University of Maryland Extension

Caring For A Fresh Cut Christmas Tree

There's nothing better than the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree in the home for the holiday season.  Having a fresh cut tree takes some maintenance to ensure it lasts through the holidays. A well-cared for tree should normally remain fresh for at least three to four weeks before drying to an unacceptable level.  The National Christmas Tree Association offers tips to keep a fresh cut tree healthy once it is brought indoors.
  1. Keep it Fresh! –Water your Cut Christmas Tree. Displaying trees in water in a traditional tree stand that is a reservoir type stand is the most effective way of maintaining their freshness and minimizing needle loss problems. Water is very important to keep your tree fresh and hydrated!
  2. As a general rule, a tree stand should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. A tree with a 4-inch stem diameter will use up to a gallon of water per day!  Make sure you have a stand that can hold an adequate amount of water  for the size of the tree. Many tree stands can still have water in them but the base of the tree is no longer submerged. Therefore, check your water level daily and add fresh water as needed.
  3. Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water.
  4. Use a stand that is large enough for your tree to fit. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
  5. Make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood perpendicular from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Don't cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree. (Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does NOT improve water uptake).
  6. Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go 6 to 8 hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water.
  7. The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake
  8. Keep trees away from major sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
  9. Use tree lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights, as this will reduce drying of the tree. Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn or frayed, replace with a new set.  Do not overload electrical circuits.
  10. Always turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or when going to bed for safety.

Once the holidays have past, people often question what the best way to dispose of a tree is.  There are several options to consider if you lives within city limits.

  • Check with local landfill and recycling centers to see if trees can be accepted.  Often, these centers will accept trees to be chipped and utilized as mulch.
  • Contact local zoos or wildlife rehabilitators as they may accept trees for animal enrichment programs.
  • Never burn a tree in a wood stove or fireplace! Fire from a Christmas tree burns so hot that the heat can damage the firebox and the chimney.  Dried-out evergreens burn like tinder, causing sparks that can easily escape the fireplace

If you have additional questions concerning the care and disposal of Christmas trees, visit or contact your local extension office.


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