Putting up Christmas trees is one of the U.K.’s most beloved festive traditions, and half of the fun is choosing your fresh tree from the plot and bringing it into your home. But, once you’ve got it perfectly decorated and even started hiding gifts underneath, have you noticed your beautiful tree starting to look a little brittle? And Christmas is still weeks away?! So, to save you from a dried-up tree this year, here are our tips on how to keep a real Christmas tree alive for longer.
How Long Do Real Christmas Trees Last?
Although the longevity of a freshly cut Christmas tree depends primarily on the type, real Christmas trees generally last around four to five weeks[i]. Due to their average life expectancy, it’s best to purchase a real Christmas tree around the 1st of December. However, if the urge to decorate earlier is too strong, start with non-living decorations and incorporate fresh greenery in early December.
How To Keep A Real Christmas Tree Alive For Longer
Now we know how long real Christmas trees last, we can explore some tips and tricks that will keep them alive for even longer! Keeping a real Christmas tree alive takes a bit of dedication, but gathering around a healthy, beautiful spruce on Christmas morning makes it all worth it. So try and set aside enough time to take care of all these tasks to make the most of your real Christmas tree for longer.
1) Choose A Good Tree
If you’re looking for a real Christmas tree, it’s best to go to a Christmas tree farm rather than a supermarket. Supermarket Christmas trees have already been cut, reducing their freshness, and have also been transported, exposing them to drying winds and other harsh conditions. A Christmas tree farm will provide a freshly cut tree that you can examine thoroughly, so you can be sure you’re getting quality.
Try finding a healthy green tree with the least number of brown needles. Brown needles mean that the tree is drying out, and it won’t last as long. Also, it’s important to check that the needles are flexible to the touch and don’t fall off at the contact. Your best bet for a healthy Christmas tree is one that has been grown and displayed in a shady location, as sun exposure can dry out a tree, and the moist conditions will keep the roots healthy.
2) Wrap Up Your Tree
Once you’ve chosen your Christmas tree, you have to keep it safe on the ride home. If you’re planning on carrying your tree home on the top of your car, make sure you cover it adequately. Netting, tarp or a blanket are perfect for this. It’s important to protect your Christmas tree properly as harsh winds will damage it and dry out the needles. Use strong rope to attach it to the top of your car and check it’s secure – you don’t want your brand new tree flying off before you even leave the farm!
Once you get home, take your tree out of its cover and shake it out. This will prevent mould and fungus from growing on the damp branches.
3) Recut The Trunk
When you’re buying your Christmas tree, make sure that the seller cuts the trunk straight across the base. This will aid your trees water absorption and make it last longer. Once you get it home, put it in water as soon as possible. However, if your Christmas tree has been cut for longer than 12 hours before you can put it in water, you’ll need to trim the trunk. Use a handsaw or chainsaw to cut about half an inch from the bottom of the trunk[ii] to ensure your tree will be able to absorb water properly. As soon as you’ve trimmed the trunk, it’s best to place the tree in a bucket of water until you are ready to set it up.
4) Think About Your Tree’s Location
Where you set up your tree can make a world of difference to its longevity. Heat sources, radiators, air ducts, stoves, fireplaces, and direct sunlight can all quickly dry out a tree. Similarly, cold drafts and fluctuating temperatures will also have a bad effect. Generally, Christmas trees should be kept in a place that guarantees steady 16 – 18 degree temperatures[iii]. Of course, you may need to rearrange some of the furniture in your chosen room to put your tree in the safest place, but, at Christmas, you want your tree to be the focal point of the room anyway!
If you have children or pets, consider their actions too. For example, try to place it somewhere out of their regular path so they don’t accidentally knock it over.
5) Set Up Your Tree
Once you are ready to set up your tree, begin by shaking it outdoors to remove any loose foliage and browning needles. Then, place it in a Christmas tree stand. First, of course, you must ensure that your Christmas tree stand fits your tree properly – you can alter the settings on some stands to allow trees to slot into place easily. But, if your tree doesn’t fit in your stand, you can use a handsaw or chainsaw to remove chunks from the side of the trunk. However, you should remove only as much as is necessary. Also, avoid adding sand or soil to the stand of a real Christmas tree, as this will reduce the amount of water it can absorb.
As soon as you have your Christmas tree in its stand, make sure it’s properly secured, straight and self-supporting. The less you tinker with your tree, the better, since you may inadvertently damage the needles or trunk when setting it up, so handle it with care and try to make the set-up process as short as possible.
6) Water Regularly
The trunk of a real Christmas tree has to stay moist to maintain its freshness for longer. So when you first set up your Christmas tree in its stand, fill it up with hot water. Hot water is absorbed more quickly than cold, meaning your tree will be rehydrated quickly[iv]. After that, however, you’ll have to top up the water sooner. From here on in, you can top up the Christmas tree stand with cold water – only use hot when you first put the tree in the stand.
Your Christmas tree stand has to stay full, so check it at least once a day and top it up as needed. A real Christmas tree will use up to a gallon of water each day in the first few days, so make sure that you’re regularly filling it up during this period. A real tree that isn’t getting enough water will produce sap, reducing the amount of water the trunk will absorb. This reduction will quicken the drying process and reduce the longevity of your tree, so ensure that you regularly water your tree over Christmas.
7) Take Your Tree Down At The Right Time
Although it’s tempting to keep your Christmas tree up and let the festive cheer linger for as long as possible, you need to take down a real Christmas tree at the right time. Eventually, your tree will start drying out, no matter how well maintained it is. And the longer a drying out tree stays up, the more pine needles will fall off, the more wrinkled the bark will become and the worse the odour it gives out will be. So when your tree starts to show serious signs of drying out, it’s time to take it down.
You can dispose of a real Christmas tree in several ways. For example, you could use it to start a new compost heap, take it to a recycling centre, turn it into mulch, or check your local council’s disposal options. Many councils have a Christmas tree pick up system throughout January, meaning you can easily dispose of your tree without harming the environment.
Choosing An Alternative Christmas Tree
Unfortunately, several factors may mean a real Christmas tree simply isn’t the right tree for you. For example, if you have rambunctious children or pets, can’t provide the right conditions to keep a real tree alive or think it sounds like too much hassle, there are plenty of alternative Christmas trees that you could try.
Realistic trees are the perfect substitute, providing the beauty and strength of a real tree without any of the maintenance or cleaning up. In addition, you can reuse a realistic artificial tree for many years and, when it’s reached the end of its days, you can recycle them. You can recycle artificial trees by crafting them into Christmas decorations, donating them to a local charity, or sending them to your local recycling centre.
Keep Your Real Christmas Tree Alive For Longer
Whether you choose a real Christmas tree or a realistic one, we can guarantee that you won’t be waking up on Christmas morning to a covering of pine needles across your presents anymore. Now you know how to keep a real Christmas tree alive for longer, your vibrant greenery can thrive all season long!
Do you have any tips on how to keep a real Christmas tree alive? Let us know in the comments!