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How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Thriving All Season Long

A person watering a christmas tree with a white watering pot

Picking out and decorating a Christmas tree is a festive, long-standing tradition millions of people enjoy. Whether you cut a tree down yourself or buy one at a store, your live tree can remain healthy and green for up to six weeks with the right care. Here's how to keep your real Christmas tree alive and thriving all season long! 

Start With the Right Tree 

The key to having a Christmas tree that lasts is choosing one that’s healthy from the start. Look for one with plenty of hearty and green (as opposed to brown) pine needles. Then, run your hand over the branches and make sure most pine needles stay intact. If they're falling off easily, the tree is probably not very healthy. 

When choosing a tree directly from a farm, opt for one that has been grown or displayed in a shady location instead of an area that receives heavy sunlight. As you’ll find out, exposure to light can shorten your tree’s lifespan. 

rows of Christmas trees at Christmas tree farm

Re-trim the Trunk 

Even if your tree is freshly cut, it's still a good idea to trim the trunk yourself before setting it up in its stand. This is because the resin can quickly seep out from the cut area and harden. When this happens, the dried-over resin can prevent your tree from absorbing water effectively. 

By making your own cut immediately before setting the tree in its stand, you can optimize water absorption—which can help your tree stay healthier for longer. When trimming a trunk, you only need to take about an inch off. For best results, make a straight cut directly across the bottom of the trunk and get it in water within one hour of cutting. 

Water Frequently 

Christmas trees need more water than you probably realize. In fact, as a general rule, provide about one quart of water for every inch of the trunk's diameter. For example, if your tree's trunk is three inches in diameter, you'll need to fill the stand with three quarts of water. 

From there, make sure you're adding water to your base regularly so the recommended amount is always available. Adequate hydration is crucial for durability! 

Decorate Mindfully 

When stringing lights on your tree, be mindful of the type you use. Christmas trees are very sensitive to heat, and incandescent lights can dry out the branches and kill off pine needles prematurely. 

Whenever possible, use LED lights, as they put out less heat and are more energy-efficient. Also, setting a timer for your lights, so they automatically shut off each day, can help keep your tree satiated. 

Want to decorate a Christmas tree that captures the magic of the season? Check out 9 steps to decorating your Christmas tree like a pro! 

Reduce Exposure to Heat Sources 

Ideally, you should set up your tree away from direct heat sources in a well-ventilated area. Proximity to heat vents and fireplaces can make a tree dry out faster, reducing its lifespan. If your tree is displayed in a picture window, keep the curtains drawn during the day to protect it from unnecessary UV exposure. 

Christmas tree with beads, ornaments, and lights

The Takeaway: Keeping Your Christmas Tree Alive is Easier than You Think! 

The cherished tradition of selecting and adorning a Christmas tree is a source of joy and warmth during the holidays. By following these essential steps for how to keep your Christmas tree alive, you can ensure that your tree remains vibrant and lively throughout its time in your home. As you create lasting memories around your beautifully cared-for tree, remember that a little goes a long way. For the cherry on top, ring in the new year with these good luck foods, too! 

Christmas Tree FAQs

When should you buy a Christmas tree?

If you’re able to take good care of your tree, experts suggest getting one around Thanksgiving in late November. Trees are usually cut in November, and you’ll have plenty of trees to pick from by getting an early start. There are also a lot of people who have the tradition of buying a tree on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. While there may be fewer trees available, this has some perks. Prices are often cheaper, and you don’t have to worry about caring for it for as long.

What type of tree is a Christmas tree?

Any type of tree can be a Christmas tree. However, the most popular types of Christmas trees include:

  • Fraser firs
  • Noble firs
  • Turkish firs 
  • Douglas firs 
  • Balsam firs
  • Silver firs 

When should you take down the Christmas tree? 

According to some traditions, it's good luck to leave your Christmas tree up until 12 nights after Christmas, which falls on January 6. 

How much is a real Christmas tree?

The average price of a live Christmas tree is around $80-$100. 

How long does a Christmas tree last?

If cared for properly, a Christmas tree can last for up to six weeks. 

How can I dispose of my Christmas tree? 

Many neighborhoods have local tree curbside pickup or drop-off disposal, recycling, and composting programs. A quick Internet search can tell you where to go and what to do. You can chip your tree into mulch and use it for your garden, or simply leave it out in your yard or a nature landscape to provide a winter shelter for birds until all the needles fall off.

Trimmings and cuttings can be used to make wreaths and potpourri, decorate mantles, doorways, and tablescapes, or even in flower or planter arrangements.