How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh

Published Monday, November 30th, 2015
How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh Mommy Perfect
(Image source: Library of Congress, a horse-drawn cart delivers this load of Christmas trees to New York City, sometime between 1910—1915.)

Now that Thanksgiving has passed it’s time to setup the Christmas tree.  Of course a freshly cut fir tree is the only way to go — artificial trees are simply no comparison in my book.  The smell of a fresh Christmas tree in your living room is one of the most pleasant things about the Christmas season.  However, Christmas trees do require proper care.  I have a friend who owns a Christmas tree farm and several lots, and he agreed to share his knowledge with my readers.

Here are the expert tips for how to keep your Christmas tree fresh until New Years:

  1. Pick a fresh one: Grab a stem, pull your hand towards you along the branch, if needles fall off don’t buy it.  When deciding between trees of similar size and shape, chose the heavier one as it contains more moisture, thus will last longer.  Most tree were cut many weeks ago.  You can ask the clerk when this batch of trees was cut, but they lie or simply don’t know when the trees were cut — they all say “these are fresh cut”.  If you really want a fresh one, ask the lot manager when the next shipment arrives and tell him you’ll come back at that time.  I’ve done this several times myself so I know it can work.  But you’ll need to be persistent, check back daily with the Christmas tree lot  manager, and plan to be there when the truck arrives so that you can know for sure that your tree came from the fresh batch.  If you choose this method, plan to wait around a while for them to unload the truck — they typically won’t let you choose a tree while they are in the middle of unloading it.  Of course if you live in a place where you can cut down your own, do that.
  2. Saw off half an inch: When you get your tree home, right before you’re ready to stand it up, saw off half an inch of trunk from the bottom.  When fir trees are cut, sap oozes out and seals the end, which prevents the tree from being able to drink water.  By sawing off a fresh base, the tree will be able to absorb water.  Many tree lots will saw the bottom for you, just be sure to get it in water within a couple hours.  If its going to take you longer than a couple hours to get it into water, then consider cutting the base yourself when you’re ready using a chainsaw or hand pruning saw.  Also, some tree lots like to drill a hole up the center of the tree — this does NOT help your Christmas tree to drink, so ask them not to drill.
  3. Large water basin tree stand: Fresh Christmas trees can drink a gallon of water per day.  If you’re gone all day, and the tree drinks it’s basin dry, the sap cap will develop and then you’ll be trying to saw another 1/2″ off the base of a fully decorated Christmas tree (which I’ve done, and it looks as silly as it sounds).  Buy a stand with the largest basin available.
  4. Water twice a day: Fresh trees will drink a lot, and the last thing you want is to allow that sap cap to form too early.  Always check the water level morning and night, and keep it topped off.  If you want to get really picky, keep a log book of how much water your tree drank and when you topped it off.  Or… see #5…
  5. Automatic watering device:  Devices like Tree Nanny simplify the process and helps to keep the water from getting too low.
  6. Only use water:  Just tap water, plain and simple.  Don’t add anything else.  Not sugar, aspirin, bleach, fertilizer, Viagra — nothing.  Not only do those things not work, they make the tree lose its needles faster.  The Discovery Channel Show Myth Busters tested all these various additives and found that none were effective.  Pure water is best.
  7. Keep away from heat:  The warmer the tree gets, the faster it will dry out.  Keep away from heat vents, fireplace/hearth, and radiators.  The cooler it is, the longer it will last.

Now you know how to keep your Christmas tree fresh until New Years or beyond.

P.S. When its dry, remove it:  Dried fir trees are a major fire hazard.  When your Christmas tree is visibly dry (run your fingers along a branch as in #1), remove it from your home.  And never burn any part of a Christmas tree in a wood stove or fireplace.

Merry Christmas!

How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh 1920s
(Image source: — Christmas 1920s)

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