Nothing quite says Christmas like a well-decorated real Christmas tree. But if you've only ever had an artificial tree you might not know where to start with a real one. Likewise, if you've found in the past that your real Christmas tree hasn't lasted quite as long as expected, you may have been put off trying again.
Preparing for your real Christmas tree will ensure you can enjoy a healthy tree throughout the festive period.
The benefits of choosing a fresh Christmas tree are huge. From environmental considerations to the wonderfully natural fragrance that fills the room, a real Christmas tree will bring joy to any household. You just need to follow some simple care tips to make it last the whole season.
As with many things in life, preparation is key to a happy and healthy Christmas tree. Ensuring needle retention and the longevity of a freshly cut tree largely depends on how much prep you do. In fact, keeping your Christmas tree alive starts even before you've chosen which tree to buy!
Show your Christmas tree some TLC before you start to decorate it and you'll reap the rewards, enjoying the look and fragrance of a real Christmas tree throughout the festive period.
Some careful prep will help keep your Christmas tree throughout the holiday season.
Selecting your tree
Christmas trees come in a variety of species. One of the most important things you can do to ensure your tree remains healthy is to pick the right one.
Some trees, like the Norway Spruce, shouldn't be bought too early. This traditional tree certainly looks the part and is a fine choice for those who prefer to put their tree up a little later. However, if you plan to decorate your tree in late November, then, chances are, it will look a bit tired by Christmas Day.
On the other hand, tree varieties such as the Nordmann Fir and Fraser Fir are renowned for excellent needle retention and will keep their foliage for weeks. Perfect if you like to have your tree up nice and early.
Pick the right spot
Choosing the right spot for your Christmas tree is essential. While you may have a preferred part of the living room where your tree has always been, this may not provide the ideal conditions for your tree.
Ideally, you'll want to place your tree close to a power socket for the lights. Of course, you can use an extension cable if required. If you go down this route, ensure the cable is tucked in towards the skirting to avoid it becoming a trip hazard. Avoid running the cable underneath a rug, as you won't be able to spot any damage that might become a hazard.
Make sure the socket is easy to get to so you can turn the lights off quickly and easily without the need to clamber over furniture or even the tree itself.
Be mindful not to overload electrical sockets as this could prove dangerous and cause a fire.
Ensure your Christmas tree is close to a power socket. That usually means near walls or corners.
Christmas trees survive best when the temperature is around 16-18º. Basically, the coolest part of the room is best, and if there's a window close by, then even better!
While your tree would prefer to be near a window, be careful of direct sunlight, especially in hot rooms. If your ideal spot is in front of a picture-perfect bay window, try to make sure it isn't south-facing, which will magnify the brightest of the day's sunlight. If all else fails, close the curtains when the sun is at its highest to prevent the needle drop.
Take care to place your tree as far as possible away from heat sources, such as the fireplace, wood stove or radiator. Otherwise, the tree will dry out faster, start drooping and die sooner.
Heat sources can speed up the drying process and cause a fire hazard.
Real Christmas trees need watering frequently. And by that, we mean at least once a day. When choosing the perfect spot for your tree, ensure you can easily access the tree stand to top up water levels whenever needed.
Keep your Christmas tree well hydrated by making sure the tree stand always has a supply of fresh water that covers the bottom of the trunk by at least a couple of inches. The last thing you want is to have to cut another inch from the bottom of the Christmas tree once it's all beautifully decorated!
Making sure you have easy access to keep it well-hydrated will keep your Christmas tree fresh and healthy.
For the freshest tree, water frequently and make sure the Christmas tree stand never runs out of water.
Choose lights carefully
LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights are always best for a real Christmas tree. Modern LEDs don't produce much heat and are generally cool to the touch. Not only is this good news for preventing needles from drying out, but it also reduces the risk of fire breaking out. As a bonus, LED lights are incredibly inexpensive to run and last for years.
Always turn the lights off before leaving the house and when you go to bed at night.
For obvious reasons, we would never recommend lighting real candles on Christmas trees.
Buy the right tree stand
A Christmas tree stand is an essential accessory to hold water for your tree and to keep the tree stable and secure.
They are generally easy to use and are available in plastic or metal options. A decent tree stand will keep your Christmas tree straight and prevent it from falling over. It also holds the water that is vital for your tree's freshness.
Make sure you purchase the right size of tree stand for your chosen Christmas tree. One that's too small will need the water replenished several times a day. On the other hand, pick one that's too big, and your tree might end up a bit wobbly.
When your tree arrives
Cut the tree
When trees are cut, dried sap forms a protective barrier to heal the wound. Just like you'd chop a little from the bottom of cut flowers to help them last longer, trim around an inch off the base of the trunk to aid water absorption.
Be careful not to peel away any bark from the side of the trunk, as this will slow down the amount of water your tree takes in. Those outer layers soak up the most water. Removing them will impede the tree's ability to stay hydrated.
When sawing the base of the tree, use a straight cut rather than a slanted cut. This will help water uptake and keep your tree hydrated.
You may have heard some people drill holes or cut a V shape into the bottom of their pre-cut tree to help it take in water. However, this isn't required and is of no benefit whatsoever. In fact, it can make it more difficult when it comes to setting up the Christmas tree stand.
Cut the bottom of the trunk when you get your tree home.
Soak in water
Once your tree has been cut and is ready to absorb water, let it do so for a while. When your tree is delivered, stand it in a large bucket of cold water immediately.
A freshly cut tree can absorb up to 4 litres of water on the first day (thankfully this goes down to approximately 1 litre per day once the tree is settled) so give it some time to recover from its journey with a long drink before putting it in place.
Plain water is perfectly suitable for keeping your Christmas tree looking full of life. Some people swear by adding lemonade or aspirin to the water for added nutrients.
However, this isn't needed and can actually be detrimental to the tree, never mind any pets who may drink from the stand. Stick to plain old tap water and your tree will be just fine.
Before taking your live tree indoors, soak the tree trunk in water.
Secure the tree in position
Once you've chosen the perfect spot and your tree is ready to bring inside, you'll need to set up the tree stand. It's easiest to get your tree secured in the stand before adding any water. We recommend placing a layer on the floor underneath. This helps prevent water spillages from damaging the floor and stops the tree from sliding around on wooden or tiled flooring. Tarpaulin or bath mats work well and catch any fallen needles too.
Securing the Christmas tree in position is usually a two-person job so make sure you're not home alone when you set it up. Having someone handy to hold the tree steady while you attach the tree stand will make the job much easier!
Avoid standing your tree up in soil or sand. These substances will soak up the moisture and minimise the tree's water uptake.
A sturdy stand will hold the Christmas tree water and keep the tree upright.
Let the tree settle
Once your Christmas tree is up and secured into its position, leave it for a couple of hours to 'settle' before decorating. This will give you a chance to make sure the tree remains upright and straight. It also affords the branches and needles time to open up into their natural shape.
You don't want to lose any fragile ornaments due to decorating too soon, so allow the fresh-cut tree to relax into place before you start hanging the lights and baubles.
Now you're ready for the fun part to begin. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a wonderfully decorated tree. And a real Christmas tree fresh from our nursery makes a stunning focal point for your decorations. Whether you prefer an understated minimalist look or a bright, exuberant display, a live tree will show off the decorations perfectly.
Decorate your own tree to suit your personal taste.
Care and attention
Neglect to prep your real Christmas tree properly, and you may end up with a carpet full of pine needles. Meanwhile, your tree will be brown, bare, and sorry looking with very few green needles come the New Year.
But with proper care and a little pre-planning, you'll avoid brittle needles appearing on your tree, and much fewer needles will need to be hoovered up. While it may seem like a daunting task, each step of prepping your freshly cut Christmas tree takes just a little time to complete. You'll find each step simple to carry out and the effort you put in before decorating your tree will definitely be worth it in the long run.
If you only take one thing away from our guide to prepping your real Christmas tree, it should be to provide it with lots and lots of water.
Cut the bottom of the trunk to allow water to be absorbed.
Let the tree sit in a bucket of water for a while before bringing it inside.
Frequent watering is the single most important thing you can do for the freshest tree on this side of the North Pole.
Watering is the most important thing you can do to make sure very few green needles fall.
Follow our tips to keep your real Christmas tree fresh, and it will last indoors for around 4 weeks, looking bright and healthy through Christmas and right into New Year.