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How to Keep Your Fresh Christmas Tree Green

Give me the real deal. Give me rough bark and pine needles, give me full and lush, and most importantly give me fragrant!  To me, that’s an authentic Christmas tree and the only kind worthy of my pretty baubles and some homely but well-loved ornaments collected over many years.

Picking out the best tree has been a long-time family tradition and one that kindles precious childhood memories of driving to the old family homestead in Maine where my father would cut down our chosen tree with a hacksaw. We’d load it onto my Flexible Flyer and haul it back across the snowy field to the car where it got tied to the roof for the four hour drive home to Massachusetts.    

That’s a lot of work! Luckily, full, fresh and fragrant fir trees are waiting for you at many Whole Foods Market® stores. You get the real deal, with a little less (okay, a lot less) effort. 

How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Green

Of course, a fresh Christmas tree requires some care make sure it stays fresh and green through the season. Here are some tips for keeping your tree safe, healthy and beautiful:

  • Give the tree a fresh cut, removing at least ¼” of trunk and put it in a large bucket outdoors to get its first big drink. The tree can drink upwards of a gallon of water in this first day. You can use this time to inspect the lights for worn cords or loose connections; cover the floor to protect it from water and the tree’s natural resins; assemble your decorations and maybe prepare a refreshing beverage for yourself. Imagine the aroma of mulled cider mingling with fir fragrance, perfect!
  • Choose a stand to fit your tree. Whittling down the outer bark will reduce the tree’s ability to drink water so choose a stand large enough for the trunk to pass through the upper ring.
  • Locate the tree away from heat sources such as heaters, fireplaces, heat vents and direct sunlight.
  • There is no need to add anything to the water. Fresh water is the key to keeping the tree hydrated and retaining its needles.
  • Check the water daily, especially if you have pets. If your little fur-face, like my dog Abby Gayle, enjoys sneaking sips from the tree’s water bowl, you’ll need to be extra sure to keep it topped off. If the tree accidentally runs out of water, it may dry out and shed its needles. The only way to get it to start drinking again is to give it a fresh cut. Trust me this is not a fun and easy task with the tree all decorated.

As a floral designer, I’m curious, how has your Christmas tree changed over the years? Do you keep bringing back those well-loved and well-worn ornaments or do you decorate a beautifully designed themed tree that speaks to who you are right now? Please share your tree stories in the comments below.

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Vicki Evans says …

Originally we had store bought only and every year we add a keepsake or 2. I have extended it to collecting ornaments wherever we travel to. This year we will add quite a few went out west for 17 days got one most if not every stop! Love adding them and memories each year at seeing old ones!

Irma says …

This request for comment brought a happy smile to my face, even though I am a little tired today. It brought to mind one Christmas that I thought we would have a beautiful decorator worthy Christmas tree. This was many years ago as you will be able to tell when you read my story. I purchased several dozen each or glass ornaments in Peach in a pale Williamsburg Blue. Also, I found 3 inch raffia ribbon in both colors which I used to make beautiful bows. Then I purchased many dozens of 6 inch crystal icicles to hang over all the tree. We purchased a beautiful huge Blue Spruce and went about decorating my dream tree. Well, you guessed it-nobody was happy with that tree. The following year, as every year prior to that one, the old ornaments went on the tree and they have been on our tree ever since. My children were young then. Those ornaments include every little ornament that has joined our family in almost 50 years of marriage.including little brass ornaments that my daughter received from her daycare center and ornaments our son and daughter received from friends, boyfriends and girlfriends from childhood through young adulthood. They are both now grown up professionals, with their own homes and lives but the tree at our home still holds those same ornaments and it is still a live tree-that is our family Christmas. The trees at their homes--I'll bet you can guess how they are decorated!

jackie bush says …

Do you have fresh garlands?

Roni Kalyk says …

Christmas is all about traditions at our house, so each year the tree is dressed as it has been in years past. True, additions are made, but most of the ornaments are part of our family's holidays gone by.

Charmaine says …

Hi. This article was helpful. I have a question on caring for live wreaths. We went to a tree farm and bought a wreath, but are now concerned it may dry out before Christmas. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance. Happy Holidays.

Mary Marin says …

We've been collecting one of a kind, mostly hand made ornaments for years. Many have been gifts from loved ones. Each year, when we decorate the tree and when we take the ornaments off, I always say a special "hello" to the person who made or gave us the ornaments. This year, when my husband heard me doing that, he said, "It's a prayer tree. You are praying for all those special people." It's true. Many of them are no longer with us, or have moved, or are ill. We remember them in our hearts at this special time.

Diane Cunningham says …

I have collected Christmas ornaments for a number of years and continue to enjoy pulling them out as they remind me of my daughter and the Christmas's we have shared as well as family and friends. I find that it is an expression of who I was and who I am now...not much has changed when it comes to Christmas, I still have a young heart!

cathi says …

Do you have recommendations for keeping other fresh greenery looking fresh? (specifically, wreaths!) Thank you!

Eileen Wildey says …

I have been using the same ornaments since I got married (28 years)- every year, we buy a new ornament for both of my children and when they "leave the nest" they can take those ornaments with them to place on their own trees. Both of my kids look forward to their new ornaments every year. Of course, when they leave, our tree will need all new ornaments - a new chapter in our lives.

Erin Y. says …

I'm looking forward to Christmas this year and I want to have a fresh-cut tree! It's our first year in Davis so it's special...will you be carrying trees this year?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ERIN - Most of our stores will have Christmas trees for sale probably towards the end/beginning of December. The timing will vary between locations so you can check with the Davis store directly to find out when they expect them!

Ann says …

I love to bring back the old ornaments every year. I do ornaments every year, but I have many from when my husband and I were first married, and from when each child was born, and a special each ornament each year as they were grown.

Carol Puzz says …

Can you tell us if the trees are "green"? In other words, were pesticides used to grow them and if so, which ones?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CAROL - The trees we sell must meet our quality standards. Our tree vendors will vary between locations so check with your local store for more details.