Should I put my Christmas tree in water? The experts weigh in

Is keeping a Christmas tree in water the secret to keeping it looking fresh? We find out

Christmas tree by a window and pink sofa
(Image credit: Future)

If you've opted for a cut tree this Christmas, your main concern will be keeping it looking healthy and fresh throughout December by caring for your tree adequately. If you're wondering whether to put your Christmas tree in water, this is a valid question indeed.

With cut-varieties it's all about delaying the gradual degradation, and trying to maintain a lush green, fragrant spectacle for as long as possible.

But is putting your Christmas tree in water the way to offset this decline? The short answer is yes, and here's what the experts say on the right way to do it.

A tin watering can and pine boughs in a wheelbarrow.

Watering your tree as soon as possible is crucial

(Image credit: Kinzie Riehm / Alamy Stock Photo)

How should I put my Christmas tree in water to keep it looking fresh?

Putting your chosen Christmas tree variety in water is key to maintaining the health, and therefore, the appearance of your tree. 

These experts have shared the optimum ways to ensure yours gets all the hydration it needs.

Put it in water immediately

Close up of a freshly cut Christmas tree.

Choose a tree which has been cut as recently as possible

(Image credit: Anastasia Wilde / Alamy Stock Photo)

'Trees will drink a lot of water during the first few days in your home, and after that, the tree will level out and drink the water it needs to keep your Christmas tree alive,' says Greg Walsh, Christmas tree expert at Greg's Trees.

Therefore, put yours in water as soon as you get it home. The fresher the cut, the easier the tree will take up water. So when you choose a Christmas tree enquire as to how recently it was cut before you make your purchase.

If you are unsure on the date, Fern Berg, Plant & Gardening Expert at Tree Vitalize, recommends sawing a couple of inches off the base before putting it in water.

Gregory Walsh headshot
Greg Walsh

Greg Walsh has been in the tree business for over 30 years. Starting with a few friends, they brought their passion and love of Christmas to deliver beautiful Christmas trees to NYC.

Don't let the water run out

Gift boxes standing near a plastic Christmas tree stand with water reservoir

Water reservoir stands are easy ways to keep your trunk in contact with fresh water

(Image credit: Georgy Dzyura / Alamy Stock Photo)

'Cut trees last best when placed in a reservoir of water, so choose a tree stand that both anchors the tree and allows you to keep the tree hydrated,' says Fern Berg.

It's vital to keep your tree in water from the moment you bring a christmas tree home until the end of the festive period.

'It’s very important to not let the water dry out, because the tree protects itself when it’s not receiving nutrients by sealing itself and it may never open up to receive water again, which will fail to stop your Christmas tree from drooping,' explains Greg Walsh.

'Secure the tree in the stand and then add clean water to the reservoir up to the fill line. Check this reservoir daily and top up with fresh water to ensure the reservoir remains as full as possible,' says Greg. 

Shop tree stands with water reservoirs

Use warm water instead of cold

Real tree siting in a living room

Stand your tree in water away from drying heat sources

(Image credit: Chris Everard / Future)

'During my years as a florist, I learned that you should always water your Christmas tree with hot or warm water, as this will allow the tree to take up water faster and therefore stay better hydrated,' says Rachel Bull, Head of Gardens at Homes & Gardens.

'If you can, score some lines into the sawn off stump of the tree too, as this will also encourage better uptake into the trunk when you water a Christmas tree,' she says.

Rachel Bull head of gardens
Rachel Bull

Rachel is a gardening writer, flower grower and floral designer. Her journalism career began on Country Living magazine, sparking a love of container gardening and wild planting. After more than a decade writing for and editing a range of consumer, business and special interest titles, Rachel became editor of floral art magazine The Flower Arranger.

Don't add anything to the water

Real Christmas tree in a steel bucket with wrapped presents in front of it

Select a base for your tree which allows you to keep it in water at all times

(Image credit: Future)

'Some people will recommend using commercial tree preservatives, or DIY preparations such as sugar, cornstarch and bleach,' says Fern Berg.

'But research conducted by the forestry specialist, Jeffrey Owen, for North Carolina State University, concluded that these additives often aggravate needle loss and that plain, fresh water is the best option for your Christmas tree,' she says.

Fern berg headshot
Fern Berg

Fern is the founder of Tree Vitalize and has planted and currently cares for over 100 different native and exotic fruit, nut, and ornamental trees. She also cultivates an extensive vegetable garden, several flower gardens and cares for an ever-growing happy family of indoor plants.


How soon should I put my Christmas tree in water?

Putting your cut tree in water will increase its longevity and keep it looking lush throughout the festive period. In order for it to be really effective, it's important you submerge it without delay when you get it home. Continue to keep it in a stand with a water reservoir and don't allow the water to run out completely. 

Cut Christmas trees will last longer when they're placed in water. They should be kept freshly topped up with warm water to help them hydrate easier. 

We suggest that the quicker the tree is placed in water after its been cut, the better. Therefore selecting a freshly cut tree will help greatly when it comes to keeping your Christmas decor looking spectacular for longer.

Teresa Conway
Deputy Gardens Editor

Teresa was part of a team that launched Easy Gardens magazine two years ago and edited it for some time. Teresa has been a Gardens Editor at Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors and Living Etc magazine since 2020 and has developed close working relationships with top garden designers, and has been exposed to an array of rich garden content and expertise.