Christmas tree care guide

Geoff Hodge offers his timely advice on how to get the best from your Christmas tree.

Nordmann Firs growing on farm

Your Christmas tree is the focal point of your home for the duration of Christmas. Keep your tree looking great for the whole festive period by following our simple Christmas tree care guide. If you care for your tree properly and it is in good condition when you buy it, it should easily last for around four weeks or longer.

Choose the best Christmas tree

If you go out and buy your Christmas tree, then spend a little time choosing your tree. If possible, take someone with you so that one can hold it upright while the other checks its shape from every angle.

Think about where you are going to put it and make sure you measure up before you go shopping.

Look for a balanced, bushy shape with few or no bald spots. To make sure you get a good one, check the tree’s leading shoot. Be wary if there’s a large gap between the top branches and the lower branches.

Always buy a tree with healthy green needles – avoid those with yellow or yellowing needles.

  • Pick them up and feel the weight; if they’re very light, they may have been cut weeks ago.
  • Firmly tap the base of the trunk on the ground and check to see if and how many needles fall off. Avoid those with excessive needle drop, as they’re well past their sell-by date.
  • Avoid already-netted trees; if they’re netted for a long time, they sweat and the needles start to fall off.
netted Christmas trees for sale
Already netted trees can sweat and lose their needles. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Caring for your Christmas Tree

Once you get your tree home, remove any netting or packaging from around the branches. If it’s a cut tree that has been netted, allow the branches to fall back into their natural position.

Cut off around 2.5-4cm (1-1½in) from the base of the trunk of cut trees and stand in a bucket of water. This will help it absorb water, stay fresher for longer and reduce needle drop

Leave the tree outside for as long as possible; hot, dry houses are the main cause of needle drop.

Use a waterproof container to hold cut trees, such as a bucket full of sand or, better still, a Christmas tree stand with a reservoir to hold water.

Position it as far away from sources of heat, such as radiators or fires, as possible. 

A Christmas tree can drink at least 500ml (1 pint) of water a day, so keep the stand topped up, or the compost or sand moist, right through Christmas and the New Year.

Re-use, recycle

Potted Christmas trees can be moved outside as soon as Twelfth Night has passed. Keep checking the compost, so that it doesn’t dry out, and mist the foliage regularly to help it recover from its stressful time indoors.

mulch made from Christmas trees
Christmas trees can be shredded to produce a useful mulching material.

Cut Christmas trees should be recycled or re-used. Strong, cut branches can be used as useful plant supports. If you can’t shred yours at home to make a useful mulching material, most local councils will collect trees during their normal pavement collection service, or you can cut it up and put it in your green waste bin, or take it to your local Household Waste Recycling Centre. Check your local newspaper or council website for information. Some garden centres will also accept cut Christmas trees.


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