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Real Christmas tree care: a guide

If you want more needles on the branches than on the carpet, brush up on real Christmas tree care.

Updated

Looking after a real Christmas tree: close up with baubles

Key steps

When you’re looking after a real Christmas tree:

  1. Choose a healthy tree to begin with, ideally not too far from Christmas.
  2. Consider variety. Nordmann firs tend to hold their needles for a long time.
  3. Saw off the bottom inch of the trunk, then keep the trunk immersed in water at all times.
  4. Place the tree away from heat sources.

A real Christmas tree will make the house look and smell festive — but to keep it glossy and fragrant over the Christmas period, it’ll need a bit of TLC. Fortunately, Christmas tree care is easy when you know what to do. Here’s your guide to looking after a real Christmas tree.

  • Check the variety. If your priority is keeping the needles on the tree, choosing the right variety is as important as taking care of it correctly. Nordmann fir Christmas tree care and Norway spruce care are similar, but, even if you do everything right for both trees, the Nordmann fir is still more likely to keep its needles.
  • Pick a healthy tree. Looking after a Christmas tree is a lot easier if you choose one that’s in good condition to begin with. Before buying a tree, give it a gentle shake to see if it rains down a worrying quantity of needles, or bend a couple of needles to make sure they’re not brittle enough to snap.
  • Don’t buy too early. It can be tempting to get your tree as soon as December rolls in. If you have the patience, though, getting it a bit closer to Christmas will mean you don’t have to worry for so long about keeping it green in a warm environment. If you’re determined to get your tree early, go for a Nordmann fir, care for it diligently, and it should be able to last you until Christmas.
  • Trim the trunk to help watering. Saw off the bottom inch of the trunk before standing the tree up in water.
  • Keep the water topped up. For as long as the tree is in the house, try not to let the water level fall below the level of the trunk.
  • Keep away from direct heat. Don’t position your tree too closely to heat sources such as radiators or active fireplaces.
Keeping the water level above the cut base of the tree is really important for Christmas tree care. If the base is exposed to the air for a few hours, it’ll harden and struggle to absorb water later on. If you forget about watering your Christmas tree for a while and the base hardens, saw the base a little shorter before putting it back in water.

Potted Christmas tree care

Most real Christmas trees have been cut, but you may have a Christmas tree that’s growing in a pot. If your tree still has its roots attached, here’s what you need to know about potted Christmas tree care.

  • Ask if it’s been grown in the pot. Before buying your potted Christmas tree, this is a good question to ask. A tree that’s been grown elsewhere and then transplanted into the plot may struggle.
  • Leave the tree outside until close to Christmas. The less time you have the tree indoors for, the less trouble you’re likely to have keeping it alive. Try not to have your potted Christmas tree inside for more than a week, or it might forget how to live outdoors.
  • Bring it inside gradually. Abruptly transitioning from indoors to outdoors and back again can be rough on a living Christmas tree. If possible, give it a few days in an in-between area that’s sheltered but not too warm and dry, such as a garage. Don’t forget to keep it watered.
  • Again, keep away from heat. This earlier point also goes for live Christmas trees —position it away from the radiator.
  • Check the watering guidelines. Keep the soil moist, but avoid watering your Christmas tree excessively.
  • Use a pot with drainage. Choose a pot with holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain. Remember to put something underneath it to catch the water, or it’ll go straight onto your carpet.
  • Keep it for next year! If you take care of your tree for another year, it can be a repeat feature next Christmas. Keep it in the garden, out of direct sunlight. Make sure you choose a tree that you’re happy with as an addition to your garden as well as your home.

Now you’re clued-up on real Christmas tree care, but it’s also important to know how to take care of yourself. If you spend every Christmas dealing with sneezing, rashes or itchy eyes, check out our guide to alleviating Christmas tree allergy symptoms.

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Originally published