How long do real Christmas trees last? When to buy a tree so that it stays looking great until Christmas Day

How long do real Christmas trees last and how to keep your indoor tree alive and well for as long as possible

A real Christmas tree in a luxurious living room
(Image credit: Soho Home)

How long do real Christmas trees last? Investing in a real festive fir adds a real seasonal magic to your interiors - emitting a powerful pine needle smell that transports you to Nordic forests. But is it worth the expense if they don't last very long? 

Ultimately, how long Christmas trees last is down to numerous factors. What type of tree are you looking to buy? How much light, water and nutrients are you giving to your tree? It's crucial to know the lifespan of your tree and plot accordingly to help you buy your tree at the optimum time and make the decision as to whether a real or faux tree is best for you. We've spoken to the gardening gurus to find out exactly how long Christmas trees last.

How long do real Christmas trees last?

It really depends, but if cared for well, a cut down Christmas tree will on average last for a minimum a month but more normally a month and a half. After this point, the tree starts to look faded, with pine dropping more and more frequent. You might want to use this information to plot when the best time is to put up your Christmas tree. 'I’d advise purchasing and decorating your tree at the beginning of December to ensure it is still in peak condition at Christmas,' says Craig Wilson, director of Gardeners Dream (opens in new tab).

Whether your tree will withstand the test of time or not also depends on what type it is. Firs, spruces and pines are the most popular, and can last over the Christmas period with adequate care. 'Whilst there is much debate across different tree species about which can last longer, once they’re cut there isn’t too much variation. Most firs, spruces and pines will last you around the five week mark if you look after it properly' says Joanne Lambell, founder of Beards & Daisies (opens in new tab)

A real Christmas tree surrounded by gifts

(Image credit: Beards & Daisies)

'The fir Christmas tree is the most popular type of Christmas tree in the United States. More than 25 million fir trees are sold each year,' says aborist John Dave from agrofever.com. Firs are a type of evergreen, meaning they keep their needles year-round. This is why they are often used as Christmas trees - they stay green and fresh-looking throughout the holiday season. Fir trees are also fairly easy to care for, as they don't require much water. They typically last between three to four weeks.

Pine Christmas trees are also popular. The sugar pine is one of the tallest and originates from the Sierra Nevada mountain range, with tufted branches composed of medium to long green pine needles. 'Pines don't last particularly long however, lasting around two to three weeks and are not particularly good at holding heavy ornaments,' says John.

Cedar trees last around four to five weeks and are super study, making them a strong base for that Christmas tree topper. There are several different types of cedar trees, including the Eastern red cedar, the Western red cedar, and the Atlas cedar.

Spruce Christmas trees are also a popular choice, and have a distinctive pine scent. They have a similar lifespan to cedar trees of four to five weeks. Spruce trees are also evergreens, meaning they will keep their needles year-round. SLike fir trees, spruce trees are relatively easy to care for. However, spruce trees can be more expensive than fir trees.

'For me, selecting a variety that offers long-lasting beauty and a festive fragrance is a must,’ says Whitney Bromberg Hawkings of plant delivery service, Flowerbx (opens in new tab). ‘Top of my list is always Nordmann Fir, as they are well known to be the variety that holds their needles for the longest, seeing you all the way through to New Year's Eve, and often lasts up to five weeks!’

National plant network real fraser fir, freshly cut from Walmart (opens in new tab)
Festive choice

National plant network real fraser fir, freshly cut from Walmart (opens in new tab)

A freshly cut fir with a blue-green hue, strong branches that will withhold any Christmas ornament, and an even bushiness all round. 

Remember to look at how healthy your tree is to begin with

How long your Christmas tree lasts also depends on how healthy the tree was to begin with. 'I’d advise looking for a local, reputable Christmas tree farm to ensure that the tree you select is best suited to your location,' says Craig. 'Look for a tree which is healthy and green, and which has been growing in a shady spot. While it’s normal to have a few brown needles, these should be at a minimum.' 

Needles should be flexible and secure, and not drop off when you run your hands through the branches. Another technique to see how healthy a tree is to lift it slightly and let it drop onto the ground. If it loses more than a few needles, select another tree. Make sure the tree is cut straight across the bottom to promote water absorption.

What is the difference between potted and cut down Christmas trees?

A small potted Christmas tree

(Image credit: Patch)

If you are looking for the festive romance that a real Christmas tree offers but don't want to be cutting down trees every year, there is an alternative solution - potted Christmas trees. 

'Cut trees will start to dry out fairly quickly and won't survive beyond Christmas,' explains Freddie Blackett, CEO of Patch Plants (opens in new tab). Potted trees are grown in the ground, dug up and then planted into a nursery pot. 'While they'll last a bit longer than a cut tree, the stress caused to the roots usually means that the tree will struggle to thrive and grow. Pot-grown Christmas trees, however, will last for years to come.' Caring for your cut Christmas tree involves watering, hydration, and keeping it away from any warm heat source like a radiator or open fire.

These trees are grown in their pots in the ground; these pots are then dug up, keeping the root systems intact and happy. 'With a little love, you'll be able to keep your pot-grown Christmas tree for years. Just move it outside after Christmas and keep it well watered (particularly in summer),' says Hannah.

Are real Christmas trees expensive?

A real Christmas tree

(Image credit: Beards & Daisies)

Christmas trees tend to be a little bit expensive, and the price is ramping up year after year, but it all comes down to height. If you're opting for a cute potted fur for a porch or corner of an unloved room, you might find a smaller Christmas tree for around $50, but on average, a normal sized tree is $85. An expensive Christmas tree costs around $100. The majority of people are buying their real Christmas trees from choose and cut farms, while chain stores and garden centers are also popular places to source the festive fur of your choice. 

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.