How to Keep a Christmas Tree Fresh


Bringing a freshly cut tree into your home is as much a treat for your senses as it is a responsibility. Left unattended, a tree not only dries out and loses its natural, woodsy scent, but drops needles and becomes a fire hazard; the wrong Christmas lights are only one form of ignition. You can decrease danger and keep the tree fresh for three to four weeks with the right care before and after setting it up.

Things You'll Need

  • Handsaw
  • Bucket
  • Tree stand
  • LED Christmas-tree lights (optional)
  • Cut about 1/4 inch from the tree trunk if the tree was stored for more than 12 hours after harvest. Make the cut straight across, perpendicular to the trunk, using a handsaw. This improves water uptake and helps the tree stand upright in its stand.

  • Store the tree with its trunk in a bucket of water in a cool, shady or dimly lit area such as a carport or unheated garage if you don't plan to bring it inside for a day or more. Add water to the bucket as needed and check it daily.

  • Choose an ideal indoor place for the tree. The tree must be at least 3 feet from any flame or heat source such as a fireplace, candles, lamps or radiator to reduce fire hazard and dehydration. Position the tree out of direct sunlight to slow the drying-out process, extending its freshness. Rearrange furniture if necessary.

  • Erect the tree indoors in a suitable tree stand.

  • Check the stand's water reservoir daily and add water as needed. Make sure the room is not overly warm as this increases the tree's need for water. Keep the room only as warm as necessary or turn down the heat before leaving the home.

  • Use light-emitting-diode Christmas-tree lights if you plan to decorate the tree with lights.

  • Comb your fingers through the tree's needles daily to check for dryness. If needles drop off, the tree is no longer fresh. Remove it from the home.

Tips & Warnings

  • You should be able to easily fit the trunk into the tree stand's hole without having to remove any bark; removing bark reduces the tree's water intake. The water reservoir should hold a sufficient amount of water for the tree's size -- about 1 quart of water for every 1 inch of stem diameter, suggests the Pennsylvanian State University's College of Agricultural Sciences.
  • LED lights are cool and therefore safer holiday decor than heat-producing incandescent lights, states the U.S. Department of Energy
  • Bulbs that produce heat not only increase fire hazard but cause the tree to lose its freshness quicker than with bulbs that remain cool.
  • Use string lights that meet current safety standards if you plan to decorate the tree with lights. Old, worn or poor-quality lights and extension cords are fire hazards and can cause the tree to ignite. Unplug Christmas-tree lights before leaving the home or going to bed.

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  • Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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