How to Keep a Christmas Tree Alive and Healthy Through the Holidays
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Nothing fills us with holiday cheer quite like the fresh scent of pine and the sight of a twinkling Christmas tree in the living room—unless, of course, the floor is strewn with a mess of fallen pine needles and your family is gathered around a fire hazard on Christmas morning because said tree has seen better days. For this reason, it’s wise to know a thing or two about how to keep a Christmas tree alive and well for the holidays. Good news: We spoke to Emilly Barbosa Fernandes, small space gardener and consultant at HouseGrail, and got all the information you need to ensure your tree stays fresh until December 25 (or at least for one month from when you bought it).

How long should a Christmas tree last?

Before we dive into the details of how to keep a Christmas tree alive, it’s important to have realistic expectations. According to Fernandes, “a Christmas tree that is fresh and taken care of properly should last 4 to 5 weeks,” which means that even under the best of circumstances you likely won’t be able to keep the thing around much longer past Christmas. In fact, you shouldn’t, since a brittle, dried out tree is a legitimate fire hazard. (Not to mention, a big mess when you finally do take it out.) Ready to make your Fraser fir last longer this year? Simply follow these expert tips below.

1. Pick a healthy tree

Needless to say, you won’t have much luck keeping a Christmas tree alive if the one you picked was already at death’s door when you brought it home. As such, it’s important to know how to choose the freshest tree—and this is especially true if you are buying a tree that has already been cut down. Here’s what the expert says to look for in a healthy tree.

  • The tree should have a sticky trunk. (This means that there is still sap flowing through it.)
  • Pluck a needle and bend it. The needles of fir trees should break, while healthy pine needles will not.
  • Grab a branch and gently pull it towards you; if you come away with a handful of pine needles, it’s not a good sign. A healthy tree will lose a few needles, but not a ton.
  • Pick a tree with a deep green color.

2. Trim the trunk

Most places will give the trunk a fresh cut for you, but if they don’t, Fernandes says you’ll have to cut about an inch off the bottom yourself: “This helps open the tree system so it can absorb water.”

3. Avoid heat sources

“Don’t put your tree near heat because it will cause your tree to dry out quicker,” cautions Fernandes. You may want to be warm and snug this holiday season, but your Christmas tree doesn’t feel the same, so it’s best to avoid placing your tree near a radiator, fireplace or any other heat source. To further extend the lifespan of your tree, the expert also suggests using a humidifier and lowering the temperature of your home if possible.

4. Choose the right lights

There’s another potential heat source you might not have accounted for, and it’s those pretty, twinkling lights you directly on the branches of your tree. Fortunately, the solution here is simple: “Use LED Christmas lights. Other lights can get a little hot if left on for a long time, causing the tree to dry out, [but] LED ones stay cool even after long periods,” says Fernandes.

5. Give the tree enough water

The trunk of your tree should be completely submerged in water at all times, and this will require some vigilance on your part because Christmas trees drink a lot, particularly in the first 1 to 2 weeks. As such, Fernandes recommends watering the tree daily, and checking it “at least twice a day” to ensure the bowl is always full.

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