Finding the perfect Christmas tree, then trimming it is a lovely way to create holiday memories. Cleaning up needles as they fall from a dying tree…not so much.
So what’s the best way to keep your tree beautiful and healthy for the entirety of the holiday season? We asked an expert.
How long does a real Christmas tree last?
That depends on the type of tree and, of course, whether you take care of them properly. Fraser firs are the most popular because they last the longest, according to Shirley Brennan, the executive director of the Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario — so you can trim your tree up to a month and a half before having to take it to the curb. For those who celebrate Christmas in January, such as some Orthodox churches and the Armenian Apostolic Church, firs are the perfect choice. Spruce trees are popular because they are the most fragrant tree, but spruce and pine trees will only stay fresh for around a month. (Pine trees also drop their needles a lot faster.) Find out how to tell the difference between fir, spruce and pine here. And, for any kind of tree, shake out already dead needles before putting up the tree to minimize cleanup later.
How do you make a Christmas tree last longer?
Whether you’ve just cut your tree down yourself or bought a tree that has been sitting out in a lot for a while, Brennan emphasizes that the one thing you absolutely must do is cut a fresh inch off the end of the trunk — a small handsaw will do the trick — right before you set it up for display. This allows your tree to easily drink the water it needs to stay fresh. “It’s like when we cut ourselves, our skin automatically starts healing over,” she explains. The same thing happens to trees. They immediately begin developing a film over cuts, which slows water intake.
How often should I water my Christmas tree?
Every day. You tree must retain moisture and hydration to stay healthy. For the first few days, your tree will consume an abundance of water until it hits capacity. During that time, you may have to water it twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Keep an eye on your water level, especially if you have a smaller stand, and make sure it never goes below the base of your trunk (to avoid that film developing again). “Some of the fancy looking tree stands are great, but they don’t hold a lot of water,” says Brennan. Invest in a tree stand that holds a few litres, so that you don’t have to worry about watering your tree all day.
Should I add sugar to Christmas tree water?
Straight water is fine, and probably the best. “If you’re adding sugar to that water, that water is fermenting and it’s clogging the pores of the tree — preventing it from being able to drink properly. If you don’t add anything to the water, you have a better chance of [the tree] being as healthy as it can,” says Brennan.
Do I need to acclimate my tree before putting it up in my house?
Some people will advocate for acclimation, or the idea of letting your tree transition from the cold outdoors to the warm indoors by storing it somewhere in between such as a garage for a while. Brennan says this isn’t necessary. “The key thing is don’t put it besides a heat register or a heat source because that will dry it out — it’s not going right in front of the fire place,” she says.
Which is more environmentally friendly—a real Christmas trees or artificial/fake?
If sourced properly, a real Christmas tree is definitely the better option—unless you use your artificial tree for at least nine years, according to one study. And take note: real trees are both a renewable resource and completely biodegradable. If you’re buying a pre-cut tree, look for one sourced locally to ensure transportation emissions are as low as possible. And, an additional bonus—the more local your tree, the more likely that you’re picking up a fresh one that will last longer. The major Christmas tree growing provinces are British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, while Nova Scotia, but Manitoba, Alberta, and Newfoundland also have tree farms. Christmas trees are grown on farms as a crop, so families don’t have to worry about destroying forests when they buy real ones. To close the renewable resource cycle, check with your municipality about how to properly dispose of your tree.
How do I care for a potted tree?
Some people like the idea of being able to plant their tree after the Christmas season. Since potted trees come with a root ball, the trees can’t be too big (or the root ball will be too big to manage), and they can’t stay indoors for longer than seven to ten days. Potted trees are trees in a dormant state, which every tree goes into during the winter. If put in the warmth for too long, your tree will come out of dormancy prematurely, and have a harder time flourishing when planted in the spring.
This post was originally published in 2018; updated in 2020.