help it recover.

Your last resort should be re-cutting the trunk to give it a fresh base to absorb water through.

Check out our complete guide on how to fix a dried out Christmas tree!

Real Christmas trees are beautiful and a wonderful tradition to have. But, they do require care throughout the holiday season.

Hopefully these tips will help you to maintain a healthy, vibrant Christmas tree all season long!

Any more questions about how to keep your Christmas tree alive?

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