How long do Christmas trees last? Plus, experts reveal which tree to choose and how to keep it looking fresh

We asked the experts how long Christmas trees last and their advice on how to prolong its life during the festive season

man and daughter bringing in a Christmas tree to support expert advice answering how long do Christmas trees last?
(Image credit: Getty Images | 10'000 Hours)

Knowing how long Christmas trees last will help you select the right one and ensure it stays fresh and festive throughout the season. The festive period always comes around faster than we imagine it will and with a matter of months until we'll be putting up the tree, a bit of forward planning could help the whole thing run more smoothly. 

Most real Christmas trees only last around four to six weeks, but picking the best one - and avoiding the common pitfalls when it comes to keeping a Christmas tree alive can help it go the distance. 

We asked the experts for their tips on which types of Christmas trees last the longest, as well as Christmas tree decorating and upkeep mistakes to avoid this Christmas. And if it's difficult for you to get to a Christmas tree farm this year in person, take a look at how to buy a Christmas tree online once you've decided on the type you want. 

How long do real Christmas trees last?

mother and daughter decorating a Christmas tree

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you do choose a Christmas healthy tree the general consensus is that a Christmas tree will last for four to six weeks, which - if your tree goes up in December - should see you comfortably through the festive season. "Popular trees like a Nordmann Fir or Fraser Fir can last for five weeks if properly cared for," Neil Miller, head gardener at Hever Castle & Gardens tells us. "If picking your tree up from a farm, a good tip when doing so, as well as picking a healthy tree, is to ask the seller to cut the base again so that it’s a fresh cut, then keep it outside for as long as possible - you can pop it in water so it doesn’t dry out." 

How long a real Christmas tree will last varies greatly on a few factors, including how healthy the tree is when you buy it, the type of tree and how it is maintained within your home. Will Kidger, of Send Me A Christmas Tree, has been growing Christmas trees in Sussex for over 15 years, selling them both on farms in the south of England and online. He advises that the most important factor is to ensure you select your tree very carefully and look out for any signs that it could be unhealthy. 

He told us, "Whenever you decide to buy your tree, you want to make sure to pick a healthy Christmas tree, you can look out for any brown needles, and you should pick a tree that is in a shady location. Make sure to run your hand through the branches to feel if the needles are pliable and don’t fall off."

Which type of tree lasts the longest?

Christmas trees lined up

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are a few varieties of Christmas trees that will last longer than others, Christmas tree expert Will Kidger broke down the different types to us:

  • Nordmann Fir: The iconic Nordmann Fir is the best tree to opt for if you're looking for a long-lasting variety. "If you get a fresh cut 'low drop' variety, like the Nordman Fir it should last from the end of November through Christmas and into the New Year - about five weeks or so. They will inevitably dry out a bit though, so if you want to avoid any droop and have a fresh-looking tree on Christmas day, it's best if you can wait until December," Kidger explains. A Fraser Fir is another example of a 'low drop' variety of Christmas trees. Incidentally, Kate Middleton prefers a Nordamann Fir for all the reasons above.
  • Norway Spruce: A Norway Spruce is also a safe bet for a tree that will last well, but you might want to invest in it a little later in the festive season, according to Kidger. If you like a traditional tree like the Norway Spruce with a strong pine scent and bushy shape - you're best off waiting until at least the second week of December, because they do shed needles a bit more." They generally last for three weeks or so.

When should you put up your Christmas tree?

Traditionally, Christmas trees are put up at the beginning of Advent, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This year, it falls on Sunday 3 December 2023.  

Getting a Christmas tree is one of those magical moments where you get to have fun dressing up your tree for the holiday (take a look at how to decorate a Christmas tree like a professional and our guide to Christmas tree themes for more inspiration). 

The good news is that with proper care, most real Christmas trees should last for at least four weeks or more when taken care of properly. However, the earlier your Christmas tree goes up, the harder it is to keep it looking fresh for the big day. 

Gardener Neil Miller explains that while you may buy your Christmas tree earlier in the festive season, one tactic could actually be not to bring it indoors until the big day itself - which could add to the surprise for other family members, too. Though it in our opinion, it does seem a shame not to enjoy a decorated tree in the house throughout the festive season. 

He explains, "If you’re going for a cut tree this year then the best tip I can give you is to leave it outside for as long as you possibly can. If you are buying a tree with a root ball then the same rule applies - I know of people who leave them outside in their pot until Christmas Eve and only bring them in hours before Santa is due to arrive!" 

How to maintain your Christmas tree so it lives for longer

Caring for your Christmas tree isn't too dissimilar to keeping flowers fresh, Will Kidger explains, "A cut Christmas tree should be treated like a cut flower - if there's a nice fresh cut at the bottom it will continue to take up water, and that will keep it looking perkier for longer. Like with flowers, the main factor though is heat - putting your tree in a warm spot next to a radiator will make it dry out much more quickly, and you'll end up with droopy branches and more needle drops."

Some other expert-approved tips for how to keep a Christmas tree alive throughout the festive season include:

1. Choose the right tree

Tatyana Zhuk, a plant expert at NatureID explains, "Everyone wants to prolong the holiday season for as long as possible. The first step towards keeping your tree fresh for a long time is to pick a healthy one at your local Christmas tree market."

Zhuk advises:

  • Look at the ground: If there are very few needles surrounding a tree, this is a good sign.
  • Pay attention to the needles on the tree itself: A lot of brown needles indicate that the tree won’t last long. You can even give it a little shake to see how many needles will actually remain.
  • Pick a tree in the shade: Direct sun is harmful to Christmas trees and shortens their lifespan. Keep this in mind and pick a tree that was kept in the shade.

2. Trim the trunk

While gardener Neil Miller advises asking the tree seller to cut the trunk for you, Zhuk advises that you can also do this yourself at home. "Remove about one inch (2.5 cm) from the bottom of the trunk so that the tree can absorb enough moisture," she suggests.

w&h recommends: 

Pro Hand Saw, £13.49 at Amazon

Pro Hand Saw, <a href="" data-link-merchant="Amazon UK"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">£13.49 at Amazon

This affordable pro hand saw is designed for precise cutting including wood, plastic pipe, plywood and wallboard, so you can trim your tree at home. 

3. Keep your tree hydrated

"Put the tree into a container that holds no less than a gallon of water. Keep an eye on the water level in the container every day, as the bottom of the trunk should be submerged all the time," Zhuk explains. 

While Will Kidger suggests that misting the tree regularly can help. "Some customers find spraying the tree with a plant mister helps too - basically, keep it in a cooler spot and keep it drinking and you'll get the best out of it!" You could also try adding ice cubes to the tree's water to help keep it cool.

w&h recommends:

Eidoct Glass Plant Mister Spray Bottle, £7.75 at Amazon

Eidoct Glass Plant Mister Spray Bottle, <a href="" data-link-merchant="Amazon UK"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">£7.75 at Amazon

This stylish glass plant mister will keep your tree moist and be an aesthetically pleasing addition to your home. You'll get plenty of use out of it after the festive season, too - it's perfect for watering small house plants such as succulent plants, ferns, orchids and air plants, too. 

Quick Stand Christmas Tree Stand,£28.99 at Amazon

Quick Stand Christmas Tree Stand,<a href="" data-link-merchant="Amazon UK"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">£28.99 at Amazon

This sturdy tree stand holds trees up to 8ft tall and has a large, easy-fill water reservoir, which holds up to four litres. With no screws or bolts, it has a quick and safe push system.

4. Be mindful if you have a water softener

Gene Fitzgerald, home water treatment expert at BOS agrees hydration is really important, telling us, "Make sure you top up the water every other day and be sure not to let the base dry, or a seal can form, and it might not take up further water."

She also advises using bottled water if you have a water softener installed, as this can result in higher levels of sodium, which is a big no-no for the health of your tree. 

"Having a water softener at home means your water could be high in sodium, which is bad news for conifers and may cause your tree to drop needles faster," she explains. "You should consider using another water source or bottled water to top up your tree instead - but check the label for sodium levels!"

w&h recommends:

Automatic Christmas Tree Watering Device, £188.45 at Amazon

Automatic Christmas Tree Watering Device, <a href="" data-link-merchant="Amazon UK"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">£188.45 at Amazon

After a quick setup, this watering device means your Christmas tree will be continually hydrated throughout the season, with a sensor to ensure optimum water levels are met. You can pop bottled water in this device if preferable, too. 

5. Keep your Christmas tree cool

"Christmas trees last longer in a cold environment, so keep them away from radiators or other heat sources," Zhuk explains. "As soon as you start noticing that your Christmas tree is withering away, it’s time to remove it. Use the tree as mulch or compost it. You can even make pine needle tea. Your local authorities may have some disposal options as well."

Pine needle tea might sound strange, but it's a great way to extend the life of your tea and comes with multiple health benefits. This guide to how to make pine needle tea from the Durham Wildlife Trust explains this in more detail.

Lauren Hughes

Lauren is the former Deputy Digital Editor at woman&home and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. With a background in features journalism, Lauren worked on the woman&home brand for four years before going freelance. Before woman&home Lauren worked across a variety of women's lifestyle titles, including GoodTo, Woman's Own, and Woman magazine.