Solved! How Long Does a Christmas Tree Last?
Don't let those boughs break or needles shake off your tree! Here’s how long you can expect a freshly cut Christmas tree to last, and how to keep it looking its best through the New Year.
Q: Our family wants to replace our artificial Christmas tree with a real one this year, and the kids want to go tree shopping already. I worry that the tree will dry out before Christmas if we buy it too early. How long does a Christmas tree last?
A: A real evergreen will no doubt make a festive and fragrant addition to your home, but most trees last weeks, not months. The moist stem and branches will dry and needles will transition from vibrant dark green to brown, then begin to fall. Fortunately, if you take a fastidious approach to tree selection, preparation, and care, you can keep it looking lovely longer—perhaps even into the new year.
A freshly cut Christmas tree can last about 4 weeks if you take care of it.
Yes, if you’re the person who likes to purchase a fresh tree the day after Thanksgiving, it can indeed make it to Christmas, provided that you take measures to care for the cut tree:
- Place the tree upright in a metal, plastic, or concrete reservoir-style tree stand ($15 to $25 at home centers).
- Fill the stand with one quart of cool tap water for each inch of stem (e.g., use 1 gallon of water for a tree with a four-inch stem) within two hours of getting it home.
- Learning how to water a Christmas tree properly is mostly just making sure the reservoir in the tree stand doesn’t run dry. Monitor the reservoir’s water level daily, and add more water as needed to keep the bottom 2 inches of trunk submerged. Christmas tree water requirements are usually the highest during the first week the tree is up, and decline in subsequent weeks.
Wondering how to keep a Christmas tree alive and looking its best all season? Heed these tips and tricks:
When shopping for cut Christmas trees, ask the salesperson when the trees were cut down.
Christmas trees are cut from mid-November to mid-December, so don’t assume that all trees you find for sale were freshly cut. If you’re buying a pre-cut tree, ask when the trees on the lot were felled. Choose one that came down recently (within the week, if possible) so that it preserves its looks through the season.
Opt for fir or cypress species over spruce or pine.
How long a real Christmas tree lasts varies depending on the specific tree’s evergreen conifer species. Most Christmas trees available at tree farms or local home and garden centers are fir, cypress, pine, or spruce. Fir and cypress tend to keep most of their needles for 4 or 5 weeks, respectively, whereas pine and spruce are more likely to lose a high volume of needles within 2 or 3 weeks, respectively.
Always inspect the tree’s needles before taking it home.
Before buying the tree you have your eye on, take it by the trunk and give it a shake to observe the volume and color of the needles that fall off. Only a few brown needles should come off if the tree is fresh; numerous fallen green needles are a telltale sign that the tree has already gone dry.
Ask to have the Christmas tree baled before putting it in your car.
Many unsuspecting folks transport unbundled Christmas trees inside a truck cargo bed only to arrive home and find numerous branches bent and needles fallen on the way. If you’ll be hauling your tree home yourself rather than have it delivered, ask to have it put through a baling machine that will wrap it in protective netting or twine while also condensing its size without damaging the trunk or branches. If driving home in a car as opposed to a truck, securely tie the baled tree to the roof racks with rope. Remove the netting once you have placed the tree inside your tree stand.
Unseal the tree’s trunk before submerging it in water.
If your tree was cut more than 6 to 8 hours ago (ask the attendant at the point of purchase exactly when it was cut), a layer of resin will have formed over the cells of the wood at the base of the trunk, sealing it and preventing water uptake. To re-open the cells so that the tree can absorb water, use a saw to cut a half inch of wood off of the base of the tree trunk before you place it in your tree stand.
Lacing Christmas tree water with additives won’t help keep it alive.
Over the years, homeowners have laced the water in their tree stands with everything from floral preservatives to powdered bleach and crushed aspirin to keep their trees fresh. But there is no evidence that such additives prolong tree life; in fact, they can actually inhibit water retention and cause the tree to dry out faster. There’s no need to make sugar water for a Christmas tree, either—plain tap water is all that’s needed to quench your tree’s thirst.
Keep the tree cool and out of direct sunlight.
To preserve moist needles and the tree’s vivid green hue, situate the tannenbaum indoors, ideally in a room that’s no more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The tree should be out of direct sunlight, and kept far from away from a fireplace, radiator, or space heater. The heat from these sources can prematurely dry and brown your tree.
Measure water levels in the stand with a moisture monitor.
Forgetting to regularly monitor and refill water in the tree stand or misjudging the current water level and not adding enough can result in premature drying. Moisture level monitors like the Evergreen Elf, which mount to the tree stand, can automatically detect the water level in the stand. It will light up or send audio signals when the water level is low and let you know it’s time to re-water.
Decorate the tree with miniature LED tree lights.
LED Christmas lights, particularly those in a miniature size (5 mm in length), use less energy and generate less heat than larger, incandescent bulbs. Adorning your tree with these energy-efficient lights may reduce drying and keep it fresh and green longer.