I had a spectacular Christmas tree one year that, unfortunately, dried out quickly. To prevent this from happening again, I went online to find Christmas tree preservative recipes that I could make. Also, we tend to travel during the school break, so I wanted to give it a little extra help in case the bowl goes dry while we’re gone.

There are quite a few interesting suggestions for Christmas tree preservatives that you may not have heard of. Most can be made with items that are already likely in your pantry.

But do you really need them? That’s a hotly debated topic. The National Association of Christmas Trees says water is best. What you try, though, is up to you.

Christmas Tree Preservative Ingredients and Recipes

The most popular homemade Christmas tree preservatives use common household ingredients. An effective recipe will have the following:

  • a food source.
  • a disinfectant (to prevent algae, etc.).
  • an acidifier to help plants absorb more water and food.

But you can customize your own recipe based on what you have at home and who might be tempted to get into the tree’s water dish.

Most Popular Christmas Tree Food Recipe

1 gallon of water
4 tsp Clorox bleach
2 cups Light Corn Syrup
4 tsp lemon juice or vinegar (optional)

You can store this mixture in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If you decide to add lemon juice or vinegar, add it to the water and not to the bleach directly because otherwise, you risk toxic fumes. In light of that, you may want to skip the lemon juice or vinegar altogether.

Christmas Tree Food Recipe with 7-Up

1 gallon of water
1 can of 7-UP (or equivalent) that isn’t diet
splash of bleach

Mix all ingredients together. Some people skip the bleach if they have pets who may be tempted to drink from the Christmas tree water bowl.

Christmas Tree Food Recipe With Sugar & a Penny!

1 gallon of water
4 tsp sugar dissolved in water
1 copper penny

Mix the water and sugar. Add a penny to the Christmas tree bowl and pour the mixture on top. Save any extra for later. The copper from the penny acts as a disinfectant.

The More “Interesting” Christmas Tree Preservative Recipes and Ideas

Here’s where I remind you to use these methods at your own risk.

1. Add vodka to the water. The myth is that the vodka will allow the water to spread throughout the tree faster. I’m not sure about you, but when I add vodka to myself, I tend to dehydrate. I actually overheard a tree lot staff member mention this as an option. Try at your own risk.

2. Add aspirin to the water. This allegedly promotes a better flow of water into the trunk. People claim this works.

3. Run a humidifier near the tree. Some people swear that the extra moisture promotes tree longevity, so if you have one that can cover a large area, try it.

Storage and Safety Tips

If you make more than you need, be sure to label the bottle so that no one accidentally drinks it.

Be mindful of pets and children. If you think they may be tempted to drink from or touch the water underneath the tree, skip the bleach. I don’t think it’s necessary. I would stick to 7-UP and water to keep the mixture nontoxic.

Also, why risk damaging nearby fabrics if you accidentally spill bleach?

How to Start with the Freshest Possible Christmas Tree

When at the lot, run a small tree branch through your fingers. The pine needles should feel soft, pliable, and not hard like they’re about to fall off. You can lift the tree a few inches off the ground and then release it (drop it) back on the ground to see if many needles fall off. Some interior shedding of a few brown needles is normal, but you don’t want a lot of needles, especially green ones, to fall off.

When Christmas trees are originally cut, the sap can ooze over the cut trunk, which seals pores that would otherwise absorb water and food. You’ll want to cut at least another two inches (some say half an inch is okay) off the bottom of the trunk again before taking it home and putting water in its bowl. The lot where we buy our Christmas trees does this automatically for us.

And finally, once the tree is in your home, ensure its water bowl is always full. Set a reminder if you have to. Trees drink water quickly, especially during the first day or two in your home. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy a fresh tree throughout the holiday season.

Leaving Your Christmas Tree to Go on Vacation

In addition to keeping the bowl filled with water and whatever preservative recipe you choose, there are a couple of other things to do. Ensure the tree isn’t near a heat source or vent that will blow hot air when you leave. Unplug the lights and decorations. And make sure any battery-operated decorations on the tree are turned off or removed.

If it’s toward the end of the season and the needles are starting to try out, it’s really best to take it down and get it out of the house before going on your trip.

Do you use Christmas tree preservatives?

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. Interesting finds. Aren’t all pennies copper? Funny though that it helps a preserve a tree. I wonder who figured that out.

    1. I know it’s a little late for a reply but pennies minted after 96 became mostly zinc with copper plating. Shouldn’t be too hard to find a penny somewhere minted before that anyhow.

  2. My grandpa adds aspirin to his flower vases…so I would guess that is good 🙂
    .-= Becca´s last blog ..Dinner Parties =-.

  3. Handy article . The penny is to add copper to the water which acts as a mild algae and bacteria inhibitor . However these days Pennies are only about 2 percent copper. The rest is zinc. The idea is to leave the penny in the tree stand dish. Great articles you have about the Christmas markets in Germany, where the custom of the tree originated.

  4. This year (2015-16) I used your “less common recipe”, in an old quart carton, and I kept the penny in the solution, refilling and re-measuring sugar as needed. Our tree has been robust! Thanks!

  5. I’m sorry, but you can’t ever forget to water the tree to the point where the tree butt is exposed to air for more than 30 minutes. No amount of preservative is going to help “fix” this mistake. As soon as the butt is exposed to air, the tree releases a sap that effectively seals the butt, thus preventing it from drinking water. If you want a long lasting tree, make a fresh cut and place in water within thirty minutes, and NEVER forget to water the tree!