How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh

Your guide to finding and caring for your holiday centerpiece.

Here’s some advice to help you with each step of the all-important Christmas tree selection process, plus tips on keeping it looking beautiful.

  • Ensure it will last. The freshest possible tree is one you chop down yourself at a nearby choose-your-own farm. If you prefer to buy a precut tree, ask the retailer when shipments come in and plan your trip accordingly. Avoid trees that have been sitting in the sun, which can dry them out. To test for freshness, gently grasp a branch and pull it toward you; very few needles should fall off. Then bend a few branches – if they snap easily, the tree is probably too dry. Other signs you should move on: a lot of brown needles, a musty odor and a wrinkled bark.
  • Inspect it carefully. Look for a tree that is uniformly full on all sides and has a straight trunk that will fit easily in a stand. When selecting a precut tree, have the salesperson trim about half an inch off the trunk. That helps the tree take up water when placed in a stand at home.
  • Offer a drink. Place the tree in water as soon as possible after you get home. (If the trunk wasn’t trimmed at the lot, make a fresh cut with a saw first.) If you prefer not to set it up in the stand right away, place the trunk in a bucket of water and store the tree in a cool place, such as your garage.
  • Take a stand. Put down a plastic drop cloth where you plan to display the tree, then place the stand on top. The stand should fit the diameter of the drunk (never whittle the trunk to get it into a stand, as that could hinder the tree’s ability to drink). For trees 6 feet tall or larger, you want a stand that holds at least 1 gallon of water.
  • Spruce it up. Survey the tree to see if any areas need pruning. If the base seems busy, remove a few branches with gardening shears. Trim any small growth that juts straight out from the bottom or top of branches (as opposed to growth that sweeps gracefully to the sides) to make more space for ornaments to dangle.
  • Hydrate often. Watering is key to making the tree last and keeping it healthy. A cut tree can absorb between 1 and 2 quarts of water per day. Check the stand daily; add water as needed.
  • Stay cool. To help slow the drying process, consider lowering the temperature in the room where the tree is displayed. At the very least, turn down the thermostat whenever you leave the house or go to bed. As a safety precaution, unplug the tree’s lights, too.

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Martin Barraud