Christmas trees are arguably one of the most important Christmas decorations. They become the centerpiece around which timeless family traditions unfold. And since Christmas trees bring so much joy to a household, it makes sense that you’d want it to remain beautiful for as long as possible. But how can you get a freshly cut Christmas tree to last longer?
You can get your pine Christmas tree to last longer by choosing a healthy, full tree that’s freshly cut and transporting it correctly with the stem and branches properly covered. One the tree is home, It’s important to give your new Christmas tree at least 1 gallon of water per day.
Join us as we discover how to choose the freshest pine Christmas tree and keep it looking its best all season long!
1. Choose A Good Pine Christmas Tree
Everyone (and their grandmother) knows at least one trick to keep a Christmas tree fresh, but are those details necessary?
Turns out, many of the folk tales surrounding Christmas trees are just that—folk tales. And keeping your tree fresh is a lot easier than you might think!
Whether you’re cutting the tree yourself or picking up a pre-cut tree, knowing a little bit about your selection can help you ensure you get the freshest tree possible.
A variety of pine trees are grown and sold in tree farms across America, and each one has its own unique characteristics.
For example, Austrian pines retain their needles well, while the Virginia pine’s soft needles give the tree a fuzzy appearance. Of course, the trees available to you will depend on your location. Still, having a brief understanding of each can be helpful when deciding which tree to bring home.
Below you’ll find a chart comparing some of the most popular pine Christmas trees!
Most Common Pine Christmas Varieties Trees Compared
|TREE SPECIES||DESCRIPTION||BRANCHES||NEEDLE RETENTION|
|Afghan Pine||Found primarily in the Southern United States, these trees are prevalent in Texas due to their ability to grow well in desert-like conditions. Their medium green needles are softer than most pine species, and their spaced branches give them an open appearance.||Strong, loosely spaced branches make this tree perfect for larger ornaments.||Excellent|
|Austrian Pine||Also quite adaptable to dry conditions, the Austrian pine is often grown in the Midwestern and Western regions of the United States. It has long, dark green needles and a spicy/sweet fragrance.||Strong, flexible branches often grow upwards, giving the tree a dense look.||Excellent|
|Ponderosa Pine||Often cherished for its sweet-smelling fragrance, this lighter-colored tree has lost popularity throughout the years because it needs a lot of maintenance during growth. It retains its needles well, but watch out for its sticky sap!||Its vibrant branches are very loosely spaced, which limits the number of ornaments you can add to the tree. Additionally, the significant gaps may result in a sparse-looking appearance.||Good|
|Norway Pine||Also known as red pines, these bushy trees are typically grown in the Northern-Central and Eastern United States. They are generally dark green and have a deep woodsy pine scent.||Despite being moderately spaced, the branches often turn upward, which gives the tree a fuller look. The sturdy branches hold decorations well and look beautiful when draped in lights.||Excellent|
|Scotch Pine||This is one of the most popular pine Christmas tree species due to its superb needle retention, strong aroma, and open appearance. They are grown and sold all over the United States.||Tight branch spacing gives this holiday favorite a whole bushy look. Its solid and durable branches also allow it to hold heavy ornaments without dropping or breaking.||Excellent|
|Virginia Pine||If you live in the Southern United States, chances are you’ve seen a Virginia pine Christmas tree. These dense trees are solid and stout, making them highly decorative. Plus, the rich pine fragrance is soft enough to enjoy without becoming overwhelming.||Its moderately spaced branches are softer than some other pine species, making it more susceptible to bending. Still, it will hold lights and smaller ornaments with ease! Additionally, its long needles give the tree a dense appearance.||Excellent|
|White Pine||The white pine has a darker, blue-green appearance. They are a fantastic choice for someone who doesn’t care for the piney scent as they don’t have a strong aroma. Found primarily in the North-Eastern United States, they have slender branches and a dense appearance.||They have tightly spaced, delicate branches that bend easily. Due to their long, soft needles, these trees often have a furry look.||Excellent|
Pro Tip: Trees with strong branches and a more open appearance work best for decorating with ornaments, while dense trees look gorgeous when wrapped in lights.
2. Grab A Freshly Cut Pine Christmas Tree
The fresher a tree is when you buy it, the longer it will last in your home.
The best way to get the freshest tree possible is to cut down a tree yourself. But not everyone has time for that!
Signs Of A Fresh Tree
Luckily, there are some signs you can look for to ensure you get a pre-cut tree with a lot of life left in it!
- Brightly colored and pliable needles
- Strong aroma
- Needle retention
- Sticky sap on the stump
Signs Of A Dry Or Stale Tree Include
When there are signs of a healthy tree, there are also signs of an unhealthy, dry or stale tree! Check these signs out below.
- Brown, wilted, or brittle needles
- Unusual lightness
- Needles that fall or break easily
- Dry sap or no sap present
Needles Tell You A Lot About A Tree
Vibrantly colored needles that bend without breaking under pressure signal a healthy and moist tree, and brownish needles that break or fall easily are a signal that the tree has started to dry out.
If possible, lift the tree and give it a good shake. When a tree’s super light and/or drops a lot of needles, that’s a good sign it’s lost most of its moisture, if it’s heavy, that means it retained water!
If lifting the tree isn’t possible, you can still check for needle retention by gently grabbing a branch and pulling your hand toward yourself. The needles should remain intact, without breaking or falling off.
By the way, those needles can be pokey. Keep your hands warm and protected with these Waterproof Winter Gloves from Balhvit. Plus, with 5-layer touchscreen technology, you won’t even have to take them off to use your phone!
If you’d like to learn more about your pine tree’s age, I’d highly recommend taking a look at our piece on the full growth timeline of a pine tree!
3. Transport Your Pine Tree Correctly
Once you’ve chosen the perfect tree, it’s time to get it home! And believe it or not, how you transport your tree can significantly impact its overall health.
Pine trees are evergreen conifers. Conifers are trees that grow cones, while evergreen trees have needles rather than leaves.
There are some natural advantages to having needles instead of leaves. For starters, instead of shedding their leaves each year, most evergreen trees retain their needles for several years at a time. This allows some species to photosynthesize during the winter.
Additionally, most evergreen trees can store valuable nutrients in their needles all year—including water. Pine trees in the wild still do generally take in water during the winter just like your Christmas tree will.
Transportation Is Key In Keeping The Tree Free From Damage
When transported incorrectly, Christmas trees may suffer wind damage and needle loss. Both cause the tree to lose moisture, reducing its lifespan in your home.
You can extend the life of your Christmas tree by following the transportation tips below:
- If you purchase a tree at a farm or tree stand, ask that they apply netting to the tree
- Wrap the tree in a blanket or tarp
- Position your tree so that the stump is at the windshield end of your vehicle
- Ensure its secured and won’t move around during transport
- Drive slowly and avoid traveling on highways and interstates
Not sure what to wrap your tree in? Check out these Packing and Storing Blankets. The lightweight covers will protect your tree while also preventing it from scratching your vehicle!
4. Give Your Christmas Tree a Drink as Soon as Possible
Another way to extend the life of your pine Christmas tree is to get it a tall drink of water as soon as you can!
Most trees have an extensive root system that extends from their trunk outwardly beneath the ground around them. The roots take in water and nutrients from the soil, which the trees depend on to remain healthy.
Purdue University says you should put your Christmas tree into water within three to six hours. Any longer than that, the tree might lose its ability to absorb moisture.
Check Your Tree For Sap
When a pine tree is injured, sap collects at the area where the tree was wounded. In this case, at the base of the trunk. Over time, the sticky fluid hardens into a cap that prevents the tree from absorbing water.
Cutting a half-inch slice off the bottom of your Christmas tree’s trunk will remove the hardened sap, exposing the cells and capillaries responsible for absorbing and transporting moisture.
Many tree farms will do this for you at no extra cost if you ask them!
5. Get The Right Christmas Tree Stand
Tree stands come in various shapes, sizes, and designs, but one thing they all have in common—all of them are designed to hold a specific size tree.
If your tree stand is too big or too small, your tree could topple over or dry out.
Choosing the correct size stand is easy if you already have a tree. Simply measure the tree and find a stand created for that size.
People often believe shaving the edges of the trunk will help a tree fit into a smaller stand, but if you remove the bark from the trunk, the tree will be unable to drink water.
Opt For A Stand With A Large Water Reservoir
Remember earlier when we said that sap could harden on the bottom of the trunk, making it impossible for your tree to drink? Well, that can happen anytime your tree’s left without water for more than 3-6 hours.
Keep your Christmas tree hydrated by using a stand with a deep well and checking the water level at least twice a day (topping it off as needed).
6. Give Your Tree Time to Settle
Once home, allow your tree to relax its branches before breaking out the decorations, for about a day or so.
While some trees relax in a couple of hours, it could take up to 24 hours for your Christmas tree to fully open its branches. You can help by gently fluffing the tree, but pulling and tugging on the cold branches could result in damage or needle loss.
Giving your tree a day to settle into its new environment will also give you a chance to make sure it’s drinking before you decorate it. While the result is beautiful, decorating can be a process, and most people don’t want to do it twice!
7. Keep Your Stand Full of Water
Christmas trees take up the most water during the first seven to ten days in your home. After that, the tree’s water intake slows down, but you’ll still need to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
According to the College of Agricultural Science, a good rule of thumb is to use a stand that holds one quart of water for every inch of diameter across the trees cut.
Be sure to fill the reservoir before leaving your house any time you plan to be gone for an extended amount of time. The tree’s base must remain submerged constantly. Otherwise, the sap will dry, and the tree will stop taking up water.
That being said, you might want to check out our article to learn why you should spray your Christmas tree with water, and how to do it properly.
8. Stick With Just Water (No Additives)
So what about sugar, aspirin, bleach, and energy drinks? Will these things extend the life of my tree when added to the water?
The hypothesis behind these wives-tales is that when added to its water, these products will help a Christmas tree absorb more moisture and remain vibrant longer. While some of these additives can cause a tree to take up more water, that doesn’t necessarily mean the tree is healthier.
In fact, according to The United States Department of Agriculture, when trees drink more, they have a higher risk of running dry, which can inhibit them from absorbing water at all.
Additionally, researchers who published an article in the American Society for Horticultural Science discovered the trees used in the study all dropped their needles at the same rate regardless of whether they were given plain tap water or additives.
What To Avoid To Prolong The Life of Your Pine Christmas Tree
Even if you cut down a healthy tree, transport it correctly, and hydrate it appropriately, if you don’t avoid the things below, you’re going to end up with a dehydrated tree that looks like it was plucked right out of a Charlie Brown special!
Let’s take a closer look at some of the things you shouldn’t do if you want your Christmas tree to last longer.
Avoid Putting Your Tree Near Heat Sources
When Christmas trees are exposed to direct heat or high temperatures, they lose moisture faster than they can take up water, resulting in dehydration.
Even if your tree is well-watered, placing it in a warm area will reduce its lifespan.
When picking the perfect spot for your Christmas tree this holiday season, make sure you choose a location that’s at least three to five feet away from:
- Wood Stoves
- Baseboard heating
- Furnace vents
- Electric fireplaces
- Space heaters
- Lamps or light fixtures
- Hot water tanks
- Heat pumps
- Direct sunlight
Basically, anything that emits heat or may heat the area where your tree is positioned.
Avoid Exposing Your Tree to Dry Air
Because cold air doesn’t carry humidity as well as warm air, it’s typical for the air inside a home to dry out during winter.
You might be surprised to learn that dry air can cause dehydration in plants, animals, and humans! Luckily, running a humidifier can add moisture back into the air, which can help your tree (and you) remain hydrated during the winter months.
If the dry air in your home is bothering you, check out this Levoit 6L Humidifier. It works in almost any sized room, is voice-activated, and can also be used as an oil diffuser!
Avoid Disturbing Your Tree
No matter what you do, your tree will dry up and lose needles throughout the holiday season. But you can minimize the damage by avoiding any unnecessary disturbances.
Ornaments and garlands are understandably tempting to young children and pets. Decorating just the top half of the tree can keep decorations out of reach and prevent kiddos and pets from playing with them. Doing this prevents limb damage and needle loss while keeping kids safe from choking hazards.
Adjustable doorway gates, like this Wide Plastic Gate, can be positioned around the tree to keep pets out as well. Add a few bows and a bit of wrapping paper, and people won’t even realize the gate is there!
Pro tip: you can use small eyelet hooks and wire/twine to anchor the tree to a wall and prevent it from tipping over onto unsuspecting kids and pets.
Because holiday decorations bring warmth and joy to the bleak days of winter, people often look for ways to extend the life of their decorations.
And fortunately, if you have a pine Christmas tree, there are several things you can do to ensure it remains fresh longer.
Now for a quick recap.
You can get your pine Christmas tree to stay fresh longer by:
- Choosing a good tree
- Grabbing a freshly cut tree
- Transporting your tree correctly
- Giving your tree a drink as soon as possible
- Using the right tree stand
- Allowing the tree to settle
- Keeping your tree watered
- Avoiding additives and sprays
Now that you know what to look for in a healthy tree and how to keep it looking great all season, you’re ready to bundle up and find your perfect pine Christmas tree!
Akres, O., Cavallaro, I., Cheng, C., Dixon, M., Goddard, D., Hofbauer, T., … & Cooke, J. (2016). The Christmas tree project: comparing the effects of five treatments on the health of cut Christmas trees (Pinus radiata, Pinaceae). Australian Journal of Botany, 64(1), 15-19.
Babrauskas, V., Chastagner, G., & Stauss, E. (2001). Flammability of cut christmas trees. Unpublished, 2(1), 3-2.
Moorhead, D. J. (2009). Selection and care of Christmas trees for the home.
Tyson, C. (2009). Christmas trees.
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