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How to Make Your Christmas Tree Last Longer

Sujata Iyer
Most of us focus our energies on planning the decoration of our beloved Christmas tree and forget that the tree needs to be fresh and healthy to be able to sustain the said decoration. Here's a guide to making your Christmas tree last longer.

Handling Tip

The outer layer of the bark absorbs the most water. Hence, avoid chipping this away to accommodate it into the container you plan to place the tree in.
Christmas tree is going to be a part of your family for a good 4 to 5 weeks during the happiest time of the year. It's like that guest everyone waits for. Make sure it's happy. You want to take care of it and ensure that it gets everything it needs and want it to have a comfortable and healthy stay in your home.
And when it's time to bid a teary adieu, you will know that you've done the best you could for it and that there will be only wonderful memories to cherish. Is this your idea of a perfect Christmas tree? Yes?
Well then, are you actually taking the appropriate measures to ensure that the journey and stay of your treasured Christmas tree is indeed fresh, healthy, and fulfilling? Here are some tips to keep your Christmas tree fresh for longer.

Choice Matters

Buyer's Tip
Touch the needles of the tree before you buy it. If they are flexible and bend easily, the tree is fresh. If they are brittle and break off, it won't last long.
As with almost everything in life, it is the choice of the tree that will play a major role in determining its life. Your best option would be to buy as local a tree as possible for the following reasons:
  • Better variety will be available
  • Fresher trees are more likely
  • Lesser transit time
A local Christmas tree farm will be perfect to pick out a tree and either get it cut or cut it yourself. Even among the local varieties, try to opt for organically grown trees. There are lesser chances of pesticides in these, which makes them healthier.
If you're going for a pre-cut tree, make sure you ask the vendor how much in advance it was cut. The lesser the time interval, the fresher the tree is likely to be.

Handling: Before and After

Don't Fly Solo
Never, never, never, mount a Christmas tree into the container alone. Take help of at least one person to prevent it from toppling over.
Now that you've picked out the tree, it is your responsibility to ensure that it is well-preserved. To increase its sustainability, during transit, no matter how close your home may be, wrap the tree in plastic and then fasten it to the top of the vehicle.
Once you get it home, before you place it in the container of water, check if the bottom of the base has dried up. Generally, a tree that has been cut just 4 to 5 hours prior to installation can be immersed in water directly.
However, it is always better to cut an inch or 2 off the base, especially if it has begun to dry out. This will expose the capillaries at the base and help the tree to absorb water better.

Hydration is Key

Expert Talk
"... research proved a direct correlation between needle retention and moisture content. Needle moisture in unwatered trees diminishes significantly over time, while watered trees maintain needle moisture."

― Les Werner, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Associate Professor of Forestry on preservation of Christmas trees
Water is the elixir of any plant. It is the best friend your Christmas tree is going to have in its long stay at your home. So, make sure it never ever misses its BFF.
As soon as you get home with the tree, the first thing you absolutely have to do is check the base. If the sap has leaked and dried it up, as mentioned, you're going to have to cut it about an inch or two. Then, immerse the base into a container filled with water. The level of the water should be at least 2 inches above the base of the tree.
This will ensure that the base is always submerged in water and will keep the tree well-hydrated. A freshly cut tree will easily consume at least 1 gallon of water for the first two days. Once it has soaked up enough to sustain itself, it will require lesser water. To ensure that the container is never empty, appoint someone to check on it regularly.

Food and Drink

How Do These Help?
It is believed that adding sweeteners to the water can help nourish the tree, while adding disinfectant or alcohol can help kill germs and harmful microorganisms in the water, thus, helping the tree to remain healthy.
Now we don't know how far these remedies work because they generally get mixed results, but there are a lot of people who suggest combining natural and/or synthetic additives with the water to increase the sustainability and the freshness of Christmas trees.
Some people claim to have had trees last longer by adding the following in the water.
  • Corn syrup
  • Aspirin
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Lemon juice
  • Disinfectant
Others claim nothing of the sort happens when these are added to the water. So, it really is your call on whether you want to give your tree a little extra something to help it live a hearty life in your home.

Light and Heat Control

Moisture is a Must
Use a humidifier in the room to render much-needed humidity to the tree so that its needles remain fresh.
A Christmas tree, whether it's a fir or a pine (or any other), is meant to thrive in the cold. So, when it is rudely extricated from its natural habitat and suddenly plopped into a warm and cozy environment, it is bound to react adversely.
This includes rapid and irreversible drying of the needles, which will lead to premature wilting and a mound of needles to be swept off. So, it is imperative that some semblance of its natural environment be maintained even within your home.
We're not saying turn the heater off and freeze your socks off, we're just saying ensure that the tree is placed in a spot that isaway from a heat source of any kind: natural or artificial. This means that the perfect spot near the window (if it draws too much sunlight) is out and so is the nifty corner near the heater.
When decorating with lights, make sure they're in good working condition. Use LED lights as they are cooler and reduce the risk of fires. They also help the process of photosynthesis as the tree will absorb white light better than that emitted from the regular yellow filaments.
Just following steps to take care of the tree is not enough. You need to ensure that the tree is well-protected from external elements throughout its stay in your home. Ensure that you keep curious pets and infants away from the tree to prevent it from toppling over. Sweep up the fallen needles as often as you can as they can pose a hazard to kids and pets.
Last of all, when disposing the tree, do it in a nature-friendly manner. Use it to create mulch for your garden or donate it to a farm that will do it. Alternatively, you can give it to the local municipality if it undertakes a tree collection program.