How to Care For a Brown Christmas Tree

Christmas tree with small white lights
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‘Tis the season for shopping, baking, and DIY gifts. It’s also the time of year when you may be struggling to keep your tree looking lively for a few more days.

It seems like some years you’re ready to part ways before your tree shows any signs of aging. Other years your tree begins turning brown a week after to secure it into the stand.

There’s no magic cure when this happens, but there are a few things you can do to try to minimize the damage and slow the demise of your Christmas tree.

Keep the Water Coming

Water is the most important ingredient in the happy-tree equation.

As soon as you get your tree home, plop it into water and ensure it remains in several inches of water, checking it every day.

Some days it may chug a gallon of water and the next it may seem that it’s stopping taking nourishment altogether. Regardless, check your tree every day and refill as necessary.

hand watering christmas tree base with water

Recut the Base

A tree begins producing a protective coating over a cut area within hours of being cut down.

If you bought your tree off a lot several days after being cut down, or you got it home where it sat dehydrating in the driveway, it might be difficult to encourage it to drink more water.

If you haven’t yet put the tree in a stand, recut the base using a power or manual saw. You don’t have to remove a lot of wood. The goal is just to shave off the protective coating so it will absorb water.

If your tree is already decorated, it’s very inconvenient to recut the base. Obviously it requires removing many of the decorations in order to lay it down and make the cut.

But, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do if your tree refuses to drink.

person carrying Christmas tree with cut base

Add a Preservative

The use of preservatives for trees and plants is hotly debated. Some say it’s just a sales ploy while others swear by the effectiveness.

Preservatives are basically sugar along with something acidic, like vinegar or lemon juice.

To make your own Christmas tree preservative, mix together one gallon of water, two cups of corn syrup, and four teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice.

You can make your preservative ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator to add throughout the season.

Cut off the Dead Portions

There’s no reason to try to feed a dead horse, so if specific spots on your tree are brown and needleless, cut your losses.

The tree naturally tries to carry water and nutrients to all parts, healthy or unhealthy.

Cutting out dead branches helps the tree absorb nutrients more efficiently rather than working to nourish the dead bit.

If cutting away a portion or an entire branch leaves an awkward-looking hole, fill the gap with dangling ornaments, lights, candy canes, or ribbon.

gloved hands trimming greens with clippers

Move Away from Heat

Trees are accustomed to cold outdoor weather so it’s a bit of a shock for them to end up in a warm, cozy home.

When you place your tree, keep it away from windows in the path of hot sunlight (if you’re blessed with such a thing this time of year).

Also avoid placing your tree next to a fireplace, gas or wood stove, and wall heaters.

If you’re tree’s looking unhappy, move it away from these sources and mist the tree to keep it cool.

Also consider adding a humidifier to the room so the tree can draw moisture from the air.

Never Leave Lights on

Begin by selecting lights that stay cool. Lights that get hot to the touch will contribute to drying out the freshest of trees. A few weeks in and you’ve got a ready-made tinderbox.

Regardless of the current state of your tree, never leave lights on when you’re not home or after you go to bed.

While it might seem festive to delight passersby with your twinkling delight, a Christmas tree fire is about the least festive thing you can receive this season.

In the end, you may be band-aiding your brown Christmas tree together until the last gift has been opened, but with a bit of special care, you’ll make it there together.