Take a whiff: Does it still have it's pine fragrance?

By Jillian Kramer
December 09, 2019

A Christmas tree can bring so much joy into your home that it's a shame to take it down. But at a certain point, a live tree begins to show signs that it's no longer living—and that's when you'll need to get rid of it. According to Harry Barker, Lowe's senior lawn and garden merchant, most live Christmas trees can last for as many as six weeks after they're cut—that is, if they're properly prepared and maintained. But that's just a benchmark; you may need to get rid of your tree before or after that timeframe. The best way to ensure you  bring home a tree that will thrive for as long as possible is to carefully select your tree, says Barker. "When shopping, feel the tree and give it a slight shake," he explains. "A few falling brown needles aren't uncommon, but falling green needles mean the tree is dry." What's more, a healthy tree's needles should be flexible, but snap when bent sharply. "Trees with stiff needles that are losing their color should be avoided," he says, as should trees with needles that pull off easily.

Here are four signs your tree is losing its vigor and it's time for you to take it down.

Elizabeth Sallee Bauer / Getty Images

Related: Proven or Debunked? Myths on Keeping Your Christmas Tree Alive

Your tree is no longer drinking water.

To water your Christmas tree, you pour water into the stand and the tree "drinks," absorbing that water. (For a standard size tree with a trunk diameter of five inches, you'll want to maintain at least five quarts of water in the stand each day.) But when you see that the water is no longer being absorbed, it's almost time to take the tree down. Once that happens, "there's an average of about 10 to 14 days before browning occurs," says Barker.

Its branches begin to snap or break.

You've placed your heaviest ornaments on the thickest, sturdiest branches, so when these start to snap or break, Barker says it's "a sign the tree has dried out and should be disposed of soon."

Your tree is losing needles.

Healthy trees hold onto their needles, while dry trees—the kind that should be taken down—shed them. A pro tip: "Sweeping up scattered pine needles with a broom is recommended instead of vacuuming, because these needles can clog and damage vacuum cleaners," Barker explains.

Its needles are turning brown.

Your tree may hold its needles—but if those needles are brown, then your tree has dried out, Barker says, and it's best to get rid of it. Another telltale hint? "The tree has lost its pine-like smell," he says.

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