How to Keep Your Tree from Dying Before Christmas

Don't worry about your tree starting to fade on Christmas Eve.

Family Handyman

Christmas Tree Basics

Check the height of the tree before you bring it into the house to make sure it’ll fit under the ceiling. Then if you have to shorten the trunk, the sawdust will stay outside. Cut an inch or so off the bottom of the trunk. The fresh wood can absorb more water, so the tree will stay fresher longer. Check the trunk diameter by test-fitting the stand. If the tree’s too big, you’ll need to either get a bigger stand – or start whittling with these tips. Use a lopper to trim any bottom branches that don’t clear the sides of the stand.


Should you plant a live tree?

Planting a ‘live’ Christmas tree is an ambitious task. Its practicality depends on three things: (1) the climate you live in; (2) the size of your Christmas tree budget; and (3) how strong you are.

Live trees are sensitive. For a tree to have any chance of survival, it can’t undergo extreme climatic changes. When a tree is brought into a warm home, it will react as if it’s spring and start growing. Once it has entered this growing stage, it will likely die if it suffers through a prolonged freeze when it’s set out after Christmas.

If you live in a moderate climate, a live tree is feasible. When the Christmas season is over, gradually get your tree accustomed to the outdoors by storing it in the garage or three-season porch before planting it. The time for heavy frost must be past before you take it outside. When you finally plant your tree, place it in well-drained soil where it will get full sun.

If you live in a cold climate, a live tree really isn’t practical. You’d need to leave it outside on a screen porch or deck the entire time so it would stay more or less dormant. And you probably don’t want your ornaments outside.

Live trees are expensive. Expect to pay two to three times more than you would for a cut tree. Usually these trees are potted. If your tree is balled and burlapped, you’ll have to buy a heavy-duty pot to act as both stand and container.

Finally, live trees are heavy. If you want a typical-sized Christmas tree, say a six-footer, together the pot, soil and tree will weigh 250 lbs. or more. Add a little water and moving it will be about as much fun as hefting a piano.

When you do decide to plant the tree, follow our expert tree-planting advice here.

Put it in the cold

Your pine tree is used to being in the cold, so it’s certainly not thankful that you have it in a warm and cozy home. Sure it does look beautiful in your living room, but that tree misses being in colder weather. Give your tree some time in the cold by placing it in the garage (but make sure to remove any breakable ornaments first!). Let it sit there for at least a day or two before bringing it back indoors.

Limit the weight

After bringing the tree back into the garage, try putting less ornaments or heavy lights into the tree. Yes a tree stuffed with ornaments looks beautiful, but if you want those branches to look lush by Christmas day, don’t put as much weight on them. Especially when it comes to the style of lights you choose. If you have larger light bulbs, the heat can actually burn the surfaces of the tree, while the tiny light strands are producing less heat.

Water, water, and more water

Make sure the tree is in water, and keep it that way! The National Christmas Tree Association says your tree should stand in 1 quart of water per inch of the stem diameter. You could also purchase a particular device (or install a funnel yourself) to make sure that enough water is being given to the tree. Without water, your tree can get brittle and become a massive fire hazard.

Feed it

That’s right – along with giving your tree enough water, you can also feed it with particular substances to keep it alive. Although some people do not feel a Christmas tree needs any type of feed, others have found success in preserving their tree by feeding it. To do so, mix a tablespoon of corn syrup or sugar in the basin of water.

Looking for more handy tricks for your tree? We have a few hacks for Christmas trees that make taking care of your tree even easier.

Next, check out our five favorite hacks to get you through the holidays: