Sugar Water for Christmas Trees: Your Mileage May Vary

Should you add sugar water to keep your Christmas tree fresh or is it all humbug? Here's what you need to know.

Updated October 20, 2023
Watering Christmas tree with sugar water

For some families, the decorating isn’t complete until there’s a fresh and fragrant tree in the house. So if cutting down or purchasing a fresh Christmas tree is part of your family’s holiday traditions, you’ll want the tree to stay holly and jolly and green and healthy for as long as possible — at least, until that last present is opened.

How do you keep your tree fresh? One way some people do this is by adding sugar to the tree's water reservoir. So is adding sugar to your Christmas tree water the stuff holiday magic or is it a myth?

Is Sugar Water Effective for Christmas Trees?

Advocates of using sugar water for Christmas trees say that the mixture acts as artificial sap or food for the tree, thereby helping the tree to live longer. However, supporting evidence is lacking and mostly anecdotal. But who's to say that those people aren't humbugs about this approach? 

However, some experts recommend not adding anything to your tree's water supply, whether that's sugar or sugar products such as honey, corn syrup, or even lemon-lime soda. In fact, associate professor Les Werner, the author of a University of Wisconsin Steven's-Point Christmas tree care study states that adding sugar to tree water does not help. For those wanting to preserve their tree's freshness for as long as possible, fresh tap water is their best bet

Try the Sugar Theory Yourself

Despite all that, although there is no direct evidence that adding sugar water to your tree prolongs its life, there is no indication that it causes harm, either. So if you decide to try to give your tree a little holiday sugar, there are some guidelines to keep in mind.

How to Add Sugar to Your Reservoir

People who use sugar water for their trees often use a mixture of one cup of sugar for every gallon of water added to the reservoir. Before adding that sweet sugar water, mix the sugar and water together, stirring until the sugar fully dissolves, and then add it to the reservoir. If you don't do this and simply add the sugar directly to the reservoir, the sugar will sink to the bottom. Then you might have aunts wondering why you have ants! 

Chlorophyll Substitute Recipe

The following sugar water recipe includes ingredients that are said to act as chlorophyll substitutes for your Christmas tree. And while it might be a Christmas wish that it prolongs your tree's life, some people believe it's worth trying. 


  • 2 gallons hot water
  • 2 cups corn syrup
  • 2 ounces chlorine bleach
  • ½ teaspoon Epsom salt
  • ½ teaspoon Borax
  • 1 teaspoon liquid iron (found at most garden centers)


  1. In a large container, mix hot water, corn syrup, chlorine bleach, and Epsom salts until thoroughly combined.
  2. Add Borax and iron.
  3. Stir until totally dissolved.
  4. Add to the Christmas tree reservoir. 

Simple Evergreen Preservation Recipe

The reason people use sugar water for their evergreen is because it's supposed that the sugar in the mixture acts as food for the tree. In this recipe, the vinegar adds acidity to the water. Many believe that adding acid to the water may help the tree soak the water up more efficiently.


  • 1 gallon hot water
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vinegar


  1. In a large container, mix hot water, sugar, and vinegar until everything is mixed.
  2. Add to Christmas tree reservoir.
Need to Know

If you have pets that like to lap water from your Christmas tree stand, don’t use any of these methods. While the ingredients probably won’t harm your tree, they could harm your pets. 

Sugar-Free Ways to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh

If you prefer to enjoy your sugar with candy canes and dreams of sugar plums, there are other means of preserving a decorated Christmas tree. Especially if you're a little wary of the sugar water myth, or you have pets who you don't want lapping up water with additives.

  • Be sure to pick out a fresh tree. Do a shake test and see if the needles stay in place or easily fall to the ground.
  • Opt for a tree that's fresh cut. If you have chopped your tree down within the last 8 hours, you're good. If you haven't, give the tree a slice at the bottom to help it absorb water better through its base.
  • Like other plants around the house, use fresh water. Water your tree daily, never letting the water line fall below the trunk base.

Sugar for Your Christmas Spruce

For many people, using sugar water is a tried-and-true way to keep their Christmas tree healthy and green for the whole season. But experts don't always agree. Success in making your tree last longer may be due to other factors, such as room temperature, how long ago the tree was cut down, how the tree was stored, and how much water the tree receives. But whatever magic you decide to add to your tree for the jolliest holiday season is up to you! 

Sugar Water for Christmas Trees: Your Mileage May Vary