Tips for Maintaining Real Christmas Trees

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There are many in Yancey County that follow the tradition of putting up a Christmas Tree. In our area, with several Christmas Tree growers easily accessible locally, this tradition is even better when using a real Christmas tree. A real tree adds a great scent, and in my family, we also have a family outing every year when we go to the farm to pick out our tree. After you purchase and set up a real tree, it is very important to maintain it properly. If you plan to purchase a tree this year, here are a few tips that you might want to consider.

1. Choose the Best Quality Tree Possible

To get the most out of a real Christmas tree, it should be as fresh as possible and of the best possible quality. Purchasing from a “choose and cut” tree farm is the best option because that is the “freshest” tree that can be purchased. If purchasing a tree from a lot, the quality of the tree should be considered. This is a factor that is directly related to how the tree has been stored and handled since it was harvested. The tree should be full of water, and should be protected as much as possible from sun and wind. On the lot, look to see if the trees are displayed in water. Look to see if the ground or mulch is wet from periodic watering. Take note of the condition of the lot to see if the trees are stored in a shady area. Consider if the tree is as heavy as it should be. A heavy tree is an indication that the tree is heavy with water. Consider if the needles are rich, dark-green color. Dry trees are often bleached out to a lighter olive or grey-green color. Consider if the outside needles stay on the tree. Also consider if the needles are fresh. Very fresh needles will snap when bent. Somewhat dry tree needles will bend, rather than break. And lastly, take a look at the trunk of the tree. The tree is mostly likely still fresh if the bottom of the tree is sticky.

2. Prepare the Tree Properly at Home

When the tree is finally brought home, it is important to prepare it properly by cutting off at least 1/2-inch of the trunk so that the tree will take up water easier. If the tree needs to be stored before taking it inside, make sure to set it up in the shade in a bucket of water. Display the tree inside in a stand that can hold at least 1 gallon of water. Never add anything to the water. All a real tree needs is fresh water. Make sure to display the tree away from heat sources. Make sure that the tree is not displayed over a floor heat vent, or under a ceiling heat vent. If placing a tree near a window, be mindful of sun exposure. Closing and lowering blinds or currents may be needed if the tree is displayed in a window that is on the south or southwest facing portion of the house. When decorating, Use lights that are in good working condition and that are UL certified. Make sure that the tree is taking up water before you begin decorating. If it is not, making another fresh cut to the trunk may be necessary.

3. Care for the Tree Properly Throughout the Season

Throughout the time that real Christmas trees are in the home, it is important to take appropriate steps to maintain them. This includes checking the water level in the tree stand every day. Always unplug any Christmas lights before leaving the home, or when sleeping and leaving a tree unattended. And also, be mindful of lighting any candles or having any source of open flame near a tree as this could be a fire hazard.


Do consider purchasing a real Christmas tree this holiday season! Real Christmas trees can greatly enhance the holiday experience and you are supporting a local farmer. By choosing the highest quality tree possible, preparing a purchased tree properly at home, and caring for the tree properly while it is enjoyed, your real Christmas tree can be enjoyed for the entire season. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like more information about purchasing or maintaining a real Christmas tree, feel free to contact us at the N.C. Cooperative Extension–Yancey County Center by calling 828.682.6186. You can also contact me by email (