While there’s nothing wrong with opting for an artificial or alternative tree – especially if you’re looking for ways to make your Christmas celebrations a little more sustainable – for many people, the act of choosing a tree, having it wrapped up and lugging it home is an unmissable part of the festive season.
However, if you’ve already got your tree, or are planning on picking one up this weekend, you’ll need to take good care of it to ensure it stays looking happy and healthy until the 25 December.
The same also goes for people who opted for a potted tree – while a rooted tree is easier to look after than a cut one due to the fact that it’s sat in soil, it’ll still need some TLC to keep it going into the new year, when you can pop it back outside until next December.
With this in mind, we asked Marcus Eyles, horticultural director at Dobbies Garden Centres, to fill us in on the basics when it comes to looking after a real Christmas tree. From giving it enough water to choosing the right location in the home, here’s what he had to say.
1. Getting it ready
If you’re yet to pick up your Christmas tree, there are a number of things you can do before you start decorating to give it a better chance of staying alive throughout the festive season.
If you’ve got a cut tree, the first thing you should do is make sure it’s comfortable and getting plenty of water.
“Once you get home, take the tree out of the net as soon as possible,” Eyles recommends. “Then, remove a few inches from the base and stand in water.”
By cutting off the base, you ensure that the tree is able to maximise its water absorption – something that’s super important if you want your tree to stay healthy. Eyles also suggests giving the tree time to drop before you decorate it – 24 hours should be long enough.
If you’ve opted for a potted tree, you’ll want to give it time to acclimatise before you bring it inside, because sudden exposure to warmer temperatures can cause it to wake from dormancy and undergo a growth spurt – something that can damage the tree if you’re going to move it outside again.
To keep your potted tree healthy, store it in an unheated porch or garage for a day or two before you move it inside to give it time to adjust to a warmer environment, and try to limit the amount of time it spends inside – a maximum of 7-10 days is recommended.
2. Location, location, location
Certain areas of the house will be more hospitable to your tree, so try to think about where and how you’re displaying it.
Eyles explains: “Choosing a suitable Christmas tree stand will be important to help keep your tree looking its best. Opt for a stand with a water reservoir to prevent your tree from drying out and cover it with a Christmas tree skirt.”
When it comes to choosing a location, both cut and potted trees will appreciate a spot which isn’t too warm, to prevent them from drying out. Eyles also recommends keeping the room with your tree in cool when it’s not in use, to prevent any excess drying. You’ll also want to make sure your tree isn’t near any fire hazards, such as candles and hot lights.
Finally, if you find that your tree is too large for the area you want to put it in, it’s OK to give its branches a little trim.
“If you find that your tree is too wide for the space you planned it for, you can clip some of the larger branches lower down to make it fit,” Eyles says. “Save the cuttings, as these can make lovely decorations, in vases or as part of a homemade wreath.”
3. Keep it hydrated
Ensuring that your tree is getting enough water is essential if you want to keep it looking nice and healthy throughout December.
“Sawing off a couple of centimetres from the stump when you first get home will help the tree to take up more water and help it last longer,” Eyles explains. “Your tree will need approximately 1-2 litres a day, depending on the temperature of the room.”
Potted trees will likely need a lot less water than a cut tree – but it’s still important to keep an eye on their soil, especially if yours is positioned in a hot room.
“If you are bringing a pot-grown tree indoors, be mindful to keep the soil moist but not wet,” Eyles recommends.
This article was originally published in December 2020 and has since been updated throughout.