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How to Set Up and Care For a Live Christmas Tree

Mid adult man in Santa hat carefully carrying Christmas tree through open doorway with daughter ahead of him
10'000 Hours / Getty

The products featured here are independently selected based on thorough research from our editorial team. If you buy something through links on our site, we may receive a commission.

A Christmas tree is the perfect centerpiece in any home’s Christmas decor. And there’s no denying the pleasant feeling (and smell) that a live Christmas tree brings to any home. The thought of bringing a live tree into your home may sound a bit complicated at first, but they’re actually very easy to care for and transport. 

Here’s how to safely get a live Christmas tree into your home and make sure it stays alive all throughout the holiday. 

What to do before getting your live Christmas tree

Before heading out to find your perfect Christmas tree, there are a few quick tasks to be taken care of that should make bringing your tree inside an easier process. 

  • Measure your space: Before deciding on what size Christmas tree you want, get a good floor-to-ceiling measurement so that you don’t accidentally get a tree that’s too tall.
  • Set up the tree stand: Go ahead and open the prongs on your tree stand and place it on the ground in the area of your home where the tree is going to go. You won’t want to be fumbling around with the tree stand while carrying a heavy tree inside.
  • Clear a path: Before you bring your tree inside, make sure the path between the door and the tree stand is clear of any potential tripping hazards or items that could be knocked over by a rogue tree branch.  
  • Get your materials ready: When you go to get your live Christmas tree, you’ll want to bring a tarp, some rope, and a safety flag with you to ensure everything goes smoothly during your tree’s transportation. 

Note: If you plan on transporting your Christmas tree in the bed of a pickup truck, rope may not be necessary. 

How to get a live Christmas tree into your home

1. Cut the stump

A tree’s stump becomes clogged with sap after it’s been cut at the tree farm, which limits the water intake of the tree and can make it dry out quicker. It’s important that you cut the end of the tree stump so that your tree can drink water properly. About a half-inch to one-inch cut should do the trick.

If you bought your tree from a retailer or tree farm, see if an attendant will cut the end off your tree’s stump for you. If no one is able to assist you, carefully slice the stump when you get home.

2. Wrap your tree 

Once you’ve picked out your tree, you’ll want to wrap it in a tarp (or thick blanket) to avoid damaging your car and the tree during the drive home. Most places selling live Christmas trees will net the tree for you, but it’s still recommended to wrap it in something else. Or you can simply place a tarp or blanket on the roof of your car to avoid any scratches on your car roof.   

Wrapping your tree will also make carrying it inside much easier. Plus, there won’t be a giant sappy mess to clean off the roof of your car.

3. Set the tree on the car roof

When you go to place your wrapped tree on top of your car (or the bed of a pickup truck), make sure you place it stump-side facing forward. Positioning your tree in this direction minimizes wind damage to the tree branches. 

4. Tie the tree to the car roof

If you have a roof rack on your car, you can use some rope to tie your tree through the roof rack. If your car doesn’t have a roof rack, open your car windows and run the rope through your car multiple times and tie it off securely. Also make sure to tie a safety flag to the end of your tree if it is longer than the length of your car.

Before driving off, try shaking the tree a little to see if it moves. If the tree moves, that means it’s not tied tightly enough.

5. Carry your tree inside your home

Once you get home, untie the tree from your car, leave it wrapped, and carefully carry it inside. Set the tree in your tree stand and have a helper close up the prongs to stabilize the tree. 

Lastly, remove the tarp and netting, fluff out the tree, and you’re all set to start your Christmas tree care. And get to the best part – decorating.   

6. Securing your tree

If you’re worried about a tipping tree or the prongs on the tree stand not being enough, there are a few creative ways you can secure your tree: 

  • Get a heavier tree stand. A metal tree stand would be ideal.
  • Tie the top of the tree to nearby curtain rods.
  • Tie the tree to nearby window sills.
  • Install a hook to the ceiling and tie the tip of the tree to the ceiling hook. 
  • Create a sturdy base by screwing the legs of your tree stand to a wood board.

Caring for a live Christmas tree is pretty simple and straightforward. It’s mainly making sure your tree doesn’t dry out, which could start a house fire. If properly maintained, your tree should last around 5-6 weeks. Here are a couple of tips for keeping a healthy Christmas tree.

How to care for your live Christmas tree

Check your tree’s water level

First, you’ll want to make sure your tree stand can hold at least a gallon of water. Water should always be covering the bottom two inches of your tree trunk, and the water level should be checked daily

Live Christmas trees tend to drink more water for the first week they are in your home, so you may want to check your tree’s water level twice a day just to be on the safe side. 

Just like most other plants, the best thing for your tree is water. Plain tap water will work just fine, so there’s no need for any other additives.  

Note: Remember that an unwatered or underwatered tree will quickly start to get dry and can greatly increase the chances of a Christmas tree fire happening.

Avoid placing your tree near heat sources

A dry tree is a dying tree. To avoid drying out your tree too early (or starting a potential home fire), keep your tree away from heat sources. Placing your tree next to the fireplace with a few candles may be aesthetically pleasing in pictures, but it’s actually one of the quickest ways to kill your tree and possibly start a house fire. Avoid placing your tree near heat sources and dry areas of your home at all costs.

Other ways to keep your tree healthy

  • Automatic Christmas tree waterer: If you’re worried about forgetting to water your tree or just don’t have time, you can also purchase an automatic tree waterer to help you out. 
  • Watering funnel: If you still want the experience of watering the tree yourself, but don’t want to crawl under the tree, consider grabbing a tree watering funnel
  • LED lights: LED lights produce less heat than other lights, making them less of a fire hazard. Plus, they use less energy too.
  • Smart plug: Set your lights on a timer or schedule with a smart plug to save energy and reduce the risk of a fire.

The bottom line

Now that you have your live Christmas tree in your home, it’s time to move on to the best part – decorating the tree. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to decorate all the areas around your Christmas tree too.

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