Hairspray? Vodka? Adding corn syrup to the water? Find out whether or not these methods will really keep your Christmas tree alive longer.

By Alexandra Churchill
Roland Bello

There's nothing like a real Christmas tree to make for a beautiful holiday tradition. And according to the National Christmas Tree Association, 27.4 million real Christmas trees were purchased off the farm lot for the holiday season in recent years, which is still more than the faux alternatives purchased (21.1 million). However, keeping your real tree fresh during the holiday season requires some persistent care (and a good solid base).

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Putting the Tree in Water as Soon as Possible

Remember: You're bringing home a live plant. If you want to keep it fresh, it needs to have adequate water. "Water is the absolute most important thing you can do to preserve your tree for Christmas," says Jane Neubauer, co-owner of Sugar Pines Farm in Chesterland, Ohio. "Get a tree stand with a built-in reservoir and check it regularly. People don't always realize how much water their Christmas trees will drink up. You'll need to replenish the water regularly." You can buy additives to help water absorption and kill bacteria, but they aren't as necessary as keeping the tree well-watered.

Trimming the Trunk

When trees are first cut, sap rushes to close the wound and will seal the bottom. "When that happens, the tree isn't as able to absorb water," Neubauer says. "Add a fresh cut at the bottom right before you place it in water, and try to put up your Christmas tree the same day you bring it home." Using a saw, trim half an inch off the trunk before placing it in water in a reservoir stand. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, you'll want to make the cut at a perpendicular to the axis of the stem and avoid cutting the trunk at an angle or in a V-shape because it will make it harder to keep the tree upright in the stand. If you have to store the tree for a few days, Neubauer advises keeping the tree in a cool place with water.

Watering Daily (and Trying Additives)

Check the stand daily for water levels-as a general rule, you should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Despite popular belief, drilling a hole in the bottom of the trunk and the water temperature does not affect the longevity or water retention of the tree. There is some debate among experts as to whether additives such as corn syrup, aspirin, and sugar, are necessary. While they aren't likely to harm the tree, a recent study affirmed that they weren't more effective than clean water. That isn't to say you should avoid experimenting.

Spritzing Hairspray

According to findings published in the Australian Journal of Botany, researchers sprayed one with hairspray because it blocks the stomata, which comprise of small respiratory holes on the needles. A second tree was "watered" with energy drinks, because some plants react better to sugar solutions. A third one was treated with freshly boiled water, because it may improve the water uptake. Lastly, one was given the booze treatment (beer, to be precise) because of the nutrients and minerals found in it. Just be sure to keep the tree out of direct sunlight or the furnace will quickly dry out the tree. "Your tree will become dry and brittle if it's too close to a heat source," says Neubauer. "Place the tree some place where it isn't facing direct heat, and that will help your tree not to dry out too fast."

Turning off the Lights When Leaving the Room

Christmas lights can become very hot and cause a fire hazard if left on the tree unmonitored for hours at a time. Play it safe and turn off the lights if you're not going to be around to monitor the tree. You also need to make sure that all of your bulbs are in good condition and that the cords for the lights are not worn or frayed. Real trees can catch fire, so follow general fire safety tips when keeping a real Christmas tree indoors. Turning off the lights occasionally will also slow down the drying out process.

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