Design Holidays & Celebrations

How To: Water a Christmas Tree

Help your real Christmas tree last longer with these simple steps.
Kathleen Corlett Avatar
How to Water a Christmas Tree


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For many, nothing quite says “Christmas” like a real tree. With it comes the tradition of picking one out with loved ones, perhaps even chopping it down, and then hauling it home to display and decorate. For this natural decoration and its wintry scent to stay fresh, these seasonal traditions must also include continued care.

If you choose a potted Christmas tree, it can spend up to 10 days indoors before it misses the natural sunlight and cool temperatures available outdoors. (You might choose to rotate it out to your patio or porch for a few days at a time to keep it happy.) While inside the home, check the soil daily and water only when it dries out to prevent root rot.

A large, freshly cut Christmas tree will be a bit needier. Yes, even a tree that no longer has its roots requires a frequently replenished water supply to stay fresh. Ahead, see the method for how to water a Christmas tree that will help it last for four or more weeks.

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STEP 1: Choose a base that holds the right amount of water.

Pair your tree with a Christmas tree stand that’s appropriately sized not only to anchor the evergreen but also keep its thirst quenched. To calculate its water needs, measure your tree trunk’s diameter. Your tree needs approximately 1 quart of water for every inch across. If your tree trunk is 6 inches in diameter, choose a water reservoir with a capacity to hold 6 quarts or 1.5 gallons of water.

STEP 2: Fill up the stand’s reservoir with the help of a funnel.

Secure your tree in its stand, and fill the reservoir with clean water quickly―ideally within 6 to 8 hours after being cut. Often, the stand will include a maximum fill line to use as guidance. If not, take a look at the stand’s specifications for how many quarts or gallons of water it holds, and use a watering can or pitcher to fill the stand with that exact amount.

Reaching through the thick evergreen branches (particularly without knocking loose some needles) to pour a pitcher of water into the reservoir can pose a bit of a challenge. To minimize the strain, consider using a longer funnel or one with an extended hose to reach between the bottom branches and into the base.

STEP 3: Position your tree away from heating sources.

Help your tree stay hydrated longer by locating it away from fireplaces, radiators, HVAC vents, and space heaters, all of which could quickly dry out the branches.

Of course, if this placement is unavoidable, the National Christmas Tree Association suggests turning down the temperature in the room where your tree stands can slow the drying of branches. Plan to water more frequently as well to compensate.

STEP 4: Refill the tree stand with water before it dips below the tree’s base.

So, how often should you water a Christmas tree? Your freshly cut Christmas tree will take in the most water in the first seven to 10 days at home, so plan to water it every day for at least a week to keep its reservoir as full as possible. Remember, there should always be enough water that the trunk remains submerged.

After that, waterings may drop back to once a week. Monitor the tree stand closely to ensure that the water line in the reservoir doesn’t dip below the cut end of the tree, and refill as needed.

STEP 5: Use a spray bottle or humidifier to prevent the tree from drying out.

In addition to keeping the reservoir filled with water consistently, you can mitigate dryness by adding moisture back into the air wherever your tree is located. This can be accomplished on an as-needed basis by misting with a water-filled spray bottle or by running a humidifier nearby.

While it may seem excessive to get your tree a dedicated humidifier for its short lifespan, you can also move it to keep temperate houseplants happy for the other 11 months of the year. See some of our recommendations for the best humidifiers for plants on the market here.

Following this routine for how to water a Christmas tree, your evergreen may bring the joy of the season for a month or longer! But you can improve your tree’s odds still; see more advice on extending its life here.