I'm changing how I decorate now I know the best tips for keeping a Christmas tree alive

I spoke to the green fingered experts to find out how to keep a Christmas tree alive, well and looking festive for longer

A Christmas tree in a living room
(Image credit: Broste)

I was concerned about how to keep a Christmas tree alive this festive period. I've been so looking forward to decorating one, but I live in an apartment, and experience suggests they don't last as long as you want them to.

Which is why this year, I'm approaching my tree differently. Having spoken to experts, I know now there are ample easy things you can do to keep your Christmas tree in tip top condition. Yes - follow these guidelines and it won't  drop its pines or go an unflattering brown shade. 

Whether you are going for a potted Christmas tree that you dig up from the garden year after year and move indoors, or a cut down tree, there are super simple things you can do, from being smart about your Christmas decor to remembering to water your tree, to keep it a beautiful verdant green, bushy and smelling fragrant throughout the season.

Oonagh Turner
Oonagh Turner

Oonagh is an interiors writer and editor. For this story she spoke to some green fingered experts to find out just how to keep your Christmas tree alive and well this festive season.

How to keep a Christmas tree alive

A real Christmas tree surrounded by gifts

(Image credit: Beards & Daisies)

1. Get the prep work right

Caring for your Christmas tree and ensuring it lasts for longer is all about the prep before you make the big purchase. Before leaving the house to go and shop for the perfect tree, take note of the space you have and make some measurements. 'Shop for a tree that will fit the amount of space you have at home,' says Keira Kay, Bloom & Wild plant expert. 

Be sure to consider the width of the space you have, as well as the height - as most trees are sold based on height only, so you’re left to gauge the rest on your own. 'I would suggest taking a measuring tape with you, always look at the tree out of its netting to see width before making a decision, and a good rule of thumb is to allow an extra foot between your tree topper and ceiling. So if you have 8ft ceilings, a tree up to 7ft would be suitable,' says Keira. A crowded corner for a tree that is too large is only going to decrease its likelihood of lasting the entirety of the festive season.

Also, make sure you do your research to think about the type of tree you want beforehand. The most popular tree is the fir, followed by pine or spruce. Firs tend to hold  needles longer than pines, and pines hold them longer than a spruce.  

For homes with children or playful pets - pick a variety with softer needles, like the Nordman Fir, to avoid hurting little hands when decorating. These trees also have great needle-holding abilities, so should last the season if you like to get decorating early. 

2. Give your Christmas tree a routine check before buying

christmas tree with pink and gold baubles

(Image credit: Future)

Have a good look and check the tree you like from several different angles. You want some dense branching so you can’t see too much trunk, a full and bushy mid-section, a clear leader stem for your topper, at least 30cm clear trunk at base, an attractive rich glossy color, and hopefully some good fragrance. 

Avoid trees with any browning or discoloration. 'Feel the branches too,' says Keira. 'Run your hands along the branches, these should be bendy, but not brittle so they can hold decorations and lights. Take hold of a branch and allow it to brush through your fingers, the needles should remain intact.'

Tap the base. Take the tree by the trunk, and bump the base of the tree onto the ground to see if any needles drop, if only a few drop the tree is fresh enough to purchase. Avoid very lightweight trees, as this could be a sign they are a little less fresh.

Once selected, your tree will be put through the tree baler so you can transport it home, but as soon as it is home, remove the net and shake the tree and place it outside for a while to allow it to settle. Just before bringing inside, trim the bark from the base of the tree so it can still soak up water.

3. Remember to hydrate your tree

A living room decorated with a Christmas tree

(Image credit: Soho Home)

Make sure to give it a regular spritz. It might be cut down, but it still benefits from a bit of misting and helps the pines stay hydrated. Just be wary when spraying onto electrical decorations.

Secondly, you should still keep it in water. Just because it is cut down doesn't mean it can't take in liquid. 'You wouldn’t leave cut flowers in an empty vase,' points out Whitney from Flowerbx. Water your tree daily and ensure that the water covers the bottom two inches of the trunk. 'Your tree will need a minimum of 500ml water every day, but larger varieties may require up to 2 liters each day to thrive all season,' says Whitney. A dry tree is a fire hazard, so keep checking on moisture levels.

I've just discovered this tree stand, below, which has its own reservoir function, and I know this is going to change everything for me.

Christmas tree stand with water reservoir from Amazon
Stay hydrated

Christmas tree stand with water reservoir from Amazon

Keep your Christmas tree hydrated with this easy-to-use stand equipped with a water level indicator that shows when to stop and when your tree needs more water.

4. Think about the location of your Christmas tree

Bare Christmas tree with just lights

(Image credit: The Musee Home)

You also want to be super careful about placement of your real tree. ‘Find a spot for your tree which isn’t too close to a hot radiator or open fire – too much heat can encourage the needles of your tree to drop too quickly or turn brown,’ says Joanne Lambell, founder of plant delivery service, Beards and Daisies. To keep your tree looking full and bushy, you could also consider using a humidifier to keep the air moist for extra longevity. 

5. Avoid overbearing Christmas tree decorations

Small Christmas tree with pink decor in a pink hallway

(Image credit: Dobbies)

It’s wise to try to avoid overwhelming the tree with too many heavy Christmas decorations, as the weight can negatively affect the longevity of the tree, and make the branches dip down and then ornaments fall off. 'Opt for LED Christmas tree lights, with small bulbs, as larger lights can scorch or dry out the foliage and needles of the tree, meaning it’ll turn brown quicker. Be sure to always turn lights off before bed, as again, this is a fire hazard,' says Keira.

What's the difference with potted trees?

Small Christmas tree in green bedroom by Little Greene

(Image credit: Little Greene)

When it comes to potted trees that are planted in soil and returned outside after the Christmas period, the ways you look after your tree differ slightly but not dramatically.  

When it's time to bring your potted tree inside for Christmas, there are a few ways you can keep it looking and smelling great. 'Water your tree when the top two inches of soil feel dry. You can check this by sticking your finger in up to the second knuckle - if it comes out moist and is covered in soil, check again in a few days,' says Freddie Blackett, CEO of Patch Plants. The bigger the tree, the more water its roots will need. 

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. 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.