How to keep your Christmas tree alive longer over the holidays

Some expert tips for improving the overall indoor lifespan of a natural Christmas tree.
A few simple tips can make a big difference in terms of how long a Christmas tree will last indoors. (Matt Smith/AP)

Nothing makes it feel like the holidays quite like the scent of a natural Christmas tree. For those who love the evergreen smell but can’t abide the falling needles and the mess of a slowly dehydrating tree, help is at hand. Here are some expert tips for improving the overall indoor lifespan of your natural tree.  

First things first: make sure you buy your tree from the grower directly and not from a wholesale lot, said Evelyn Clarke of SugarLane Bush Christmas Tree Farm in Dundas.  Wholesale lots cut their trees early, said Clarke, often starting as early as October.

By contrast, growers cut their trees much later in the season.

How to keep your Christmas tree fresh

  • Buy from the grower directly
  • Cut away the bottom few inches of the base
  • Keep the tree in 1 to 2 litres of water
  • Aspirin keeps a tree fresh

"We start to cut around November 23 and 24," said Clarke. She and her husband Winston have been selling Christmas trees for 40 years.  

Extra time with roots in the ground makes a big difference to the health of a Christmas tree.

"A fresh tree from the grower is going to last three to four to five weeks, because it is a fresh tree," she added.  

This year, trees may last even longer because of the Hamilton area's wet fall, she said.  

"We had a rainy fall so the trees are heavy [with moisture] and haven’t winterized, so they’ll keep longer," said Clarke.

Another tip is to carefully choose the type of tree you buy. Clarke suggests any variety of fir tree as being the hardiest.

"Scotch Pine used to be the best, but growers aren’t growing them anymore. They have too many diseases."   

Once you’ve brought your tree home, cut away the bottom few inches of the base. Clarke likens the thickness of the cut to a hockey puck. This exposes a fresh section of the tree at its base so that it can absorb water more easily. (If you plan to put up the tree as soon as you get home, ask the tree lot attendant if they can make the cut for you.)

Once you’ve trimmed the base and mounted the tree, place the base in water to keep the tree hydrated. Depending on the size of the tree, the amount of water should be anywhere from one to two litres.  

"Keep topping up the water—don’t let it go dry," said Clarke who advises people to check the water level regularly.  

If the water reservoir does go dry, you’ll have to take the tree down and cut off another section of the base.

Clarke says you can also add to the water one tablet of aspirin for a smaller tree, or a couple of tablets to a larger tree, to help preserve its freshness.