As the nights are closing in and the festive season looms ahead, many of us are already thinking about when to invest in this year’s Christmas tree. But how long do Christmas trees last? Knowing the answer to this question will ensure yours stays fresh and festive for the whole season.
Obviously, the best artificial Christmas trees will last a lot longer – for years, even decades – if treated with care. But while real Christmas trees with their full, bushy appearance and fresh pine scent may ramp up the festive factor, unfortunately, they can last as little as four weeks. And there are a few maintenance mistakes when it comes to keeping a Christmas tree alive that can shorten this timeframe further.
If the thought of putting up a real Christmas tree is just too much hassle, there are plenty of Christmas tree alternatives, as well as artificial trees, to choose from. But if the allure of a real Christmas tree is still strong, these expert tips on how to prolong the life of your real Christmas tree and which types of Christmas trees last the longest, as well as Christmas tree decorating and maintenance mistakes to avoid, should help you keep your tree looking fresh throughout the festive season and beyond.
How long do real Christmas trees last?
How long a real Christmas tree will last varies greatly on a few factors, including how healthy the tree is when you buy it, the type of tree and how its maintained within your home.
If you do choose a healthy tree, the general consensus is that it will last for four to six weeks, which – if your tree goes up in December – should see you comfortably through the festive season. “Popular trees like a Nordmann Fir or Fraser Fir can last for five weeks if properly cared for,” Neil Miller (opens in new tab), head gardener at Hever Castle & Gardens tells us. “If picking your tree up from a farm, a good tip when doing so, as well as picking a healthy tree, is to ask the seller to cut the base again so that it’s a fresh cut, then keep it outside for as long as possible – you can pop it in water so it doesn’t dry out.”
Will Kidger, of Send Me A Christmas Tree (opens in new tab), has been growing Christmas trees in Sussex for over 15 years, selling them both in farms in the south of England and online. He advises that to choose a healthy tree that will last for over four weeks, there are a few things to consider, “Whenever you decide to buy your tree, you want to make sure to pick a healthy Christmas tree, you can look out for any brown needles, and you should pick a tree that is in a shady location. Make sure to run your hand through the branches to feel if the needles are pliable and don’t fall off.”
Which type of tree lasts the longest?
There are a few varieties of Christmas trees that will last longer than others, Christmas tree expert Will Kidger broke down the different types to us:
- Nordmann Fir: The iconic Nordmann Fir is the best tree to opt for if you’re looking for a long-lasting variety. “If you get a fresh cut ‘low drop’ variety, like the Nordman Fir it should last from the end of November through Christmas and into the New Year – about five weeks or so. They will inevitably dry out a bit though, so if you want to avoid any droop and have a fresh-looking tree on Christmas day, it’s best if you can wait until December,” Kidger explains. A Fraser Fir is another example of a ‘low drop’ variety of Christmas tree.
- Norway Spruce: A Norway Spruce is also a safe bet for a tree that will last well, but you might want to invest in it a little later in the festive season, according to Kidger. If you like a traditional tree like the Norway Spruce with a strong pine scent and bushy shape – you’re best off waiting until at least the second week of December, because they do shed needles a bit more.” They generally last for three weeks or so.
When should you put up your Christmas tree?
Traditionally, Christmas trees are put up at the beginning of Advent, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This year, it falls on 28 November 2022.
Chris Harvey, an interior expert from Stelrad (opens in new tab), advises that late November is a good time to put up your tree to ensure it will last through December. “Getting a Christmas tree is one of those magical moments where you get to have fun dressing up your tree for the holiday (take a look at how to decorate a Christmas tree like a professional for more inspiration).
“The good news is that with proper care, most real Christmas trees should last for at least five weeks or more when taken care of properly. This means that you can definitely start decorating your home in late November, if you fancy it, and your tree will be in great condition for Christmas.
The earlier your Christmas tree goes up, the harder it is to keep it looking fresh for the big day. Harvey suggests, “You can always play it safe and wait till the first week of December to ensure you aren’t left up with a dried tree by the end of the Christmas period.”
Gardener Neil Miller explains that while you may buy your Christmas tree earlier in the festive season, it’s advisable not to bring it indoors until as late as Christmas Eve if you want to keep it in the best condition. He explains, “If you’re going for a cut tree this year then the best tip I can give you is to leave it outside for as long as you possibly can. If you are buying a tree with a root ball then the same rule applies – I know of people who leave them outside in their pot until Christmas Eve and only bring them in hours before Santa is due to arrive!”
How to maintain your Christmas tree so it lives for longer
Caring for your Christmas tree isn’t too dissimilar to keeping flowers fresh, Will Kidger explains, “A cut Christmas tree should be treated like a cut flower – if there’s a nice fresh cut at the bottom it will continue to take up water, and that will keep it looking perkier for longer. Like with flowers, the main factor though is heat – putting your tree in a warm spot next to a radiator will make it dry out much more quickly, and you’ll end up with droopy branches and more needle drops.”
Some other expert-approved tips for how to keep a Christmas tree alive throughout the festive season include:
1. Choose the right tree
Tatyana Zhuk, a plant expert at NatureID (opens in new tab) explains, “Everyone wants to prolong the holiday season for as long as possible. The first step towards keeping your tree fresh for a long time is to pick a healthy one at your local Christmas tree market.”
- Look at the ground: If there are very few needles surrounding a tree, this is a good sign.
- Pay attention to the needles on the tree itself: A lot of brown needles indicate that the tree won’t last long. You can even give it a little shake to see how many needles will actually remain.
- Pick a tree in the shade: Direct sun is harmful to Christmas trees and shortens their lifespan. Keep this in mind and pick a tree that was kept in shade.
2. Trim the trunk
While gardener Neil Miller advises asking the tree seller to cut the trunk for you, Zhuk advises that you can also do this yourself at home. “Remove about one inch (2.5 cm) from the bottom of the trunk so that the tree can absorb enough moisture,” she suggests.
3. Keep your tree hydrated
“Put the tree into a container that holds no less than a gallon of water. Keep an eye on the water level in the container every day, as the bottom of the trunk is should be submerged all the time,” Zhuk explains.
While Will Kidger suggests that misting the tree regularly can help. “Some customers find spraying the tree with a plant mister helps too – basically, keep it in a cooler spot and keep it drinking and you’ll get the best out of it!” You could also try adding ice cubes to the tree’s water to help keep it cool.
4. Keep your Christmas tree cool
“Christmas trees last longer in a cold environment, so keep them away from radiators or other heat sources,” Zhuk explains.
“As soon as you start noticing that your Christmas tree is withering away, it’s time to remove it. Use the tree as mulch or compost it. You can even make an air freshener out of needles or add them to tea. Your local authorities may have some disposal options as well.”