Cutting down your Christmas tree is a special, time-honored tradition for many families. And truly, there's nothing like having a fresh fir in your home for the holidays. From the amazing natural shapes and varieties available to the fragrant branches, there are several reasons why many consider the holidays incomplete without a spruce straight from nature.
However, a fresh-chopped Christmas tree does have one significant downfall: It dies—and quickly. If you time it right, you may be able to stretch the life of your tree throughout the entire holiday season, but more often than not, you're left with a fir that's dropping needles left and right long before Christmas Eve.
Luckily, there are several tried-and-true tricks for extending the life of your fir. In fact, one of the easiest involves several ingredients you probably already have on-hand in your kitchen. Follow these easy tips below to ensure your fir sees Christmas morning looking fresh.
Select a Fresh Fir
While there are several different kinds of Christmas tree varietals you can choose from (balsam fir, Fraser fir, and blue spruce among them), no single type lasts exceptionally longer than the others. Rather, there are a few steps you should take when selecting your tree at the farm to ensure you are starting out with the freshest fir possible.
When choosing your spruce, first inspect through the branches towards the interior of the tree (closest to the trunk). You shouldn't see any dead or dying needles (they'll look brown and crispy) or signs of disease or decay. Next, run your hands over several branches, feeling the needles and making sure they are soft and firmly attached to the branch.
If you're picking a tree that's already been pre-cut at a lot, you can also pick up the fir and bang it firmly on the ground. If you're met with a showering of needles that fall to the pavement, that's a good indication that your pick is already past its prime and you should continue on and select another.
Give It a New Cut
Even if you're cutting down your tree fresh at the farm, you should always plan to give it a second cut once you get home right as you're about to put it into its stand for the holidays. The reason: As you cut the trunk of any spruce, its sap rushes to seal up the "wound" on the tree, creating a barrier at the base that makes it hard to absorb water once it's ready to be fed.
Make sure to make your final cut before immediately placing your spruce into water, and aim to trim off a minimum of one inch of trunk at the base (a bit more if you've picked up your tree from a lot and it has been out of water for a while).
Choose The Right Spot
Picking the right place for your Christmas tree in your home is not just about where you can see the lights best or which corner hides the bare side of the tree more. In fact, choosing the wrong spot for your tree can actually take days—or weeks—off its lifespan. Avoid placing your spruce anywhere near an extended heat source, including a frequently-used fireplace, radiator, space heater, or especially sunny window. Intense heat sources can dry out your tree, prematurely aging it and making it more likely that the branches will dry out or the needles will fall.
Mix Up a Solution
If you're interested in a little experimentation when it comes to extending the life of your Christmas tree, try this trick straight from the tree farmers themselves. Right when you get your Christmas tree home, boil a gallon of water. Once boiling, dissolve a cup of sugar in the water and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Make a fresh, inch-wide cut at the base of your Christmas tree trunk, then position it in a sturdy tree. Pour in the warm sugar water and allow the tree to drink it up completely (which will likely happen within just a few hours), then continue to water as normal. Not only is this trick likely to extend the life of your tree, but it can also boost the longevity of its scent, too.
At the end of the day, if there's one key to the longevity of your fresh-cut Christmas tree, it's water. Regardless of the type of spruce you choose, your tree will need ample water throughout the season to successfully make it past Christmas Eve. Your best bet is to water at the same time daily, ensuring that the reservoir in your tree stand never falls empty.
If you have plans to travel throughout the holiday season and will be gone for a few days, make sure to select a tree stand that can hold at least a gallon of water and fill it up as much as you can in the days leading up to your departure.