How To Prevent Christmas Tree Needle Drop Off

In Short there are two main ways to combat the Christmas tree "needle drop" problem;

  1. Use a few tips and tricks on a tree you have already have, to prevent the needles from dropping / falling off, see list below;
  2. Buy a Live Christmas tree that is more resilient to needle drop, types and names of trees are listed in this article

Tips and Tricks to Prevent "Needle Drop";

Fraser Fir Needles

Fraser Fir Christmas Tree Needles

  • The number 1 most absolute important thing you can do is to keep watering your tree! Do not let it dry out! Check twice a day!
  • Use distilled water in your tree stand or bucket. This water is better for the tree than tap water or well water, which may contain chemicals that speed up needle drop such as Chlorine and Fluoride. Remember to check twice a day and keep the container full. Average consumption is about a pint of water a day during the first week.
  • When buying your Christmas tree, choose carefully. Pick a tree that is locally grown (or the closest to your location), rather than one from far away. The tees may be freshly cut if from a local grower. Those trees that have traveled along way may have been cut days ago, and are already adding time to how long the tree will last anyway. See below on how to check for sure.
  • Check the trees needles before you buy, shake the tree manually or have it mechanically shaken at the vendor. If green needles come off easily then the tree has been cut quite a while ago and has lost most of its moisture and won’t last very long. The shaking of the tree also cleans it, by removing any insects, bug eggs or trash that might have gathered in the tree. Look at the base where it was cut, the lighter the color the fresher the tree.
  • Choose a type of live Christmas tree that has a longer needle retention time after cutting, see the list of resilient Christmas tree types and names for needle drop. Generally the Norway spruce has the quickest needle drop rate of all popular Christmas trees. Other popular Christmas trees such as the Noble fir, Nordmann fir, and Fraser fir have excellent needle retention and holding.
  • The main reason the Christmas tree needles drop is because the tree looses moisture internally and needles dry out, so avoid activities that excel the drying process. Such activities include;
    • Transporting the tree home from the store where it may get exposed to wind. The wind will dry out the tree quickly. Transport the tree inside a vehicle or enclosed trailer. If these are not available, then have the seller wrap the tree to protect it from the wind.
    • Keep the tree in a cool place with the trunk in water for as long as possible, until needed inside. Any kind of heat will speed up the moisture loss through the trees needles (Transpiration).
    • Avoid setting the tree up in a place where it receives a lot of direct sunlight, this will add heat to the tree internally, causing moisture loss. Lots of sunlight will also cause the tree to Photosynthesize more, this process uses water through Transpiration (Water evaporating through the trees needles).
    • Placing the tree near any other sources of heat such as fires, radiators, floor heat vents etc.
Nordmann Fir Needles, (Abies nordmanniana)

Nordmann Fir Christmas Tree needles

  • As soon as you get the tree home, cut off about an inch of wood off the trunk and put it in a bucket or your tree stand with water. This cutting action re-opens the tiny tubes (Xylem vessels) inside the wood that transport water throughout the tree, enabling the tree to keep somewhat artificially hydrated longer.
  • When you set up the tree in its final place, make sure it has a container that can hold at least half a gallon of water. Check it daily and keep it full. (Average consumption is about a pint of water a day during the first week.) Do not let the container dry out, otherwise the tree trunk will seal itself off from the air and stop absorbing any new water. If this does happen, then you will have to cut about 1 inch off the trunk to re-open the tubes inside the wood that transport water. This may be impossible if the tree is already decorated, so try drilling at least 3 holes that are at least half and inch to 1 inch deep into the wood that would be below the water line.
  • Buy Christmas tree needle spray, it can be used to help retain the needles longer. The spray covers the tree needles with a film which seals the surface and prevents the tree losing moisture through its needles (Transpiration). Follow the directions on the product as to when and how to apply, as they all different.
  • Do not remove any bark from the trunk above the cut. Any additional bark lost above the cut line will result in the tree trying to heal itself, using more water.
  • Avoid using warm or hot lights when decorating the tree. Generally these warm or hot Christmas tree lights are the old incandescent ones, buy and use the newer LED Christmas tree lights which hardly emit any heat at all.

Remember to water the tree every day, and keep the container full of water. This is the most important thing you can do to prevent needle drop!

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