This article is presented in partnership with Missouri Botanical Garden.

Choosing a fresh fir over a plastic pine for your Christmas tree has some definite perks. There’s the chance to make special memories cutting a tree down at a farm or carefully choosing the right one from a lot. And, of course, there’s the irreplaceable fresh evergreen smell that comes with a freshly cut tree.

Unlike their artificial counterparts, however, fresh trees require some basic botanical care to keep them looking their holiday best.

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening has a few tips on how to keep your tree in tip-top shape throughout the holiday season.

  • Whether you’re at a farm or a tree lot, be sure you choose a healthy tree. Run your hand through a branch. If a lot of needles fall off, pick a different tree.
  • Be sure you have a sturdy tree stand that will hold plenty of water.  
  • Get your tree into water as soon as possible. If you bought your tree from a lot, cut off a slice of the trunk one inch from the bottom to allow for faster initial water absorption.
  • Check the water level every day.
  • There are many myths circulating about what you can add to your tree’s water to reduce needle drop and prolong the life of your tree. Sugar, honey, molasses, lemon juice, aspirin, fertilizer, and commercially available tree preservatives have all been touted as cures for dried out, shedding Christmas trees. But in reality, there is no evidence that water additives will significantly increase the usable life of your tree compared to fresh water.
  • If you can, keep your tree in a cooler room. This will help keep it looking fresh and green longer. Do not place trees by radiators or warm air vents.

Unfortunately, no matter what, your tree will not last forever. When the needles begin to dry out and fall off in large numbers, it is time to recycle your tree. Many municipalities throughout Missouri offer Christmas tree recycling programs for residents. Check your local government’s website for information on how to recycle your tree. 

For more gardening insights, visit the Missouri Botanical Garden’s blog at