How to water a Christmas tree – expert tips for cut and rooted trees

Aiming for fabulous festive foliage? You'll get it with this advice

A white metal watering can besides a real christmas tree indoors
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While opting for a real Christmas tree over a faux one always looks nicer, it certainly comes with maintenance, namely: watering. And watering a Christmas tree correctly is absolutely essential if you want to keep it looking its best throughout the season. 

Knowing how to care for a Christmas tree and getting its watering routine right, however, depends on the type of tree you've bought, and the base you have for it.

Either way, though, whether you have a cut Christmas tree or one that's potted with its roots, regular watering will help keep your Christmas tree alive and stop it dropping needles so that it maintains its wonderfully festive appeal through to the New Year.

Here, gardening experts have explained how to water a Christmas tree properly for a lasting Christmas centerpiece.  

How to water a Christmas tree

The type of real Christmas tree you have in your home will change how you water it, with cut trees and rooted trees requiring slightly different care. Luckily, it is easy to keep both alive.

Watering a cut Christmas tree

close up on a real Christmas tree with lilac baubles

(Image credit: Future)

If you have a cut Christmas tree (without no roots), then it is a good idea to trim an inch off the bottom of the trunk before you set it up, suggests Rachel Crow, garden editor at Homes & Gardens

'When setting up a freshly cut Christmas tree indoors, trim around one inch off of the base of the trunk using a panel saw before standing it, supported, in a bucket of water. This will allow the tree to soak up as much water as possible before being decorated. 'Trimming the trunk allows the tree to absorb more water – much like cut flowers in a vase,' Rachel explains. 

'Once your tree is in place and you have added your Christmas tree decor ideas then you should aim to water it every day,' she adds. While this may sound excessive, watering once a day with plain water will help to keep the tree looking fresh throughout the season and prolong its life. 

'Without its roots, your Christmas tree will start to deteriorate more quickly – this is, of course, not ideal if you want to put your tree up at the beginning of the month.

'Different-sized trees will require different amounts of water, with six-foot trees needing as much as a gallon of water a day,' Rachel explains. 'Simply monitor the water level in your tree stand to make sure that the water never goes below the bottom of the trunk.'

'Place in a tree stand that can hold water. If you don't have one, then use a bucket and wedge the tree in place with some stones,' gardening expert at Hayes Garden World (opens in new tab), Angela Slater reccomends. 'Keep the water topped up throughout the festive period; as soon as it gets dry, it will start to lose needles.'

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This Christmas Tree stand is equipped with a water level indicator that shows when to stop and when your tree needs more water.

Watering a potted Christmas tree with roots

A white metal watering can being used to water a real christmas tree indoors

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Once your potted Christmas tree has gotten used to being inside, watering is as simple as keeping the soil moist, but not soaking. Unlike with a cut Christmas tree, you will likely not have to water a potted tree every day to keep it happy, meaning a little less upkeep.

'Potted trees need to be watered regularly, but avoid overwatering by checking the moisture levels in the container every couple of days. To do this, use your finger to see if there is moisture a couple of inches into the soil,' suggests director of Easy Garden Irrigation (opens in new tab), Sean Lade. 'If the soil looks too wet, this can cause the roots to rot, and if the tree is too dry this will cause the needles to turn brown and drop.'

Do you put sugar in water for a Christmas tree?

It is not necessary to add sugar to the water for your Christmas tree. Adding sugar or any other preservative to water will not help the tree stay fresh any more than plain water – sugar water can actually cause more bad than good, preventing the proper absorption of plain water and causing the tree to drop its needles sooner. Plain tap water, or collected rainwater, is all you need. 

Should I spray my real Christmas tree with water?

You do not need to spray the needles of a real Christmas tree with water. This provides no benefit for the tree and can often be a hazard – especially if you have lights on your tree. Spraying water could damage decorations too. 

Chiana Dickson
Junior Writer

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.