Q: I am going on vacation the week before Christmas, and will be returning home on the big day. I traditionally decorate a real tree for the holidays, but this year, I'm worried it won't survive while I'm away. Is it best to simply not bother? I don't want to come home to a load of dead needles!
A: A faux tree is your safest bet if you want to return to a pristine display – and nowadays, many look just as good as the real thing. However, the charm of a fragrant, natural tree is difficult to beat. And while they generally require frequent watering, there are some tricks to help them survive a week or so of neglect.
3 tips for keeping your Christmas tree hydrated while you're away
'Not only do dried-out Christmas trees ruin the holiday magic, but they can also cause house fires,' warns Mallory Micetich, a homes expert from Angi. So, if you're going away, the Christmas decor tips below are essential.
Mallory Micetich is a home expert at Angi, with particular expertise in small-home living, sustainability, and consumer protection. While currently renting in Austin, TX, she has been a homeowner, investor, landlord and renter over the last decade. She is committed to minimizing her environmental footprint and to small-home living, having lived in only properties of 1,200 square feet or less.
1. Get the timing right
'Christmas trees need daily watering during their first week in your home,' Mallory says. After that, you'll only need to water your tree about once a week. So, if possible, she suggests getting your tree at least a week before your vacation. 'This will allow you to be there to water the tree during the critical early stages.'
Alternatively, you could consider only bringing your tree indoors once you return from your travels. In the meantime, leaving it in your backyard will help it stay looking fresh for longer.
If it's a cut tree, cut about two inches off, straight across the bottom, using a saw, recommends gardening expert Sean Lade of Easy Garden Irrigation. Then, stand the tree in a bucket of water to absorb. 'Like freshly cut flowers, cutting the trunk allows it to absorb more water and will help extend its life.'
2. Give it a good water before you go
If you've brought a cut tree and are decorating it indoors before you go away, putting it in water is essential for extending its longevity.
'Choose a sturdy tree stand with a large water reservoir to provide enough moisture to last your entire trip,' says Autumn Hilliard-Knapp of Perfect Plants Nursery. Make sure it is full before you leave, and then top it up as soon as you return home.
This tree stand from Amazon is a popular choice.
Autumn is a horticulture specialist and marketing professional at Perfect Plants Nursery. With four years of experience in the horticulture industry, she has developed a passion for helping people create beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy. Her expertise in horticulture encompasses a broad range of activities, including plant care and selection, landscape design, and maintenance.
3. Consider an easy irrigation system
Some Christmas trees are sold in containers with their roots still attached. These usually require a little less maintenance than cut trees, but they can quickly start to suffer if the soil dries out.
Water the soil before you leave, but don't be tempted to over-saturate it, which could cause root rot. Then, you can install a few watering orbs to keep it hydrated while you're away.
These colorful glass orbs from Amazon are a good example. All you need to do is fill them with water and then stick them securely into the soil, where they will slowly drain as the soil dries. I have used these to water my houseplants while away and have been very impressed with the results.
There are also dedicated Christmas tree watering systems available to buy. An example is this 2.5-gallon watering device from Amazon, which is designed to be paired with a cut Christmas tree in a stand.
Top tip: For potted trees, you could also create a DIY drip irrigation system using plastic bottles.
What else can you do to help your Christmas tree last longer?
For cut trees, you can buy preservatives that help reduce needle drop and encourage the uptake of more water, notes plant expert Autumn Hilliard-Knapp, of Perfect Plants Nursery. Try Perfect Plant Nursery's Christmas tree saver, which should be added to the stand.
It's also a good idea to reduce the temperature in your home while you're away, if possible. Just like with houseplants, central heating can encourage your tree to dry out quicker.
Which types of Christmas trees last the longest?
When choosing your Christmas tree, pick one that looks healthy and vibrant, with glossy, intact needles. Nordmann firs and fraser firs are popular choices for their longevity.
Love decorating with fresh foliage and Christmas plants? You may need to know how to care for Christmas cactuses, poinsettias, and amaryllis too, to keep your display looking its very best this season.
Sign up to the Homes & Gardens newsletter
Decor Ideas. Project Inspiration. Expert Advice. Delivered to your inbox.
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for Gardeningetc.com for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.
Shea McGee's pantry remodel proves that dark colors are the stylish way forward for small, light-lacking spaces
The newly decorated pantry of interior designer Shea McGee is an endlessly cozy, moody space that shows how effective dark hues can be in small rooms that lack natural light
By Emily Moorman Published
How to clean brass with household ingredients – 5 expert-approved methods
The gentle and convenient approach of using household ingredients to clean brass ensures you have the tools to restore brass properly on hand at all times
By Lola Houlton Published