Does sugar water help revive a Christmas tree? Plant experts have this warning

Advocates say sugar water will pep up a drooping Christmas tree; others warn against it. We settle the debate

Christmas tree in living room
(Image credit: John Lewis)

You can't beat real Christmas trees for festive decorating, but just a week or two after they have been cut, they can start to droop. 

While you'll see plenty of social media 'hacks' that suggest using a sugar water mix to revitalize a Christmas tree's natural sap, plant experts explain that this not only doesn't work, but could even kill your Christmas tree more quickly. 

'Christmas tree care is not something that needs to be overcomplicated,' says Rachel Crow, garden editor for Homes & Gardens. 'That is one thing many experts agree on and adding sugar, while done in good faith, could just be causing your tree more grief.'

Does sugar water help revive a drooping Christmas tree? 

A silver teaspoon full of sugar

(Image credit: Alamy)

'More often than not, all a Christmas tree needs is plain tap water, or rainwater if you collect it at home,' Rachel explains. 'Sugar water has become an online phenomenon, suggested by some houseplant owners who believe that the sugary liquid can help replace the plant's natural sap and sugars – the evidence suggests that it does the exact opposite.

'Sugars found in a plant are very different to the processed sugars we use in coffee or for baking,' she continues. 'These can block the roots of potted trees or act as a seal on the base of cut trees preventing proper water absorption.' 

close up on a real Christmas tree with lilac baubles

(Image credit: Future)

Instead, Rachel explains, simply learning how to water a Christmas tree properly is the best route to perking it up.  

For many Christmas trees, a good drink is enough to help them pick up a little for Christmas Day. But you should bear in mind that the average Christmas tree can absorb up to one gallon of water per day, depending on its size and how warm your home is. The warmer the space, the more water your tree will need to stay looking fresh. 

'How you water your tree will depend on the kind of stand you have but if yours has a reservoir then make sure the water is just above the base of the trunk at all times,' says Jade Robertson of Prestige Flowers. 'If your tree dries out it won’t last as long and the needles will start to drop.'

The best option? Buy a Christmas tree reservoir (like this one from Amazon) which will indicate when yours needs a top up.

Country home with large christmas tree, woven skirt, foliage on windowsill, wooden console table

(Image credit: Simon Brown Photography)

Besides underwatering, there are a few variables that will affect how long a tree survives in your home.

'Ideally, you should keep your tree away from heat sources that could dry out your tree,' explains Jade. 'If your windows get a lot of sunlight then you should avoid placing your yuletide evergreen in front of them. You should also avoid putting a tree in front of a radiator or anywhere else where it might be damaged by heat. If your tree gets too dry it will significantly reduce its lifespan,' she warns.

If you have a potted tree, it may begin drooping if you have brought it inside too quickly. 'If you are bringing a living tree inside it is a good idea to slowly acclimatize it to the warmer inside temperatures before decorating,' says Rachel Crow. 'Bring it into a garage or conservatory for a week or so before moving it to its final place for the holiday.' 

If you have aced your tree care and are still not sure why your tree is drooping, it could be that your Christmas ornaments are too heavy for the branches of your tree. Try removing or rearranging your ornaments and see if the tree begins to pick up after a few days. 'Consider checking where the branches meet the trunk to see if they have been damaged or snapped,' suggest Rachel. 

Does sugar or aspirin work for a Christmas tree?

Sugar or aspirin does not work to revive a Christmas tree. Neither does bleach, soda or corn syrup, all of which you will hear success stories about. Instead, plain water is the best option for reviving a drooping Christmas tree. 

How do you revive a dying Christmas tree?

If your cut Christmas tree is beginning to die then there may be very little you can do to revive it. If watering the tree has not helped to rejuvenate the drooping branches then your tree may be at the end of its life as a cut tree with no roots will struggle to take in nutrients.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.