How to Keep a Christmas Tree Alive As Long As Possible

Christmas tree with gold and silver decorations in a living room with grey walls, bright window with drapes on the right

Anastasiia Krivenok / Getty Images

To keep a Christmas tree alive for as long as possible, you'll need to select the right tree and give it excellent care. Consider the timing of the purchase, recency of harvest, and cleanness of the cut when choosing a tree. As for what caring for a tree entails, it really all comes down to the preservation of moisture.

Here's how to make your Christmas tree last extra long this holiday season.

Buying a Christmas Tree

Consider the timing of your tree purchase. Some people faithfully set the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and take it down the day after Christmas. Some people wait until the week before Christmas, or even Christmas Eve. If you wait, it may be harder to get a freshly-cut tree. And the longer your tree stays up, the more it can dry out. Even adding water every day will not keep it alive for more than a few weeks.

Get a Recently Harvested Tree

Are you buying a tree from a nursery or a farm, or cutting it yourself? If the tree you're buying was grown in nearby, avoid buying it too early in the season. Transporting Christmas trees from farms to vendors in large cities and warmer areas is a big business and most of them arrive just before the big rush in late November. By allowing for several hard frosts, the tree will be moving into dormancy for winter. The needles will produce a coating that protects them from drying out. Ask your local vendor when the trees were cut and purchase one that's been harvested recently.


Some varieties of evergreen Christmas trees tend to maintain their freshness longer than others. These include Fraser fir, balsam, Scotch pine (also known as Scots pine), Colorado Blue Spruce, and Black Hills spruce. The Scotch pine tends to hold onto its needles the longest, even when it's dry.

Christmas tree farm with tree in foreground with hand-lettered sign that says "pick me"

Blake Kent / Design Pics / Getty Images

Check for Freshness

There are several signs of freshness in a cut evergreen tree to look for before you buy. The needles should be soft and flexible, with vibrant color. If needles fall off when you brush your hand across them or when you move the tree, it is already drying out. Another way of testing the tree's freshness is to feel its weight; the heavier it feels, the more water the trunk has absorbed, which means it will stay fresher longer. A tree that feels light may be starting to dry out and will lose moisture sooner and drop needles.

Get a Clean Cut

Ask your tree vendor to cut a disk off the bottom of the trunk so you have a nice clean, even cut. This primes the tree to absorb water readily. You can also do this at home with a hacksaw or a pruning saw, depending on the size of the tree. Be sure to trim the bottom branches, leaving 8 to 10 inches of space so you can secure the tree properly in the stand, and keep the trunk submerged in water.

It's important to have the trunk freshly trimmed right before you install it (preferably no more than an hour). If you have to wait to set up your tree, stand it up in a bucket of water so the trunk won't dry out.

lnstall Your Tree in a Stand

Choose a tree stand with a good-sized water reservoir (it should hold at least a half gallon of water). Make sure the stand is an appropriate size for your tree. Most tree stands have screws or bolts to stabilize the tree. You will be refilling the water frequently so ensure the branches at the bottom are trimmed adequately to give you access.

How to Care for a Christmas Tree

Maintenance for a cut Christmas tree involves providing adequate levels of hydration. Here are several steps you can take to create ideal conditions in your home.

Refill Water Frequently

In the first few hours in the stand, your tree can absorb up to a gallon of water, so check the levels and refill as needed. After that it will need about a quart of fresh water per day. Keep the water level at 3 to 4 inches surrounding the trunk. Use lukewarm, not cold, water. Some people put various additives in the water, like sugar, molasses or fertilizer, but these aren't necessary.

Keep the Air Humid

Many factors can deplete humidity in the air, but the main one is heat. Heated air will dry out your tree, causing it to drop its needles and become brittle. If you have a humidifier, turn it on for a few hours each day near the tree.

Use Low-Heat Lights

Decorating your tree with lights can also cause the branches to dry out. LED lights tend to emit less heat than traditional electric lights, so these are a good choice for keeping your tree fresher longer, and also for reducing any danger of fire.

Dispose of It When Needles Drop

Once your tree starts dropping needles, it has begun to dry out and should be taken down. Keeping a dry Christmas tree in the house can be dangerous. You can put the tree in your brush heap, put it by a fence to create winter habitat for birds, or dispose of it according to your local guidelines.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Winter holidays. National Fire Protection Association.