Christmas Tree Care Tips

Caring for Your Christmas Tree


The Christmas tree is one of the most important parts of the holiday home, so be sure to take good care of it!



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Here are some tips to keep your Christmas tree healthy through the holidays—and to reuse the tree after the holidays!

Buying a Christmas Tree

  • If possible, buy a freshly-cut tree from a reputable nursery or cut your own. Many of the trees for sale were cut weeks before.
  • If you’re buying a tree that can be replanted later, keep in mind that a very small percentage of these trees survive after being indoors in the winter. Freshly-cut Christmas trees are farmed specifically for their purpose and support local agriculture.
  • The top-selling Christmas trees, as reported by growers across the United States, are the Scotch pine, Douglas fir, white pine, and balsam fir, in that order.
  • If there are lots of needles on the ground around the trees, go elsewhere.
  • To check a tree’s freshness, pull your hand towards you along the branch. Needles should not fall off.
  • If you want to keep your Christmas tree potted and in the house after Christmas, a Norfolk Island pine would be the best choice.  Check with a local florist or nursery for your area.

Caring for the Christmas Tree

  • When you bring your tree home, saw a couple inches off the bottom of the trunk before setting in water. When trees are cut, pitch oozes out and seals the pores. By sawing off the base, you will open up the pores, and the tree will be able to absorb water.
  • Watering is critical. A freshly-cut tree can consume a gallon of water in 24 hours!
  • Fill the tree stand with water and keep it filled.
  • Never let the water level go below the tree’s base.
  • Indoors, keep the tree away from heating ducts or other heat sources. In fact, the lower the temperature, the better the tree will do.
  • One old Vermonter we knew always packed his tree stand with well-watered soil and planted the tree in the mixture. The soil should be kept wet.
  • Some people add aspirin or sugar to the water; we can’t say whether either helps. Again, water is the vital element.

Reusing the Christmas Tree After the Holidays

  • Prop up your old tree near your bird feeder as a staging area for small birds like chickadees and finches.
  • Trim the branches from the tree, and saw the trunk into several pieces. Tie the pieces together and store the bundle in the cellar. This will make an aromatic Yule fire in your fireplace next Christmas Eve.
  • Create a bird feeder and haven. String your tree with orange slices, cranberry, and other bird-friendly goodies, and put it in a sheltered location.
  • Use the branches and pine needles as mulch in the garden.
  • The tree can also be used as the base of a brush pile.
  • Use boughs from your tree to shade broad-leaved evergreen shrubs, insulate perennials, or protect against frost and snow.
  • A fir tree’s foliage can be used for stuffing small, fragrance pillows.
  • Sew scraps of fabric together and fill them with the needles to make fragrant balsam sachets to freshen drawers and closets.
  • Use dried-out sprigs to ignite kindling in your woodstove or fireplace.
  • Give the tree to a friend or neighbor who has a woodchipper.
  • One of our readers said that they sink old trees in their pond where they make cozy areas for fish and tadpoles to live, sleep, and lay eggs.
  • Another reader says, “In Louisiana, we use old trees to bait fishing holes with. Just anchor them in a good location and the fish will use it for cover, especially Bream and White Perch. Go back in the spring and usually the fish will be in it or near it.”


Reader Comments

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Water fresh cut Christmas tree

Water in stand first couple of days after being cut then ran out for a day before noticed.
Does bottom have to be cut again or will it soak up anymore water?

Tree Water

Hi, Jean: It should still take water OK, but as the saying goes, there’s only one way to find out! Put some water in and see if the level goes down. If not, cut again. Whatever you do, have a Merry Christmas!

"couple inches off the bottom" Really - so much?

"couple inches off the bottom" Really - so much? The trees available around here were cutoff so far above the ground to begin with, that removing an inch or two of trunk requires the removal of the lowest branch just to get the trunk into any available holder. So much then for the nice symmetrical tree.

Wouldn't a half inch, as suggested elsewhere, be just as effective? Another thought, since the outer layers absorb the most water, why not just shave say a 1/4" off the entire bottom and cut just the outer layers an additional 1/4 inch?

cutting trunk

A ¼-inch off the entire bottom is perfectly fine.  We were just being casual about it, but you do not need a full two inches, especially given reasons such as yours.

Thank you or the handy

Thank you or the handy reference. Have not had a real tree in the house since 2000 or so ! Forgot how heavenly they smell. Trunk had been trimmed fresh just before I bought it, will do the boiling water thing to reopen the sap clogged spots. Will add sugar to the water as Momma used to ( I remembered after reading it here LOL ). I have never had a tree with quite this sweet smell. It has shorter semi soft needles but not as short and firm as a fir. Best i can describe the smell is "light fruity pine" . All the tags were goofed up where i bought it, could this be a Scotch Pine?

Help can we boil evergreen

Help can we boil evergreen branches without runing the pot and were doing it for smell please need help thanks

Hi Kylee, It's best to use a

Hi Kylee,
It's best to use a pot that you are not going to use for food later. The sap from the evergreens may stain the inside of the pot. 

I wondered if you would be

I wondered if you would be able to help me with a tree a purchased two years ago! The tree was planted when it was around 2 foot tall. It has been growing perfectly for the last two years, but recently it began to go brown. It seems to have recovered being around 7 foot tall however it is still brown in some parts. I found a lot of bugs on it and sprayed it I think this was the cause of the tree becoming sick. Can the tree fully recover and what care advice would you give, it seems to be the lower part of the tree that is struggling to recover. Many Thanks Mark

Deer eat evergreen trees in

Deer eat evergreen trees in the winter months when food is high as they can reach.

My friend gave me our tree

My friend gave me our tree aNd it came prepared with the base that held it up and the water stand. Am I supposed to take off the wood keeping it up and the water stand to cut it freshly or do I just begin to water it.

Did your friend already saw

Did your friend already saw off the bottom? This needs to be done to allow the tree to take in water or it won't keep as long.

Yes she did saw it off but a

Yes she did saw it off but a long time ago. She has had the tree at her house for over a week and barely brought it over when I came back from college. I tried sawing it off but it's really hard due to the way the tree is set up in order for it to stand. Is it okay if I just try to saw a bit of the sides?

Dont take off outer layers as

Dont take off outer layers as they absorb the most water...saw about an inch or 2 off the bottom and keep your stand full off water

Does it help extend the

Does it help extend the Christmas tree life if I keep the netting on (the way it is transported)? It is currently in a totally shaded area, in water but not sure if I should remove the netting. Thank you for any input.

The netting doesn't extend

The netting doesn't extend the life of the tree. Remove the netting so that the tree can relax before you decorate it.

I hope this question was a

I hope this question was a joke

After we take the tree down,

After we take the tree down, my husband sets it outside near one of the bird feeders.

Then in the spring he removes the branches and bark, and makes a walking stick out of the trunk as a gift to a loved one whose initials he has carved into the wood.

Sure, pine isn't the sturdiest material for a walking stick, but the one he gave me ten years ago is doing just fine.

Naturally, knowing how the trunk will be used affects the scoping-out process in December when we cut the tree down as the trunk should be as straight as possible!

Thanks so much for tips on a

Thanks so much for tips on a fresh Christmas tree...this is my second year in a long time using a fresh tree and I Love it...forgot how wonderful they are! kathy

Tree Care: After cutting the

Tree Care: After cutting the inch or two off the trunk and place tree in stand, pour boiling water into the container for the first fill and then water regularly.

Ohhhh yeah put some sulfuric

Ohhhh yeah put some sulfuric acid in there too....tree will love

Actually.... pouring boiling

Actually.... pouring boiling water into the stand on the first watering opens up the base and helps to move the sap out of the way.... You extend the life of the tree doing this! Sulfuric acid will kill it LOL... Ya I know, you were joking... But your DDD was sticking out while joking. =P~

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