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How to set up your Christmas tree

Follow these step-by-step tips to care for and display your tree.

Sarah Mitroff Managing Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
Expertise Tech, Health, Lifestyle
Sarah Mitroff
3 min read
Angela Lang/CNET

Real Christmas trees are a holiday staple. But unlike an artificial tree that you simply pull out of a box, you'll need to do some prep to make your real tree last until the end of the holidays.

Before you run out to get your tree, read up on the important steps you'll need to take once you get it home.

Watch this: We ordered an Amazon Christmas tree!

Make sure the cut is fresh

The most important step in setting up your Christmas tree is making sure the end of the tree's trunk is freshly cut.

That's because once the tree is cut down from its roots, the cut end will start closing up in a matter of hours, preventing the tree from soaking up water once it's sitting in your tree stand. If it can't take up water, it will become dry and brittle and quickly become a serious fire hazard in your home.


The tree needs a fresh cut on the bottom so that it will soak up water and stay fresh.

Angela Lang/CNET

If you're picking out your tree from a lot or farm, make sure you get at least an inch cut off the bottom. Most lots and farms will do this anyway, but if they don't, you're going to need to make the fresh cut yourself.

Soak the tree overnight

When you bring your tree home, don't bring it inside right away.

First, soak the cut end of the tree in a large bucket of water overnight. The tree will soak up as much water as it needs, which will keep it fresher longer.

Shake it off

The next morning, cut off the twine or netting that's holding in the branches and shake out any loose needles, dead branches or stowaway insects. You can also hose down your tree to add more moisture and get rid of dead needles.

Let it dry before bringing it inside.

Unboxing the first Amazon Christmas tree

See all photos

Find a suitable place

Your Christmas tree might look beautiful near the fireplace, but don't put it there.

It's important to keep your tree away from any sources of heat, including fireplaces, furnace vents, direct sunlight or candles, which will just dry out the branches and create a risk of fire.

Secure the tree in the stand

A stable tree stand that can hold at least a gallon of water will ensure your tree stays well hydrated and won't fall over in the middle of the night, breaking your precious fragile ornaments.

I'm not saying you have to spend big bucks on a fancy tree stand, but a solid, sturdy model will last you years and years.

Slide the trunk into the stand and then tighten the screws so it holds your tree in place.

Let the tree relax before trimming

Once set up, your tree's branches will continue to relax and fall into their final place. Let the branches unfurl completely before you start decorating. This helps ensure your ornaments won't sag over time.

Use a smart plug

Never again should you have to reach behind your tree to unplug the lights. Instead, plug them into a smart plug -- like the Amazon Smart plug or TP-Link Casa plug -- and then use your phone or voice to turn the lights on and off.

How often should you be watering your Christmas tree? More than you think.

We ordered a Christmas tree from Amazon! Here's what it was link.