How to Care for a Real Christmas Tree

How to Care for a Real Christmas Tree

Real cut Christmas Trees need a little TLC.

A real cut Christmas Tree fills the house with the sights and scents of evergreen boughs and brings the holiday spirit to your home in a way that can’t be matched by an artificial Tree. A real Tree requires special care, however, to ensure that its stay in your home is long lasting and that your family is kept safe. Here’s what you need to know in order to properly care for your fresh cut Christmas Tree.

Shake it, net it, wrap it.

Once you’ve chosen your Christmas Tree, you’ll want to take advantage of the vendor’s Tree-shaking or Tree-blowing services, if offered. This will take care of those loose needles and—hopefully—any spiders or insects lurking inside. Have them net it for you, too; it will make set-up easier once you get home.

If the Tree won’t fit inside your vehicle and you are driving more than a few miles or will be going on the interstate, wrap the Tree in a tarp or an old bedsheet to protect the foliage from the drying effects of exposure to 55 mph winds. Secure it to the roof with the cut end facing forward. 

Keep it cool and shady until set-up.

If you aren’t able to set up your Christmas Tree right away when you get home, plunge the cut end in a bucket of water and store the Tree in a cool, shady place. Keep it out of the sun and wind.

Make a fresh cut.

When you’re ready to put your Tree up, make a fresh cut straight across the butt end, slicing off a half-inch disk. As with cut flowers, a Christmas Tree’s ability to imbibe water can be inhibited when the cut end is exposed to air for a period of time. A fresh cut solves that. If you don’t have a saw at home and are buying a pre-cut Tree, have the vendor make a fresh cut for you before you leave the lot.


Choose a safe place for your Tree.

The place where you display your Christmas Tree should be at least 3 ft. away from any heat source, including floor vents, baseboard heaters, radiators, fireplaces, wood stoves, space heaters, or even direct sun through the window. Some of these are fire hazards, and all of them will shorten your Tree’s time in the house by drying the foliage out.

A Christmas Tree kept cool and hydrated is not only a safer, more fire-resistant Tree, but it will be longer lasting and will hold its fragrance better as well. Keep the room it’s in as cool as is comfortable and consider running a humidifier for extra moisture.

Get a good Christmas Tree stand.

Don’t skimp on a Christmas Tree stand. Get a sturdy one that can hold 1 quart of water for each inch of Tree caliper. A typical 6-ft. Tree will require a stand that provides at least 1 gallon of water.

Never try to pare down a Tree trunk that is too large for the stand. The conduits for taking up water are concentrated in the outer rings of the Tree and need to remain submerged in water at all times.

Some stands have a spike in the bottom that goes into a hole drilled into the bottom of the Tree. If yours is this type, your Tree vendor may be able to do this on the lot; otherwise, you’ll have to drill the hole yourself.

Time to put up the Tree!

Lay down a Christmas Tree bag (found wherever Christmas Tree accessories are sold) to make cleanup easier later. Your Tree skirt goes over the bag.

Set the Tree in the stand and fill the reservoir. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, plain tap water should be used, even though some people may tell you to add aspirin, bleach, or other supposed preservatives.

Your Tree may not take up much water at first—or it may drink up all that you can give it. Top off the reservoir every day. If you let the reservoir go dry for a few hours or more, you’ll need to make another fresh cut to allow the Tree to take up water again, and you won’t want to do that when the Tree is decorated!

Leave the netting on the Tree until it is situated in the Tree stand.

A final step is useful in households with cats: you can secure the top of the Christmas Tree to a hook in the ceiling, and your curious kitty won’t be able to knock it over.


Tree trimming tips

Check your Christmas Tree lights carefully before using them each year, looking for exposed wires or faulty connections. If you need to get a new set, opt for LED lights, which use less energy than traditional lights and put off very little heat. Always unplug lights when you go to bed or leave the house. Reroute or tape down power cords so they’re not a tripping hazard or a temptation to pets that might chew on them.

Place delicate or especially dangly, enticing ornaments out of the reach of toddlers and pets. Tinsel can be dangerous to cats and dogs, too, if ingested.

Cleaning up and recycling your Tree

Sap and needles can clog vacuum cleaners, so sweep up debris instead.

Many communities now have recycling programs for used Christmas Trees, and you may be able to turn your Tree into mulch for your garden. Be sure to remove all of the tinsel and non-biodegradable matter from your Tree before sending it into the chipper.

The National Christmas Tree Association has a list of links detailing interesting and innovative ways that used Trees are now being recycled. Did you know that Christmas Trees have been used to provide shelter for spawning salmon in Oregon, to create nesting structures for herons in Illinois, and to rebuild sand dunes in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy?

Whatever you do, don’t burn your Tree in the fireplace. Unseasoned wood is likely to pop and spark when burned, and it can cause a chimney fire if the flue has creosote buildup in it.

Have a safe and happy holiday season.

If you keep your fresh-cut Christmas Tree properly hydrated and away from heat sources, you can expect to have a vibrant, healthy-looking Tree for about 4 weeks. If your Tree looks off-color, dried out, or is losing a lot of needles before then, it’s time to remove it from the house, because dry Trees are a fire hazard.

A real Tree may need a little more maintenance than an artificial one, but for many, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without one. If you count yourself among those who wouldn’t want it any other way, be safe and follow these tips. Happy holidays from Bower & Branch!