Tips on Buying a Live Christmas Tree

When you go to a Christmas tree lot, choosing a fresh, live Christmas tree should be your top priority. To make sure your home is full of fresh pine smell instead of dried-out needles, gain some knowledge on how to get a great deal on the best real Christmas tree you can find.

Varieties of Christmas Tree
Some families choose the same kind of tree year after year, and each variety offers a slightly different look.

Fir: Smooth bark and short, flat needles; nice spaces between branches with a natural tree shape.

Spruce: Bushy tree with sharp bluish-green needles of four sides; full and shaped like a pyramid.

Pine: Clusters of long, soft, green needles; fairly full conical shape.

Choosing a Tree Lot
Your chances of getting a fresh Christmas tree are better if you time your visit right and select the tree lot with care. It's also a good idea to get your tree early in the season, as you can ensure that it stays fresher. If you wait too long to visit a tree lot, you will risk selecting a tree that has been cut several weeks earlier and started to dry out.

Look for a tree lot that has the Christmas trees covered or is located in a cool spot. Avoid lots that are in direct sunlight, as that can speed up the drying process for trees. Also, feel free to ask the seller how long ago the trees were cut and where they came from. Once you've selected a tree, ask the retailer to trim off the bottom inch from the trunk of the tree before you tie it to your vehicle. Cutting the trunk primes the tree for watering once you get it home.

Signs of a Fresh Tree

  • Evergreen. The most obvious sign of a fresh Christmas tree is its color. Make sure to choose a tree that is green, with no brown needles.
  • Loose needles. Run your hands over the needles on a branch and grasp them lightly. The needles should not come off in your hand if the tree is fresh.
  • Pliable needles. Bend a needle with your fingers. If it bends rather than breaks, it's a fresh tree.
  • Bump the base. Grasp the tree by the trunk, lift it up about six inches and bump it down on the ground. Check to see that no green needles have fallen off.
  • Brittle branches. Bend a few of the trees branches to check for suppleness. If you encounter any brittleness, keep on looking.
  • Strong branches. Check to ensure that the limbs are strong enough to hold ornaments, especially if you have heavy ones.
  • Fragrance. A fresh tree should have the strong smell of pine, especially when you break a few needles for a sniff.
  • Feel the base. Run your hand over the cut base of the tree. If it's a little sticky, that's a good sign that the Christmas tree is freshly cut.
  • Pest check. Check the branches for any insect homes or egg sacs. You don't want to bring them into your home, where the warmer temperatures will trigger them to emerge.

Keeping It Fresh
As soon as you get the tree home, set up the tree in a cool place such as a garage or carport. Submerge the base in a large container of warm water (the tree absorbs it faster than cold water). Don't add anything, like soda, crushed aspirin or sugar to the water, as that could actually cause the tree to dry out faster. Simple tap water is best.

When you are ready to set up the tree in your home, cut another 1/2 inch from the base to re-open the trunk to receive water. Choose a good stand with plenty of water, as a fresh tree can drink as much as a gallon of water a day as it starts to dry out. It may take 12 to 24 hours for the Christmas tree to start drinking, as the tree often needs to "warm up" after being outdoors. Make sure that the Christmas tree stand is always full of water. When choosing a spot to set up the Christmas tree, pick a location that is not next to any forced air outlets, such as heat vents or fireplaces.

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