How to Care for a Real Christmas Tree - Squire's Garden Centres

How to Care for a Real Christmas Tree

This Christmas, if you’ve chosen to decorate your home with a real Christmas tree there are a few things you can do to care for and keep the tree as healthy and vibrant as possible throughout the festivities. Unlike an artificial tree, a real tree is a living thing, so it requires care when in use and some thought even before purchasing. Otherwise, it might not look as fresh as it could throughout the festive season, or even die, and you do not want Christmas 2022 to be remembered as the one where “we had that dead Christmas tree”. You’ll never live it down and it will be mentioned every Christmas thereafter.

So, read our guide, and learn how to properly care for your real Christmas tree so that will never happen! It’s relatively straightforward, only requiring a bit of forethought, and a small amount of your time when the tree is up, so give it a go this Christmas and we’re sure you’ll never go back!

How to Care for a Real Christmas Tree

Consider the Right Space

The whole process begins by considering the space in your home where the tree will sit. Consider the available width and height, measure it, and keep a note for when you go to purchase the tree. The spot should also be away from heat sources like radiators or fires, and close to a plug socket since you will naturally be putting lights on the tree. Don’t pick a tree that’s too tall because even though you can cut the base, you may also be forced to cut some of the lower branches to make it work and fit into a mount, and this in turn could ruin the lovely shape of the tree.

Choose the Right Tree

The whole process begins by choosing the right Christmas tree for you. When visiting the retailer for your tree, they are usually open to view. If in netting already, it will be a bit harder to inspect the tree itself but try asking the retailer to open it up for inspection. Look for any broken branches, or any bare areas. Look at the shape of the tree, is it a nice, typical cone shape or a bit misshapen? Is there any damage to the main stem? Check the needles are flexible and green. Tough needles which snap when bent are a sign of a half-dead tree. Remember your measurements too!

At this point, you may wish to consider also a “cut” tree vs a “pot grown tree” depending on your goals after the Christmas period. A pot grown tree can be moved more easily, doesn’t need cutting, and can even be potentially saved for the following Christmas. A cut tree has had its roots cut, so it will inevitably die off. You can read our later sections on “Disposal” for more insight to help your choice. When you’ve found a tree that passes all the checks, purchase and transport it home carefully. Avoid using heating in the vehicle as this can stress it out and don’t lean anything on it either.

Upon Arrival Home

Carefully take the tree out and unwrap it from the netting to prevent any moulds or fungus growth among the damp branches. Keep it in a cool dry place away from wind and direct sunlight. Now is a good time to water it to avoid dehydration. If in a pot, simply water the base and soil outside, or place something underneath to catch the runoff. If already cut, place it in a bucket of water while you are busy preparing to transfer to a stand/mount. If it has been pre-cut for a while the tree may have developed a sap layer which would prevent it from absorbing water. If so, simply trim up about half an inch to get rid of this layer and the tree will be able to absorb water again, keeping it fresh throughout the festivities.

Mounting Properly with a Good Stand/Mount

Mounting is only really for real Christmas trees that are cut. If in a pot, the job is easy: simply put it in its spot! For cut Christmas trees, lots of water is crucial to keeping your tree alive throughout the festive season. We recommend picking a sturdy stand or mount that can also hold a reservoir of water because we can’t stress enough how much your Christmas tree needs to be always kept in water! Cut trees are very thirsty – approximately half of its weight will be water – so make sure the trunk is submerged to keep it looking vibrant.

Regular Care Tasks

Your real Christmas tree comes with some ongoing tasks to maintain the health of the tree. Here’s what they are:


Your tree if cut will require watering every day. Doing this will keep it looking vibrant and lush, with good, healthy needles. A real Christmas tree if dehydrated will start to drop and wilt very quickly. A cut tree can drink 1 to 3 litres per day depending on its size and the ambient heat of the room. Another watering tip, if it starts to smell or the reservoir looks a bit gunky, replace the water entirely. It’s not necessarily bad, but you don’t want an unpleasant smell to permeate your home. The tree can’t be out of water for long so ensure this is done swiftly. If your tree is pot grown, make sure you check the soil every day and when the top two inches are dry, it should be OK to water. Better yet, buy yourself one of those moisture level measurement tools to help. 

Check for Sap Leakage

Occasionally check for sap leakage. Sap is extremely sticky and can find its way onto your floor and furnishings. The sooner they are found the better. It is a nightmare to get out of fabrics!

Collect Needles

Even a healthy tree will drop some needles. Though a healthier tree will drop far fewer. Use a dustpan and brush or vacuum cleaner. Watch out for any needles accumulating in the reservoir or pot. The needles can be hazardous for children and pets.

When it Comes to Disposal

A real Christmas tree, being alive, will naturally have a life cycle. Whether it is cut, or pot grown, you still have some options to make use of the tree after Christmas has passed. Read our ideas below, you might find them surprising:

Disposal if Your Tree is Cut

If your real Christmas tree is cut at the base whether at the retailer or when you get it home, it will inevitably die and must be disposed of. Sorry. However, there are various options you can take at this point. You can take it to a household waste centre or see if your local council will collect.  

This is easy enough. Or better still, chop it up and use it as a shelter for wildlife somewhere in the garden! The wood and foliage will eventually break down forming a compost that you can use elsewhere. Another option is to leave the tree whole and use it as a birdfeeder/habitat for birds. Prop it up somewhere, tie some cranberry and oranges, some other berries too, even hang a bird feeder packed with seeds too. Before long you’ll see you have attracted some robins, finches, and tits among others to the garden!

Disposal if Your Tree is Pot Grown

If your real Christmas tree was grown and purchased in a pot, it can be kept! The tree can simply be placed upon arrival home, then when Christmas is over be transplanted into your garden or re-potted into a larger pot. This will be necessary to give the root ball sufficient space to expand and grow, otherwise, the roots could become rootbound in the pot, and this could effectively strangle the tree. If successful, your tree will survive until next Christmas then you can bring it indoors again for the festivities. Great, isn’t it?!

That’s How to Care for your Real Christmas Tree

Most real Christmas sold in the UK are UK-grown. So, when you buy a real Christmas tree from a garden centre or nursery, you’re probably supporting a UK-based grower. Most of our real Christmas trees come from the North of Scotland.

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