How to set up a Christmas tree – with or without a stand

Setting up a Christmas tree is easily done – whether you have a stand or not...

Christmas Tree Stump
(Image credit: Getty Images Don Mason Creative #: 620921773)

If you've gone for the real deal this year, setting up a Christmas tree properly is key to a stunning display that will last all season.

You need to follow the right steps to do your best Christmas tree ideas justice, after all. From handling the stump to getting round no Christmas tree stand... It's a simple process which is worth getting right first time.

How do you set up a real Christmas tree?

If you're handling the tree, wear gloves as the sap is sticky and the needles can be sharp. Take care with your back also and if any pets or children are around.

1. Think about positioning 

Considering where you are going to set up the Christmas tree is vital. Keep yours as far away from sources of heat as possible. Dry, warm air will kill your tree, and quickly. Ideally, your tree should be positioned in the middle of the largest, best aired room in the house – with the most Christmas decorations about, of course. The less heat that room gets, the better. You may also wish to get a humidifier to help your tree stay fresher longer. Trees want natural light, too. A room that gets good sunlight in the day is best.

2. Take a fresh cut off the stump

Once you've brought your tree home, carefully take a slither off the stump. Wiping away any sap as you go.

3. Put it in water

As the root has been removed, the tree's vital source of nutrients has now gone which is part of the reason why you need to keep yours well watered.

Horticulturalist David Domoney recommends you sit your tree in a bucket for a night and a day before bringing it in as the later you bring it in, the fresher it will be. But you can of course just pop it in water while you prepare the stand.

4. Prepare the stand

When you've chosen a Christmas tree for your household, you'll then want to look out for a sturdy, appropriately sized stand.

You'll want to get a stand that can hold water. Choose one ideally made from painted metal for maximum stability. You could also use a plastic bag within that to make tidying up easier after the holidays.

Your tree should feel snug inside, not wobbly – but you do need a bit of a gap between the trunk and the inside of the stand so that you can water your tree. The best tree stands have screws for securing the trunk. If yours doesn't, and your tree is wobbly inside, try wedging something (a cork, for instance) between the trunk and the stand.

5. Feed your tree

Once you've installed your tree, you'll want to focus on keeping your Christmas tree alive all throughout the holidays. Start by watering it, filling the stand up enough for you to be able to feel the level of the water with your finger. This will help with knowing when to top up the water. 

Domoney recommends you feed it with lemonade, sugar water or florists cut flower food.

Be careful not to overfill the stand, and put your Christmas tree somewhere away from the radiator or open fires.

How to put up a Christmas tree without a stand

If you haven't been able to buy a specific tree stand you can always DIY your own with a bucket. You'll need to ensure yours can take the width and length of the tree stump and, handle the weight of the tree of course.

Ensure your bucket is clear of any debris/chemicals first of all, with no holes in it. You can use rocks or heavy bricks to weigh down the bucket and to secure your tree too. Once stable, add water, ensure you keep this topped up and decorate your fir as normal.

How to keep your tree safe for kids and pets

Make sure your tree is stable to avoid it getting knocked over by boisterous toddlers/puppies/kittens. This is not only dangerous but unless you have the best artificial Christmas tree up in your house, you may end up getting the vacuum out to collect all those pins. 

All Christmas tree decorations should be hung as close to the trunk as possible; avoid hanging anything too close to the tips of the branches as they may slide off or be pulled off by curious pets/children. 

If you have a cat or puppy, avoid decorating with tinsel: they love chewing on the stuff and can get very sick from it blocking their stomachs. Obviously, your tree also will suffer as they try to tear off the tinsel. Always unplug any lights when not supervising.

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.