When is the 'right' time to put up a real Christmas tree?

Have you bought a Christmas tree yet? [Photo: Getty]

With four weeks to go until the big day and the neighbour’s decorations already lighting up the street, when do put up the Christmas tree is something we’re currently debating.

During the Victorian era, families held off decorating until Christmas Eve. Now, most people tend to wait until 12 days before the festive season.

But, for some of us, the jolly season can’t come soon enough and the last week of November sees a number of enthusiasts shopping for the perfect pine.

So when can you really put up a Christmas tree and how can you make it last until the big day?

When should I put up the Christmas tree?

According to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) it’s perfectly fine to purchase your tree in the first week of December but bagging a fir in the middle of the season (approximately December 11) will ensure your fir lasts.

If you can’t wait that long, simple tips and tricks can help to keep the tree looking merry and bright until December 25.

“Christmas trees start to dry out as soon as they are cut,” John Schofield of Battersea Flower Station tells Yahoo UK. “The longer they stay outside in the cold the better they are. Cut trees that have never been inside can still look good way after Christmas!”


Rosalind Strickland from London-based landscape design and construction company, Shoots and Leaves, also emphasises the need to regularly water your fir in order to keep it looking its best for Christmas Day.

A properly maintained Christmas tree can last the Christmas season as long as it is looked after and doesn’t dry out,” she explains. “Treat the tree like a bunch of flowers by putting it in a stand that you can fill with water.”

How to look after a real Christmas tree

So you’ve decided to kick-start the festive season early but how can you ensure that the Christmas tree keeps hold of its baubles until the big day?

We get the lowdown from Ted Elson at The Palace Gardener in Fulham.

1. Remove a 1cm slice from the bottom of the tree

Firstly (and most importantly) remove a slice 1cm or so from the bottom of the tree. This allows the tree to take up the water you give it. Then, it is key to get the tree stood in a stand containing water within 30 minutes or so. After this duration, the tree reseals and will once again be unable to draw up water.

A main factor for customers to consider is if you’re getting the tree cut at the place of purchase, are you able to get the tree home and stood in water within this 30 minutes?

If not, it’s best to cut the tree at home. This way, you can be assured the tree’s unsealed capillaries are exposed and able to take any water you pour into the stand’s reservoir.

2. Purchase a tree stand

With a live tree, it is crucial to purchase a stand with a suitable water reservoir. This needs to be an appropriate size to accommodate your tree with the ability to hold a good quantity of water.

Correct size means your tree will be held firmly in place as well as stood in water. This prevents the tree drying out and thus needle drop!

3. Keep the Christmas tree away from heat

Make sure to keep the tree away from a heater or fire. Heat sources around the house dry out the air thus reducing humidity. The warm air can dry out the tree at a much faster rate – eventually resulting in an increased amount of needles dropped.

The best way to manage such inevitable issues is to keep the tree a suitable distance away from any heat sources and if you’re feeling brave, turn the heater off in that room.

4. Buy a garden mister

Buying a cheap garden mister can really help. A light mist twice a day will provide the tree with plenty of humidity and takes no more than a few seconds – particularly important if you fancy keeping the heating on.

To keep your Christmas tree looking its best, keep it well away from the radiator [Photo: Getty]
To keep your Christmas tree looking its best, keep it well away from the radiator [Photo: Getty]

Top tips on choosing the perfect Christmas tree

With a breadth of garden centres, farms and supermarkets offering a plethora of Christmas trees this winter, how do you make sure you bag the best of the bunch?

  • Look for lush, dark-green branches densely packed with needles.

  • Choose an even and symmetrical triangle shape which isn’t too wide at the bottom. Remember, trees are often placed in corners or against walls so you might not even see one side of the tree.

  • Look for a good tiered structure so your decorations have room to hang. If the branches are too densely packed the baubles may crash against the branches below. But don’t forget that you can always trim and shape your tree if you feel nature didn’t get it quite right.

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