Christmas Tree Care Tips

Christmas tree care tips to keep your seasonal addition green and healthy. My family loves Christmas trees so much that our hearts jump when we see the first tree lots go up before Thanksgiving. 

And it's all we can do to keep ourselves from bringing one home the day they go on sale. In years past, we've actually sat in the parking lot the day after Thanksgiving, waiting for the Christmas tree lot to open.

But we won't make that mistake again. We've had too many Christmas mornings with the tree so dried out that we've been afraid to turn on the lights. Now we try to wait till at least three weeks before Christmas to get the tree.

As a result, we've become experts on prolonging Christmas tree life. It's our own little Christmas miracle. And we'd like to share our Christmas tree care tips with you.

Christmas Tree Care Tips for Buying a Tree

When should you buy your Christmas tree? Do as we say, not as we do - wait till two weeks before Christmas to get the tree (if you possibly can). If you can't - well, keep the vacuum cleaner handy. 

Is it better to buy a pre-cut tree (the ones in the lot) or cut your own? Common sense tells you that trees are fresher if you march out to the farm and cut it yourself. 

You never know how long the trees have been cut or how they've been handled en route with commercial lots.

If you cut your own, go to a reputable grower who shapes his trees and irrigates his lot, especially if you live in a drought area. (We cut our tree during a drought not too long ago. Needless to say, that tree was DOA.)

Use the same freshness tests in the field that you would use in a commercial lot. Just because the tree is still stuck in the ground doesn't mean it's not stressed. 

Christmas Tree Care Tips for Choosing A Tree

Most species of trees hold up well if you buy them fresh, so just choose what you like. Follow these Christmas tree tips to make a healthy choice:

  • Check it out: The tree shouldn't look wilted or have brown needles. 
  • Bend the needles: If the tree is fresh, the needles will bend instead of break.
  • Shake the tree: It's natural for some needles to fall, but not too many.
  • Measure: Get a tree that's at least a foot shorter than the ceiling that will eventually be above it. Remember that the stand will add height. And since you pay by the foot, you don't want to trim that extra off at home.
  • Examine the trunk: The trunk should be straight so that it will fit in the stand. Also, the diameter of the trunk should fit easily into the tree stand. If you have to whittle away bark to make it fit, the tree is just going to dry out even sooner. 

Christmas Tree Care Tips for Longevity

Christmas tree strapped to top of car.

Once you've selected your tree, ask the attendant to cut one inch off the base at the lot. A fresh cut enables the tree to take up water. 

As soon as you get home, place the tree in a pail of water because the sap will seal the pores again in four to six hours.

If you aren't going to put the tree up right away, put it in a cool place that's protected from sun and wind. Just before you put the tree in the stand, cut another half-inch off the trunk.

Keep the Tree From Drying Out

How to care for the tree to keep it from drying out? These tips can help:

  • Location, location, location: Place the tree in a location that's away from all heat sources and sun.
  • Protection: Put plastic sheeting under the stand to protect the floor in case of spillage.
  • Hydration: Place the tree in a stand that holds at least a gallon of water and fill it with warm water to keep pitch from forming.
  • Vigilance: Check the water supply a couple of times a day - especially in the beginning, when the tree can absorb a gallon a day. Check twice as often if you have pets who might consider the tree stand a new water bowl.
  • Caution: If you let the water level drop below the cut, sap will form, and you'll have to remove the tree and make a fresh cut. This is tricky if you've already decorated the tree. (But we've done that, too.)

Christmas Tree Care Tips for Fire Safety

As long as the tree is taking up water, it's OK and should not be a fire danger. None of the additives such as aspirin, sugar, etc., really help much - just keep the water coming. The tips below can help keep things safe.

  • Spray the tree with an antitranspirant that keeps water from evaporating from needles.
  • Use UL-approved lights.
  • Use miniature lights (They burn cooler.)
  • Never leave a lighted tree unattended.

Follow these tips and you'll have a Christmas tree you can actually light and enjoy on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas morning.


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