15 Dos And Don’ts When Buying And Caring For A Live Christmas Tree

15 Dos And Don'ts When Buying And Caring For A Live Christmas Tree

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There is something to be said about decorating your holiday home with a live Christmas tree, because no matter how gorgeous your artificial tree might be, or how fragrant your Christmas essential oils and scent boosters are, the combination doesn’t seem to hold a candle to the real thing.

Since live Christmas trees are expected to cost anywhere between $48 to $53 this year, per Yahoo Finance, we think you’d probably want your tree to last as long as possible — which means having the evergreens stay evergreen from the time you purchase it, until its time to take it down.

Choosing and caring for a live Christmas tree isn’t as complicated as you might think, particularly when armed with a few tips and tricks that will help you not just pick out the right tree but to keep it healthy and happy until at least Christmas Day.

Don’t overlook the condition of the Christmas tree lot

pile of pine needles

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Chopped trees shed needles if they are either drying out or are stressed. If you want your tree to last, you’ll need to acquire a recently-harvested tree. Farmers Almanac warns that if you see too many needles on the ground at a tree farm, you should go somewhere else.

Do consider different tree varieties

Christmas tree farm

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Farmer’s Almanac says there are over 35 species of Christmas trees, and of that number, five are best suited for the home. Trust the tree seller to help you find a tree that’s right for you.

Don’t forget plant sensitivities

woman blowing nose


Consider the plant sensitivities of the people around you, per Bob’s Garden Center. Getting a wonderful-smelling pine tree could turn what should be a Christmassy experience into a miserable one if someone at home is allergic to plants. If you or someone you love has allergies, it might be best to skip the live tree.

Do give yourself time to find the right tree

recently purchased Christmas tree


ThoughtCo says garden centers and Christmas tree farms kick off the holiday season by putting out their best trees first, so go early to find a tree that suits your needs. 

Don’t buy too big

Christmas tree with boxes

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A live tree is great, but having a tree that works with your space is even better. Because trees tend to look small when they are outside, Michigan State University suggests using a mathematical ratio of 2:3, which means you’ll need at least four feet of space for a six-foot tree.

Do check for freshness

close up christmas tree needles

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Make sure your tree is fresh by picking a branch, and tugging on that from the end closest to the tree to its outermost tip, or by giving it a good shake. A freshly harvested tree will have its needles firmly attached, per Your Indoor Herbs and Garden.

Don’t overlook the tree stand

tree with plastic stand

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A tree stand will help your tree stay hydrated as well as keep it stable. Make sure you pick a tree stand with the correct weight and circumference for the size of your tree, per HGTV. 

Do keep your tree watered

tree stand and presents

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Hicks Nurseries says a layer of dried sap will develop over the trunk’s stump if the tree stays dry for more than four hours, and that makes it difficult to absorb water. Ensure your cut tree always has plenty of water to keep it fresh.

Don’t add anything to the tree water

transparent water


PennState Extension says your tree doesn’t need preservatives, honey, soft drinks, sugar, or any other types of additives. Clean water is enough to keep the tree hydrated and healthy.

Do acclimatize your tree

unpacking a christmas tree


Christmas trees don’t like going from the cold outdoors to the warm indoors, so keep yours stress-free by giving it time to adjust to warmth. Today’s Homeowner suggests leaving your tree in an unheated part of your home for a few days before bringing it in — don’t forget to keep it in the water!

Don’t put up the tree as is

Christmas tree with hand saw

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Before setting up your tree, cut at least a quarter inch from the bottom of the tree trunk so it can better absorb and retain water. This is particularly important if the tree was chopped down longer than six hours ago, explains Bob’s Garden Center.

Do keep the tree away from heat

Christmas tree next to fireplace

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Jackson & Sons suggests keeping your tree in a room with a temperature range of between the mid-60s to the low 70s, and away from any heat sources, including heating vents, radiators, and the fireplace. 

Don’t keep your tree in direct sunlight

Christmas tree in a corner

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Misa Christmas Tree Farm warns that direct sunlight will wilt the needles and turn them brown in just a few days. Keep your tree in a shady, cool spot to preserve its rich color.

Do use a humidifier

humidifier near a Christmas tree


Because they keep the air around them moist, Boxwood Avenue says humidifiers are a great way to keep Christmas trees looking fresh and happy. Keep one close to your tree either during the day or at night.

Don’t waste money on anti-transpirants

close up christmas tree branches

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Anti-transpirants are marketed as products that help a Christmas tree retain moisture, but PennState Extension says they don’t really work on cut trees, so you may want to give this a miss and save yourself some money.

✿ Read More About Fruit Trees.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.