How To Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh Through the Entire Holiday Season

Christmas trees make stunning centerpieces for the holiday season.

But while almost 80 percent of Americans choose fake Christmas trees over real ones, traditionalists argue there are both environmental and aesthetic benefits to keeping things natural over the festive period. However, keeping a real tree fresh during the holiday season can pose a problem for novices.

Dr. Bert Cregg, a professor at Michigan State University's Department of Horticulture, believes there are really just three things to remember to prolong its life: "Fresh tree, fresh cut and fresh water."

Newsweek has some easy-to-follow expert tips to help prolong the life of your Christmas tree this year.

Choose A Fresh Tree

Christmas Tree
Christmas trees can be kept in top condition following these simple steps over the holiday season Pridannikov/Getty Images

A spokesperson from the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) suggests that when visiting a retailer, shoppers should look closely at the trees and feel free to handle them.

They told Newsweek: "Feel the foliage for softness and pliability; avoid trees with dry needles that drop when handled."

Cregg agrees that starting with a fresh tree is essential to good needle retention and tree keep-ability.

He told Newsweek: "If people do things right, they should be able to keep their tree fresh (and keep any needle shedding to a minimum) for six to seven weeks. We get our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving each year and keep it up until New Year's and lose very few needles.

"If you are not able to get your tree up right away, be sure to keep the tree in a cool, protected spot such as a garage, with the cut end in a bucket of water. If you buy a tree from a tree lot or a garden center, you can check the tree for freshness by doing the pull test. Gently pull on a shoot with your thumb and fingers; if the tree is fresh, you should not have any needles come off in your hand."

Choose An Appropriate Tree

Choose An Appropriate Tree
Choosing the right species of Christmas tree can prove important arlutz73/Getty Images

Cregg also believes choosing the right species can prove important.

He told Newsweek: "For people in the western U.S., noble fir is a common species that has excellent needle retention. For folks in the eastern U.S., Fraser fir typically has the best needle retention among the species they are likely to encounter.

"If people are buying from a tree lot they should look at how trees are displayed and cared for at the lot. If you live in a warm area (e.g. California, Texas, Florida) the trees should be kept shaded and not left out in the sun. Ideally, they should be stored at the lot with the cut ends kept in water."

Make A Fresh Cut

Christmas Tree
Cutting up to one inch from the Christmas tree's base before putting it in the tree stand to help it resume water uptake and prolong its life dolgachov/Getty Images

Cregg suggests cutting up to one inch from the tree's base before putting it in the tree stand to help it resume water uptake.

He said: "After trees are cut at the farm, the cut end will begin to dry out and resin can clog the water-conducting tissues in the trunk. These factors will limit water uptake, so re-cutting the end aids in allowing the tree to take up water and keeping the tree hydrated."

The NCTA added: "If you do not have the tools at home to make a fresh cut on the bottom of the tree, have the staff at the tree lot make a fresh cut to remove about a half-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the tree trunk."

Add Fresh Water To The Tree

Fresh Christmas trees
Fresh Christmas trees can be surprisingly thirsty Zigic/Getty Images

Fresh trees can be surprisingly thirsty, drinking up to one quart of water daily for each inch of diameter on the cut end.

Cregg said: "A typical seven-foot-tall tree may have a three-inch trunk diameter, so will need up to three quarts of water per day. If your tree is taking up a lot of water, this is actually a good sign and indicates the tree is fresh and hydrated.

"Be sure to replace the water that is used each day and don't allow the stand to dry out. Do not add sugar, aspirin, bleach or floral preservatives to the water; plain tap water is all that is needed to keep your tree fresh.

"The biggest thing is fresh water—[I] can't emphasize that enough. You can double your number of tips and put 'Water' as every other one. Do not allow the stand to dry out—this means checking it every day.

"I always say Christmas trees don't realize they're dead yet. They will continue on taking up water and photosynthesizing while they're in your living room. Every so often I get a photo or phone call from someone with a tree that broke bud and started to grow while they had it up."

The NCTA cautioned: "Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not improve water uptake," adding "the temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake. Additives of any kind do not improve performance over plain water. Devices are available that help maintain a constant water level in the stand and others that make adding water quite easy."

Dispose Of The Tree Properly

 Christmas trees
Plese dispose of your Christmas trees responsibly ShaunWilkinson/Getty Images

The National Christmas Tree Association also urged households to dispose of their Christmas centerpieces responsibly, by visiting its Tree Recycling page to find a nearby recycling program.

A spokesperson said: "Never burn any part of a Christmas tree in a wood stove or fireplace."