How to Actually Keep Your Real Christmas Tree Fresher, for Longer

 For many, the nostalgia of picking out the annual Christmas tree with loved ones and the aroma of fresh pine is a draw for real Christmas tree fans, year after year. Yet, when the pine needles start falling before Christmas has even arrived and you have the pesky task of vacuuming up all the needles, you might just start questioning your own sanity when agreeing to a real tree again this year. You may even swear off real trees forever, determined that a fake tree is the way to go.

We are here to tell you there is no need to take it that far. Thanks to a report in the journal Trees by some scientists in Canada, there are a couple solutions to keep the needles on your tree longer. Hopefully, throughout the whole holiday season.

The scientists figured out why the needles fall from the tree and it isn’t as simple as you may think. The needles fall out because of a plant hormone called ethylene that is released from the tree 10 days after it has been cut. Ethylene is the same hormone that plants release when it is time for their fruit to ripen. In fir trees, ethylene is produced after the tree is cut in order to signal that it is time for the tree to drop its needles. Within 40 days, the tree’s branches will be completely bare.

So how can you counteract the effects of ethylene? Researchers found two specific ways to do this in balsam fir trees––and no, it doesn’t involve bleach water or coating the tree with hairspray or any other mythical home remedy. The first way researchers found to extend the life of the tree needles is to block the ethylene receptors by coating the branches with 1-Methylcyclopropene gas (1-MPC). Researchers did this in a chamber where they kept tree branches with part of the branches sitting in buckets of water. Their experiment yielded a needle retention rate of 73 days, which is nearly a month longer than trees without any ethylene interventions. However, this is not for your average Joe. This method is more feasible for professionals in the horticulture industry that have access to 1-MPC on a regular basis. Perhaps if you are in the Christmas tree industry, this could help you extend the freshness of the products you have on your lot.

The second way researchers found to extend the life of the tree needles is to inhibit the production of ethylene all together. Researchers ran a test using amino-ethoxyvinylglycine (AVG) which they added to the water before sitting the tree branches in the water for an extended period of time. This method worked even better than the first, resulting in a needle retention rate of 87 days. And bonus, this method is more feasible for the average family that purchases a Christmas tree. AVG is relatively easy to administer as it can be added to the Christmas tree base and dissolves in water quite quickly.

This is news to celebrate! In the near future, you may be able to purchase AVG packets with your real Christmas tree, put it in the tree’s water when you get home, and voila - you get to enjoy two to three months of Christmas tree bliss before you start getting those pointy needles stuck in your foot.