Tips on Selecting your Tree at a Retail Lot
Sometimes practical tips help us to to ensure a great experience when selecting your Christmas Tree. The following is a list of things you need to know:
Measure your space
- Be sure you know what size (height and width) you need before heading to the retail lot. Measure the ceiling height in the room where the tree will be displayed. The trees in the field look small when the sky is the ceiling. Don't overbuy. Measure the width of the area of the room where the tree will be displayed. Most trees on tree farms are trimmed to an 80% taper. So a tree that's 10' tall will be 8' wide at the bottom. A tree that will fit in the room vertically may be entirely too big horizontally.
Think about what type of decorations you will be using
- Some species have more open foliage, stiffer branches or longer needles. Research the characteristics of the different species before you head out to your local farm or stand.
Learn about the different species of trees
- If you want the same species you know or have always used, great. If you want to try a different species, browse the tree varieties section of NCTA's website to become familiar with the species popular in your area before heading to the retail lot.
- Go to a retail lot that is well-lit and stores trees in a shaded area.
Ask questions about the trees at the lot
- Ask the retailer when he/she gets the trees: are they delivered once at the beginning of the season, or several shipments during the season? Often, a tree obtained soon after its arrival on the retail lot will be very fresh because it was cut recently. Also ask the retailer which tree type performs best in your climate. Some species last longer and remain fresh longer than others in different climates.
Do a branch/needle test for freshness
- Run a branch through your enclosed hand - the needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches - they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.
Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration
- Indicators might include: excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor, needle pliability, and wrinkled bark. A good rule-of-thumb is, when in doubt about the freshness of a tree, select another one. If none of the trees on the lot look fresh, go to another lot.
Recycling your tree
- Ask the retailer about recycling Christmas Trees in your community.
How to Care for live Christmas Tree
When a Christmas tree is cut, more than half its weight is water. With proper care, you can maintain the quality of your tree. Here is a list of things to consider:
- Displaying trees in water in a traditional reservoir type stand is the most effective way of maintaining their freshness and minimizing needle loss problems.
- To display the trees indoors, use a stand with an adequate water holding capacity for the tree. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Devices are available that help maintain a constant water level in the stand.
- Use a stand that fits your tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
- Make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don't cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree.
- Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does NOT improve water uptake.
- Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go 6 to 8 hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water. Don't bruise the cut surface or get it dirty. If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location. Place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket that is kept full of water.
- The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.
- Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water.
- Keep trees away from major sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
- Use of lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights, will reduce drying of the tree.
- Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set.
- Do not overload electrical circuits.
- Always turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or when going to bed.
- Monitor the tree for freshness. After Christmas or if the tree is very dry, remove it from the house.
- Find a recycling program near you.
- Never burn any part of a Christmas tree in a wood stove or fireplace.
Prepared by Dr. Gary Chastagner and Dr. Eric Hinesley; at the National Christmas Tree Association