Why Does My Christmas Tree Have Drooping Branches? [4 Reasons and Solutions]

Only 1 out of 4 trees is handpicked and chopped fresh for Christmas each year [1]. This means that 75% of real Christmas trees in the US are bought from retailers who sell pre-cut trees, with the trees losing their freshness after all the time spent in shipping and distribution. As a result, you may end up with a tree that has sagging branches.

The most common causes for drooping Christmas tree branches are 1) lack of water, 2) premature coming out of dormancy due to heat, 3) too many ornaments hanging from the branches, and 4) pets climbing the tree.

If you are worried about a wilted-looking tree for Christmas, read on to find out why your tree is drooping and what you can do to perk it back up!

Reasons For Droopy Christmas Trees – Infographic

4 Reasons For Droopy Christmas Trees [And What To Do]

Christmas trees can have sagging branches in response to natural factors or post-harvest care. Here are 4 common reasons for droopy Christmas trees:

1) Dryness

Christmas trees can get droopy branches due to dehydration. Conifer trees which had their roots chopped off or dug out are unable to receive the water necessary for the tree limbs to support the weight of foliage, causing branches to droop and needles to fall.

After being harvested, it doesn’t take long for trees to dry up. Real Christmas trees go through the strain of being transported to retail stores, and shock from the change in temperatures when they are moved from the cold outdoors into a warm home.

By the time you are ready to put up your holiday decorations, the Christmas tree which has been parched from all that stress is likely to have wilting branches and a dull color.

What To Do:

To revive a dry Christmas tree’s drooping branches, watering is essential. Of course, it is ideal to choose a freshly-harvested tree. The sooner a tree receives water after being harvested, the better its chances are of staying fresh for a long time.

How to water a chopped tree? Once home, it is important to make a fresh cut off the stump of your tree to open up its vessels that can absorb water. After cutting, immediately submerge the tree in water and make sure that it never runs out of water as long as it’s up.

You can also mist the needles or use a humidifier to help hydrate your tree.

2) Coming Out of Dormancy

Christmas trees can get droopy branches if there is an interruption of their Winter dormancy period due to higher than natural temperatures. This is common when the trees are kept indoors.

In Winter, evergreens go through a period of dormancy characterized by stiff branches. Warming temperatures in Spring signal the trees to relax back into their flexible, pliable shape. The warm environment of a home can prematurely break the dormancy of Christmas trees, resulting in droopy branches.

Sometimes, it is possible to have a well-watered, healthy Christmas tree still have its branches sagging towards the floor. This is perfectly normal, indicating that the plant tissues have warmed up and are drinking more water like they do in Summer.

To make sure that your Christmas tree is healthy and isn’t drooping because of dryness, you should check that it has the characteristics of a fresh tree: bendable needles firmly attached to the branches, aromatic smell, and a waxy green coating [2].

The dormancy period usually takes 6-10 weeks for conifers. Once the heat of an indoor environment triggers the tree to start growing again, it is even possible that you will see fresh buds or new pinecones sprouting on your Christmas tree [3]!

What To Do:

To prevent droopy branches due to a premature interruption of the dormancy period, the Christmas tree should be placed in a relatively cold room.

Keep the tree away from sources of heat such as fireplaces, vents, and electrical appliances. For decorating, you can choose LED lights because they don’t emit too much heat.

You may also place ice cubes in the tree’s water reservoir.

3) Too Many Ornaments

Droopy branches in a Christmas tree can be caused by the weight of multiple ornaments and lights. This is especially true if the tree is still stressed from being harvested and transported.

Christmas decorating is an important tradition for some, and sometimes, we can get carried away with the pressure of impressing our guests and outshining our neighbors.

Of course, a Christmas tree can only hold so much weight. Too many ornaments can be a safety hazard if the tree falls over.

What To Do:

To avoid droopy branches, the tree should not be top-heavy. Lightweight and small ornaments should be used near the top of the tree, and the heavier decorations should be used for the lower, sturdier branches.

Make sure that the ornaments are evenly spaced and appropriately balanced on all sides.

Use floral wire, pipe cleaners, or zip ties that are the same color as your tree to properly secure ornaments that are hanging down at a weird angle.

4) Pets Climbing or Pulling On The Tree

Pets such as cats climbing, pulling, or running around a Christmas tree can destabilize the tree and make the branches look droopy.

It is typical for pets to show interest in such a tall, once-in-a-year addition to the house. If accessible to them, some pets will climb the tree and use it as a playground, scratch themselves with the needles, or hunt for potential bugs in the foliage.

Animals have a more sensitive sense of smell, and the fragrance of Christmas trees can attract their curiosity to bite or lick the tree, or taste the water from the tree stand. Unfortunately, the sap of certain Christmas tree species can be poisonous to some animals.

What To Do:

Barriers at the base of the Christmas tree, such as a child gate, can be ideal to keep pets away. You can also wrap the base of the tree with aluminum foil because for some reason, pets aren’t fond of it.

Spray the tree with Citrus-scented products to deter cats and dogs. Avoid using breakable and sharp ornaments to keep your pets safe.

Trimming Your Christmas Tree

Christmas trees are valued for their symmetrical shape and stiff branches. However, conifers don’t always grow uniformly. Tree farmers use branch guides, shaping forks, and bamboo sticks to force back uneven branches into a desirable position [4].

More commonly, tree growers use shears to clip off branch tips, stimulating new buds to sprout resulting in denser foliage. Of course, shears are also a helpful tool for you to trim your Christmas tree into your preferred shape.

If your Christmas tree has branches that droop near the floor, you can cut off some of the bottom branches to make space for foot traffic. This will also allow the tree to focus its energy on the upper branches, giving the tree a perkier look.

Trimmed branches can be repurposed into wreaths and garlands, can be used as firewood (but be careful because the sap is highly flammable), and can even be propagated into a new tree!

Christmas tree trimming tutorial, how to trim your real Christmas tree to a more triangular shape

How to Fluff an Artificial Christmas Tree

Sometimes, artificial Christmas trees can become bent and misshapen from being compressed in a box. To fluff your fake Christmas tree into your desired shape, here are a few tips to follow:

  1. Wear gloves. Artificial trees are designed to look as real as possible. Sometimes, they can have sharp needles as well.
  2. Choose the display location. It will be practical to assemble the tree in the same place where you will display it so you won’t need to carry or drag the tree afterwards.
  3. Fan out the branch tips. Pull out each twig away from the branch, with the tips slightly pointing up. Carefully separate twigs that are stuck together. Repeat this process for all the branches.
  4. Work your way up. Once done shaping each branch, attach the layers on top of each other, starting from the bottom section. Ask help from family members to lift and assemble each layer.
  5. Spread out the branches. Once the tree is mounted, continue to spread out the branches in even intervals, making sure the tree looks full and perky.
How To Fluff and Shape an Artificial Christmas Tree

US Quality Standards for Christmas Trees

The US Department of Agriculture established standards of quality for Christmas Trees. To ensure safe display, growers and retailers are required to sell trees that are free from damage, tapering gently from a full bottom, and have an ample number of branches for hanging ornaments [5].

4 Requirements for US-Grade Christmas trees:

Christmas trees which meet the US standards should have these qualities:

  • Fresh: Needles are pliable, firmly attached to the branches.
  • Clean: Trees should be free from vines and other undesirable foreign material.
  • Healthy: Trees have a fresh, natural appearance.
  • Well-trimmed: Trees should be free of all barren branches and smoothly cut.

3 Classifications of US-Grade Christmas trees:

Christmas trees, if US-approved, are tagged according to these classifications:

  • U.S. Premium: Not less than medium density; normal taper; all four sides are free from damage
  • U.S. No. 1 (U.S. Choice): Not less than medium density; normal taper; three sides are free from damage
  • U.S. No. 2 (U.S. Standard): Light or better density; Candlestick, normal, or flaring taper; at least two adjacent sides are free from damage

Takeaways

  1. Real Christmas trees can have droopy branches when dehydrated. Watering will perk up the tree.
  2. The heat of a home can cause the tree to come out of Winter dormancy and revert back to its pliable, drooping foliage in the Summer.
  3. Too many ornaments or climbing pets can also drag down a tree’s branches.
  4. US standards require Christmas trees to be fresh, clean, healthy, well-trimmed, and evenly-shaped.
  5. Trimming real Christmas trees and fluffing artificial Christmas trees can help achieve the shape of your preference.

Sources

[1] http://economia-usb.unibas.it/contents/instance7_remap/files/document/5029165AH-66-Commercial.pdf#page=660

[2] https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/27944/homecareofchrist1099boli.pdf?sequence=1

[3] https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/why_is_my_christmas_tree_beginning_to_grow

[4] https://www.hd2412.co.uk/correction-of-branches-and-repair-of-christmas-trees

[5] https://books.google.com.ph/books?hl=en&lr=&id=1QoUAAAAYAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA5&dq=how+long+does+a+cut+christmas+tree+stay+fresh&ots=wCY4QNwlib&sig=IvCnxOj29HfdZM8-KoS9_pSuyX0&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=how%20long%20does%20a%20cut%20christmas%20tree%20stay%20fresh&f=false

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