After spending countless hours searching for the perfect tree, the last thing you want is for it to lose its needles before Christmas Day. We get it. And the good news? Keeping a Christmas tree fresh, vibrant, and — of course — alive is much easier than one might think. In fact, all it takes are a few easy steps. So if you're joining the estimated 30 million other households that are celebrating the holiday season with a real evergreen, check out the five tips below to ensure yours, too, will merrily make it through all the tidings of comfort and joy.
1. Choose Your Tree Wisely
Of course, when aiming to maintain your tree's freshness, you'll want to ensure you choose a fresh, healthy one from the start. Therefore, when it comes to selecting your tree, remember to test for long-lasting freshness, especially if you are buying from a store or roadside lot, as these trees have likely been exposed to drying winds during transit.
During your inspection, gently pull on the needles of the outer branches. If they fall off easily, that will be your cue to move on. The same goes if you notice the tree loses a lot of needles — even green ones — when it's tapped on the ground. When inspecting the needles, bend them. Make sure they feel flexible, not brittle and dry. And remember: the fewer brown needles, the better. Any trees that have already begun fading in color are to be avoided, as these are the ones that will most likely dry up to a crisp before Santa arrives.
Lastly, don't forget to examine the trunk. This part of the tree should be as straight as possible so it can easily fit into the stand. Unfortunately, if you have to tear away some of the bark to make it fit, the tree will ultimately dry out sooner.
2. Handle With Care
After choosing your own healthy, green tree, it's important to start taking care of it right away. For starters, wrap the tree for the journey home. Because the blistering winds it will inevitably experience traveling on the top of your car can dry out the tree, avoid any damage by tightly covering all sides with either a plastic tarp or blanket. This will ensure your tree remains fresh with a capital "F."
Also, allow your tree to become properly acclimated before bringing it directly into your home. As eager as you might be to start the decorating process, exposing the tree from one extreme to another — such as the cold temperatures outside to the warmer ones indoors — will cause significant stress to the tree. To avoid dryness and the premature loss of needles, set the tree in an unheated area for about a day or two before bringing it inside, and remember to keep it in a bucket of water. Garages and basements are two great options for this transitional period. No matter which unheated area you use, make sure it is protected from wind or freezing temperatures.
3. Take Time to Trim
If you bought a precut tree, there's a good chance it has been patiently sitting on the lot for several days. Who knows? Maybe even a week or two. What this means is the vascular system that draws up water from the base has most likely become clogged. Therefore, it is crucial to take time to trim the trunk in order to reprime your tree. Cutting off a half-inch slice from the bottom will assist the tree in regaining its ability to absorb water more readily.
When you make the trim, a simple straight cut across is all it takes. As shocking as it might seem, drilling holes in the sides and/or cutting at an angle does not improve how well the tree will take in water. It will only make it harder for the tree stand to securely hold the tree.
Speaking of tree stands, make sure you choose one that properly fits your tree. If you choose one that's too small in size, your tree will not get as much water as it needs and will lose its healthy state faster. In addition, select a sturdy stand that holds at least one gallon of water.
4. Remember to Hydrate
Just as we humans need constant hydration, Christmas trees need an abundance of H2O, too. So remember to get your tree in water as soon as possible, because the longer the base keeps from drying out, the healthier and fresher your green giant will remain. Although the absorption rate of water varies from day to day, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that a typical tree drinks approximately a quart of liquid for each inch of its diameter. Therefore, always make a point to top off the tree stand with water each day. And if you want to be extra cautious, check the stand's reservoir twice a day to ensure it stays completely full.
While many people opt for using Christmas tree preservatives, studies have shown these additives are totally unnecessary. So if you want to make your tree last longer, forget about any magical mixtures. Plain water — and lots of it — will work just fine.
5. Location Is Key
Deciding on a spot to place your tree is one of the most important factors for keeping it healthy. Without a doubt, your tree will last longer if it is placed away from all sources of heat and sunlight. So when it comes to any fireplaces, radiators, vents, or air ducts, avoid them all. To maintain the most freshness, you may want to go as far as using a humidifier or lowering the temperature in the room to keep the air moist. And, if possible, use cool-to-touch LED lights, too. Because, as you might guess, the lower the heat, the longer the tree's needles will stay intact and the more vibrancy it will maintain.
Above all, remember the importance of safety. Avoid placing the tree in areas where it is likely to be knocked over, and ensure all lights and cords are in fitting working condition before you start decorating. Most importantly, don't forget to turn off the tree's lights at night when you sleep or when you leave your house for long periods.