How to Keep Your Balsam Fir Christmas Tree Thriving

Written by Gerald Dlubala
Published: December 1, 2023
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Chances are that the Christmas tree in your home is a Balsam fir. The widely distributed tree is one of the most popular choices at Christmas time because of its widespread availability and aromatic properties. Additionally, with its shorter needles and sturdy branches, there is plenty of room for lights, ornaments, garland, and any other traditional tree decor that your family prefers to add. Use these tips to help keep your Balsam fir Christmas tree thriving all season long.

Holiday tree decorations need a tree with sturdy branches and spacing.

©ehrlif/ via Getty Images

How to Care for a Cut Balsam Fir Christmas Tree

Once you find your perfect Balsam fir Christmas tree and get it home, it’s necessary to provide basic care to keep it happy. Use these tips to keep your tree thriving throughout the season.

  • Cut and transported trees will have released their pitch, or resin, forming a seal on the cut area. Once chosen, get a straight, fresh cut off of the trunk base of the tree, preferably an inch. This opens the tree’s pores back up for water absorption.
  • If you’re not putting the tree up immediately, keep it in water in a transitional space, like a garage.
  • Get a treestand that holds at least a gallon of water. A standard recommendation is a stand that holds one quart of water for every inch of tree trunk diameter. Fresh-cut trees can uptake a gallon of water every 24 hours.
  • Keep the tree stand full of water, never letting the water level go below the tree’s base.
  • Use clean, clear water. There are many suggestions for amenities that may possibly add life and longevity to your cut Balsom fir when added to the water, including aspirin, sugar, sprite soda, and more. However, according to experts, your best bet is to use a proper-sized tree stand and keep the bottom two inches of the trunk submerged in clean, clear water.
  • Keep your tree near windows and away from heating ducts, fireplaces, or other heat sources. In addition to drying the tree out, it poses a safety and fire risk.

A few basic care tips help keep your Christmas tree thriving and happy all season long.

©Greggory DiSalvo/ via Getty Images

Picking Out Your Balsam Fir Christmas Tree

The Balsam fir trees you encounter at local markets are specifically farmed to be sold as Christmas trees. Your freshest option is to go to a local tree farm and cut your own. Since we can’t all do that, there are some tips you can use to make sure you are getting the freshest Balsam fir tree possible.

  • Inspect the tree, looking for excessive brown needles. Fresh Balsam fir needles are flexible and springy. Brittle or stiff needles signal a less-than-fresh tree.
  • Give the tree a shake or lift it up and put it to the ground firmly on its trunk. A fresh tree will not lose many needles by these actions. If these simple actions produce a mound of needles beneath the tree, move on and keep looking.
  • Lightly wrap your hand around a branch and gently pull it towards you while making contact with the needles. If the tree is fresh, the needles will not come off of the branch. If you end up with a handful of needles, move on to another tree.
  • If purchasing a Balsam fir tree that will be planted, remember that once uprooted, the chances of the tree surging are not optimal. To give the tree the best chance of survival, keep it in your house for no longer than seven days to reduce the shock of higher heat and less humidity on the tree.
Fresh cut Christmas balsam fir trees hanging from the ceiling

Fresh-cut Christmas balsam fir trees hanging from the ceiling.

©Gus Garcia/

Characteristics of a Balsam Fir Tree

Balsam fir trees are perfect for use as Christmas trees because of their aromatic foliage, flat and short needles, and rich green color. Its distinctive, thin, gray, smooth bark featuring resin blisters makes the Balsam fir one of the most easily identified trees. Those resin blisters are responsible for emitting the scented resin that sticks all over your hands from handling the tree. Purple-shaded male and female cones grow up to three inches in length and appear on the top branches.

Balsam fir

Purple-shaded cones appear at the top of the Balsam fir branches.

©Nature Clickz/

Habitat of Balsam Fir Trees

Balsam firs are widely distributed and available throughout the northeastern U.S. and portions of Canada. They grow well in most soils regardless of drainage capabilities and are one of the most aggressive growers after any significant damaging occurrence in forests and woodlands. They are usually found in coniferous forests among red spruce or eastern white pine trees but can also exist successfully among birches, maples, and beech species.

Balsam Fir in Winter snow.

Balsam firs are aggressive growers and can quickly fill in damaged forest or woodland areas.

©Sonia Horowitz/

Additional Uses of Balsam Fir Trees

Balsam firs are primarily grown for the Christmas tree market due to their popularity, sturdy structure, richly-colored hue, and pyramid shape. Secondary uses for the tree are in light construction projects, like paneling, crates, hobby woodworking, barrels, and more.

Some North American Indian tribes used the tree’s properties in the treatment of several ailments, including everything from heart disease to simple bruise relief. The needles were used in pillows so the aromatic properties would promote good health. And, of course, the evergreen foliage is important as cover and protection to both birds and mammals throughout the year and into harsh winters.

Male cardinal looking over its shoulder while perched on tree branch. State bird of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia

Balsam fir trees provide year-round cover and protection for many birds and mammals.

©David Spates/

Safety Is Critical With Real Christmas Trees

Safety is always the top priority, and it’s no different with your freshly cut Balsam fir Christmas tree. Watering is critical and keeps the tree from drying out. A dry Christmas tree is not just aesthetically unpleasant, it’s a critical fire hazard. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that a dry tree catching on fire can take less than 30 seconds to destroy your living room and all of its contents. That means that over six homes could’ve been severely damaged by a dry Christmas tree in the time it took to read this article. The most important tools to prevent this is a quality water stand that is big enough for your tree and a responsible owner who keeps that water stand full.

Male hand pouring water into the plastic stand for decorated organic Christmas tree from a plastic bottle in New Year eve in the city flat

Keeping a right-sized, quality treestand full of water minimizes the safety risks of a dry Christmas tree.

©Georgy Dzyura/

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sonia Horowitz/

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About the Author

Gerald Dlubala is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on animals, plants, and places. Gerald has been writing for over 25 years and holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Gerald has shared his home with numerous pets, including dogs, cats, a variety of fish and newts, turtles, hermit crabs, rabbits, and a flock of birds. Gerald enjoys all animal and plant life and looks at every day as an opportunity to learn something new about the world around us.

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