Whether you prefer an artificial Christmas tree or a natural one, it's important to put up the tree in a way that's fully stable. This all starts long before you hang any Christmas decorations, garlands or tinsel on the tree branches, with a sensible approach to the putting-up process emphasizing safety and stability.
Of course, it's not uncommon to end up with a leaning Christmas tree, even if you do everything "right." This problem isn't exclusive to natural trees, as leaning artificial Christmas trees can cause frustration, too. It might be just an aesthetic issue, if you aim for perfection in your holiday home decor. But, it could also mean the tree is unstable with a risk of it falling over.
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Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the issue of a crooked or wobbly tree from the start, as well as to fix one that's already in place.
Ensuring stability from the start
Choosing the best-looking, most-stable and long-lasting natural Christmas tree for your space starts with a few basic considerations. Whether you're seeking a fir, spruce or pine tree, look for the following:
- A straight, strong tree trunk
- Few needles shedding when you run your hand along a branch
- Flexible needles
- A symmetrical look from all sides
When you purchase a real Christmas tree, the salesperson should cut off 2 to 3 inches from the base of the tree trunk. If your tree goes more than a few hours without water after being cut, you'll need to re-cut it yourself. This step ensures the tree is able to take in enough water to stay fresh throughout the holiday season. A dried-out, thirsty tree is a safety hazard.
If you're buying a new artificial tree, scan reviews for mentions of sturdiness, stability and quality. These are just as important as other desirable features like fullness, a nearly natural appearance and being pre-lit.
Choosing the Christmas tree stand
The most important tool in making sure your Christmas tree is secure is the tree stand. If you're using an older Christmas tree stand, examine it for problems like wear and tear, loose screws, worn-out joints or wobbly legs. Any of these issues mean it's time to buy a new stand, unless you have sufficient DIY skills to repair it. This applies to the built-in stand or base for artificial trees, too.
The best tree stands for straightness and stability are heavy metal stands with three or four bolts that press into the tree trunk. Make sure your stand is suitable for the size of the tree you have—a taller, fuller tree requires a stronger, sturdier tree stand. Look for a deep stand with higher-up gripping mechanisms for greater stability.
Rebar-type stands that screw or hammer directly into the bottom of the trunk are difficult to get straight, and difficult to straighten after insertion. If you have one of those types of stands, consider bringing it to the tree farm and asking the experts to attach it to your chosen tree.
Creative alternatives to Christmas tree stands can also offer plenty of stability, if you choose them wisely. A few options include decorative planters, metal tubs or buckets packed with rocks and gravel around the tree trunk. Make sure the vessel can hold water as well, if you have a real tree. Less attractive versions of these tree stand alternatives are easily disguised with a tree skirt or festive fabric.
Putting up a Christmas tree
Ideally, recruit one or more adults to help you put up a real Christmas tree. (Artificial trees are easier and lighter, as they often come in several pieces, but it's still nice to have help.) With a real tree, have one person, wearing protective gardening or work gloves, hold the tree by the trunk, while a second person tightens the bolts on the tree stand. The third person's job is to stand a few feet away and tell you when the tree is straight. Tighten each of the screws a little at a time, rather than fully tightening each in turn. If the tree is leaning, tighten the bolt on the opposite side, and continue making minor adjustments until the tree is as straight as possible.
It's sometimes best to put the tree in the stand in a different spot than where the tree will ultimately be on display. The final spot should be at least 3 feet from any heat source, and on a solid, flat surface.
In older houses, the cause of a leaning Christmas tree can be flooring that isn't perfectly level. You might be able to compensate for this by adjusting the tree stand, or placing a piece of wood under the stand. Make minor adjustments with pieces of cardboard or thin wood shims under the tree stand. Also, try rotating the tree to get the straightest, nicest-looking side facing out into the living room.
Anchoring for extra stability
If you are concerned about the stability of your Christmas tree, even after making sure it has a secure stand, consider anchoring it to a nearby wall. Insert one or more hooks into the wall close to the tree, preferably into a stud. Loop some strong fishing line around the trunk of the tree and tie it securely onto the hook. This is a sensible option if you have small children or pets in the household that might accidentally knock over a tree.
The downside of this approach is creating holes in your wall. You might also dislike the look of the anchor, although it should be less visible after you decorate the tree with Christmas ornaments and LED lights. Hooks on the wall could serve a second purpose for hanging wreaths.
A Merry Christmas starts with a stable tree
Every household celebrating the holiday with a beautiful, decorated Xmas tree needs to be aware of the safety concerns that come with the tradition. It does take a little time, effort, and yes, a small financial investment, to make sure you have a sturdy tree stand. But it's well worth it to have the peace of mind that your tree is as stable as can be, and your holiday decor is safe as well as beautiful.