Garden Myths - Learn the truth about gardening

Christmas Tree Water

There is nothing quite like a real Christmas tree. But the cut tree slowly dries out and we want to preserve them as long as possible. Lots of additives have been suggested to keep your tree fresh including commercial tree preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin, honey and fertilizer. Which of these work the best?

Christmas tree water

Christmas tree water

Christmas Tree Water

The short answer is that none of these products work. Testing has shown that none of these additives work better than just plain old water. Each of the references below will confirm that fact.

There are things you can do to keep a tree fresh longer.

1) Make a fresh cut just before you put the tree in its stand. An old cut seals the pores in the wood and the tree stops sucking up water. A fresh cut fixes the problem.

2) Do not cut any of the bark off to make it fit the stand. The xylem, which is the part of the tree that is responsible for sucking up water, is located just below the bark. If you damage it, or remove it, the tree can’t get any water.

3) Don’t let the tree dry out. If it does, the cut at the bottom of the tree will seal off the xylem and prevent water from being sucked up.

4) Keep the tree away from fire places, heat vents and other warm areas.

The new products being sold to keep your Christmas tree fresh are a waste of money. Don’t be duped by the advertising.

 Christmas Tree Fire

This video will show why it is so important to keep your tree hydrated.


Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh

When you try to keep cut flowers fresh it is recommended that you add a preservative to the water. Why is there a difference between trees and flowers?

Linda Chalker-Scott explains it this way.  “Flowers produce callose, which is a gummy carbohydrate that plugs up cut edges and reduces water uptake. Adding acidic materials to the water keeps callose from sealing off the xylem. Woody plants, like Christmas trees, don’t produce callose.” So the xylem in trees stays open as long as the cut does not dry out.

Keep adding a preservative to your flowers, but don’t add anything to keep Christmas trees fresh.

Potted Christmas Tree

Is a potted Christmas tree a good idea?

It sounds like a great idea. Instead of killing a tree just for a nice Christmas, you can plant it in your garden after Christmas and enjoy it for many years. The problem is that evergreens need a cool period during the winter to grow properly and they don’t like to come into your warm home for 6 weeks. If you’re willing to have the tree in your home for only 2 weeks and you have a place to plant it in spring, buying a potted Christmas tree is a good option. For more information on this see reference 3.


1) National Christmas Tree Association:

2) Additives to Water for Christmas Trees – Miracle-Gro:

3) Growing a Greener Christmas Tree:

4) Photo Source: Eat Read Sleep

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Robert Pavlis
Editor of
I live in southern Ontario, Canada, zone 5 and have been gardening a long time. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

I hope you find Garden Myths an educational site that helps you understand your garden better.

5 Responses to 'Christmas Tree Water'

  1. Chris keith says:

    Thank you, I found this site super helpful as a mechanic the only reason I have green thumbs is because of oil and grease. So to come across a page that doesn’t try to cram a bunch of adds down your throat is just perfect. Thank you again, and may you enjoy your holidays.

  2. Mike Glinzak says:

    Citric acid being a primary ingredient seems plausible. The US MSDS (material data safety sheet) shows the Miracle Gro Xmas Tree as having a pH of 2.5, fairly acidic.

  3. Master Intrepid says:

    Pretty sure there lawyers checked for loop holes so they wouldn’t have to list ingredients as it is probable something simple and a lucrative way to make money.

  4. All of these are from the category of ‘feel good products’. A sort of emotional blackmail – to make you feel bad buying a Christmas tree without its ‘life preserving’ little packet.
    Last time I’ve seen such a packet it didn’t even say what are the substances contained, which is a bit surprising considering that children or pets could come in contact with the water from the tree stand.

    • I tried to find the ingredients but couldn’t. Someone on Garden Professors said that is usually citric acid (ie lemon juice). If that is true it might be why they don’t need to list the ingredients–it is considered completely safe. The other reason they don’t list ingredients is that there are virtually no regulations for horticultural products.