Christmas Garden Myths

Myths About Christmas Tree Care

No need to add anything weird to Christmas tree water!
Ill.:, &, montage:

Yes, it’s that season again: the season when social media, radio shows and other electronic and print media drag out their list of myths about Christmas tree care. I was flipping through radio stations the other day and listened to one commentator claim the best way to keep a cut Christmas tree alive was to water it with lemonade! The things you hear on the radio these days… and Facebook is much worse!

So, here are just a few of the products that won’t help your tree last even one day longer:

  • Lemonade;
  • Seven-up, ginger ale or other soda pops;
  • Sugar water;
  • Dropping a penny or copper wire in the water;
  • Adding bleach to the water;
  • Vodka or other alcohols;
  • Commercial Christmas tree preservative;
  • Corn syrup;
  • Lemon juice;
  • Vinegar;
  • Aspirin;
  • Birth control pills;
  • Boiling water.

Nor is there any reason to drill a hole in the base of the trunk “to let more water in,” according to another theory. 

What Care Does Your Christmas Tree Need?

Actually, Christmas tree care is amazingly simple. Here’s all you need to do to keep your tree green as long as possible:

  1. Prefer a Fir
Fraser firs in a Christmas tree outlet
Fraser firs  (Abies fraseri) awaiting purchase. Photo:

Firs trees (Abies spp.) are generally the conifers that hold onto their needles the longest indoors, far longer than spruce or most pines. If you want your tree to last a full month, choose a fir. Have the salesperson point out one to you.

  1. Choose a Tree in Good Condition

Give the tree a good shake. If needles drop off by the hundreds, it’s already dehydrated and it will continue to decline once in your home. Or try twisting a stem around your finger. If it bends readily, all is well; if its snaps, choose another tree. 

  1. Cut or Recut the Base
End cut off of Christmas tree
Cut off a slice of trunk so the tree can better absorb water. Photo: Source:

Your Christmas tree was probably harvested weeks ago, even months, and has been lying in a pile awaiting distribution. During that time, its vascular system—through which it absorbs water and carries it to the needles—has probably become gummed up by dried resin. So, recut it—or have it recut, any Christmas tree merchant will offer that service—before you bring it indoors. Just cut off a thin slice from the base of the trunk: as little as ¼ inch (5 mm) is enough. That will remove the dried sap and allow it to drink again. Make sure you do this less than 4 hours before bringing the tree indoors.

  1. Keep It Well Watered
Watering Christmas tree, red stand
Never let the tree dry out. Photo: Home Depot

Once it’s indoors, put it into a tree stand with a water reservoir and fill it with water. Just plain water, straight from the tap, is fine. At any temperature … except boiling. Then add water regularly. The first day, if it was cut ages ago, your tree may well drink a gallon of water (4 liters), more than most Christmas tree stands can hold, so you may need to fill it more than once at first. Afterwards, it’s needs will decrease, but still, check daily and top up as necessary. And again, there is no need to add anything to the water you use.

  1. Keep It Away From Drying Air

Notably radiators. Or lighted fireplaces. Not only can they cause desiccation and shorten the useful life of your tree, but they’re a fire hazard.


And it’s that simple. With careful watering, you ought to be able to keep a fir tree in good shape for up to four weeks … until well after the holidays.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Myths About Christmas Tree Care

  1. Birth control pills?!

  2. Pingback: How to Tell a Fir From a Spruce – Laidback Gardener

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