Select a Christmas Tree

We love the look and fresh pine scent of a real Christmas tree.


Choosing a fresh Christmas tree or an artificial is a personal decision.  The decision to buy an artificial tree was made for me when vacuuming up dried fallen needles caused the death of my vacuum cleaner.  I went and bought a new vacuum that day, then on New Years Day went and bought what was a very expensive realistic tree before Christmas, at 60% off.  Although we all really miss the beauty and fragrance of a real tree, the artificial is certainly quick and easy with no care required. HOWEVER, we are learning more about the “footprint” it takes to manufacture an artificial tree versus growing a real tree. Something to keep in mind if faced with a decision currently.

For those of you who still buy a real tree every year, or perhaps are buying a real Christmas tree for the first time, here are a few tips for selecting a tree and keeping it fresh.

  • Douglas Fir are known for a nice pyramid shape, soft needles, supple (weak) branches, and good needle retention

  • Fraser Firs are known for beauty, soft needles, supple branches, and good needle retention

  • Balsam Firs are known for fragrance, soft needles, supple branches, and very good needle retention

  • Noble Fir are known for well spaced branches with needles upwardly curved with good needle retention

  • Canaan Firs are known for well spaced branches and needles upwardly curved with good needle retention

  • Scotch Pine are known for strong branches and the best needle retention, as most pine are

  • Blue Spruce are known for strong branches and very good needle retention

  • Norway Spruce are known for poor needle retention

  • White Spruce are known for little fragrance, strong branches and good needle retention

  • Measure the space you have available for your tree before you shop. It is not unusual to come home with a tree far too large or even far too small. Know the width you want and can accommodate as well as the height.

  • Consider your ornaments. Heavy ornaments will need strong branches.

Pine in general have been a favorite selection for decades because of their excellent needle retention after cut and strong branches.  Pine Christmas Trees are available in every region, but other species and varieties available will vary based on which grows fast and well on the Christmas Tree farms of your area.  So ask questions, consider what is important to you, then decide based on which tree variety you love most.

Next you need to check for freshness.  If you determine that the trees on a lot have not been fresh cut it is best to move on to another lot.  Of course if you are cutting your own, you know it is fresh and you can put your tree up early without fear of it being bare of needles by Christmas.

  • Hold the tree by the trunk and give it a little shake. If many outer needles drop the tree is already drying. If a few inner needles drop that is normal.

  • Pick trees up, if they are fresh they are full of water and very heavy.

  • Bend outer branches to make sure they are still supple and pliable.

  • Run a bare hand along a branch. Make sure the needles do not feel dry and brittle.

  • The tree should have a fresh evergreen scent with no musty odors.

  • Needle color should not be pale or yellowing

To retain the beauty and fragrance of your tree, it is important to care for it properly.  A Christmas tree should remain relatively fresh and lovely for four or five weeks.

  • If you have to temporarily store your tree before putting it up, keep it in a cool or cold shady place. Placing the trunk in a bucket of water will help keep it fresher.

  • A fresh cut of the trunk is critical. If you purchase from a retail lot, ask them to re-cut the trunk or do ti yourself when you get home. Believe it or not, if you do it yourself immediately (within 15 minutes) before setting in your tree stand your tree will last much longer. The cut starts to plug up immediately and will limit water intake. Cut at least an inch from the trunk bottom.

  • Make sure you have a large enough tree stand to not only hold enough water, but to accept the full diameter of the trunk. If you whittle down the bark and trunk the tree cannot efficiently take up water.

  • As soon as your tree is inside it begins to warm up and open up the pores at the needle base. Once opened the tree will take up water quickly.

  • Each day your tree will take up about a quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter. That means it may need about a gallon a day. Do not let the water line get below the cut trunk.

  • Do not place your tree over a heat register.

  • Do not place your tree near a fireplace.

  • Do not place your tree in direct sunlight.

  • Avoid using large heat producing lights on your tree. It’s high time you replaced those relics with the new efficient mini lights. And turn them off when you go to bed or leave the house.

Once the holidays are over, most cities have specified days for recycling collection of Christmas Trees.  But even better, deposit your tree back by your gardens.  It will create a perfect little habitat for all kinds of wonderful, beneficial things for your gardens.  Birds, insects, and butterflies will love it!

Enjoy the Holidays!

Sharon Dwyer