Tips For Choosing The Right Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Talk

The search for the right Christmas tree starts here!
Whether you’re going real or artificial, learn how to shop and care for your evergreen.

Christmas Tree


PROS The natural ‘cent will fill your home, and you are supporting farmer . You can feel good about getting a real tree, says Mike Bondi, a forestry and Christmas tree extension agent and forestry professor at Oregon State University in Oregon City. Grown primarily on family farms that employ local workers, the trees are a renewable crop-more are planted than harvested, Plus, they can be chipped or mulched and composted. (To find a recycling program, visit and type in “Christmas tree” and your zip code.) You can also donate them to a group that uses trees to shore up beach dunes ;go to for info.

Cons You can only keep a cut tree inside for about 3 to 6 weeks, and you must be diligent about watering it. If it gets dry and is exposed to frayed lights, it could be a fire hazard. (To prevent this, inspect lights annually.) And because tree drop needles, you’ll have to vacuum a lot or periodically.

COST Unculrured trees cost about $5 to $10 each; shaped plantationgrown tree 5 to 7 feet tall run about $20 to $40. Taller trees and those of the highest quality can cost $50 to $100 or more.

TIE Ask the farm staff to shake the tree free of loose needles and wrap it in netting. If the farm doesn’t have netting, tie a sturdy rope the trunk and wrap it around the tree (branches pointed up) to the tip to make it easier to handle.

HOIST IT After spreading a blanket on your cal roof to Protect the paint, Lift the tree onto the roof with its base at the front of the car to minimize wind damage. Pull the blanket aroundthe tree.

SECURE IT If your car has a roof rack, wrap twine around it and the blanketed tree. Tf not, use Perry’s method: Open the car doors and pass twine from the driver’s side front seat diagonally over the tree and through the passenger’s-side back door, Then, pass it to the driver’s-side back door, up diagonally over the tree and through the passenger’s side front door (you’ll be forming an X over the tree). Tie the ends.

What to do when you get Christmas Tree home

CUT IT Remove 1/2 to 3/4 inch from the bottom of the tree before putting it in the stand. This is to expose fresh, open cells for water absorption, Bondi say . (You can skip this step if your tree was first cut within the past 2 hours. ) Tip: If the tree seems to stop drawing water during the holidays, help it drink more easily by making a few slits in the bark below the water Line with a keyhole saw or a serrated knife, Perry suggests,

WATER IT Secure the tree in a stand with a l-gallon reservoir and fill it to the top with water, During the first week, the tree can absorb 1/2 gallon or more of water each day, refill often,And you can skip additives like sugar, beer or bleach. Despite what you may have heard, non works better than fresh water, Bondi says.

What to do at the Christmas tree farm

MEASURE IT Choose a tree that is 6 inches to 1 foot shorter than your ceiling, leaving room for a topper and a tree stand, says John Perry, who has been growing Christmas trees for 42 year at Yuletide Christmas trees Farm in New Egypt, New Jersey. “Remember,” he says , “the farm has a limitless ceiling and trees look shorter in th field than they do in a house .” Also measure the tree diameter to make sure it will in your space.

How to find one

Visit and type in your zip code to find a retail lot or farm near you. Or have one shipped to you by, which harvests your tree the same day it ships it out in a moisture-resistant package. Expect to pay about $150 for a 7-foot tree; shipping is included.

Chances are, you’ll be able to choose from these five tree varieties.



Popular in the West, this pricey bluish-green fir has upwardly curving needles that stay on longer than those of any other variety of Christmas tree, Bondi says. If it’s well watered, it can last up to 6 weeks or more.




Similar to the Fraser. this tree native to the northeastern U.S. has short, flat. long-lasting, aromatic needles, but its branches aren’t terribly sturdy.




Grown in the Midwest and East. this tower-priced plant has bunches of needles protruding from stiff branches. It dries out quickly and will only last about 3 weeks.





Considered the king of Christmas trees in the eastern U.S.-with a royally high price tag to match-this dark qreen sharp-scented fir has branches with sbcrt needles that don’t tend to drop often, Bondi says. When the needles are fresh, they are firm yet soft to the touch-not prickly Of sharp-and the branches are strong enough to hold heavy ornements.” says Karen Wade, harvest manager at Green Valley Christmas Trees. which delivers cut trees to doorsteps across the continental U.S.



This medium-priced sweetly scented evergreen-the most common on Christmas tree lots-is grown in the East. Midwest and West, where it’s been dubbed “the friendly fir” because of its soft long needles.





PRO Wrapped in soil and burlap, a tree that has its roots intact can be planted outside after Christmas.

CONS You can only keep a living tree indoors for 1 to 2 weeks, Bondi says. Why? Inside, heated air tricks it into thinking it’s spring, so it sprouts shoots and has a lower chance of surviving when moved outside. Plus, if you live in a cold climate. the hole you’ll plant it in has to be dug before the ground freezes.

COST $25 to $80

Where to find one

Your local garden center is likely your best bet. Or conslder renting one. The Living Christmas Company (, for example, delivers potted trees to Californians. then picks them up and repots them so they can be used again next year. Missing the fresh evergreen scent? Try the MicroGiardini Christmas Tree tin (S9.95;; it’s filled with Norway spruce seeds that sprout 2 to 3 weeks after opening.

How to choose the best tree


“Grab a branch,” says Hick Dungey, public relations manager of the National Christmas Tree Association. “If it bends, it’s fresh. If it snaps, move on because it’s brittle and dried out.”




PROS No watering or vacuuming needles; some even include lights. You can set up a tree earlier and take it down later. And if you use it for five to 10 years, your investment pays off.

CONS It has to be disassembled and stored in a cool, dry area. And it can never be recycled, so it’ll end up in a Landfill.

COST $99 and up

How to pick one

Look closely at the branches, which are made of either PVC or more expensive PE plastic, says Andrcw Winter, creative director of a site that sells discounted trees. Good-Quality PVC, he says, will have needles that blend in with the trunk or branches, often having a touch of brown coloring. (lf buytng online, zoom in on the picture.) The more branch tips or “needles” the tree has, the more real it will look. Sandra Schafsnitz, the artificial-tree buyer at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan, suggests looking for, say, a 7- foot tree with 1,200 branch tips. And opt for a metal stand, which is sturdier than plastic.

Where to find one

Try for affordable funky trees, like pink or blue. has a tree that lets you change light colors ($1,249 for a 7 1/2-foot Aspen Estate Fir) and a flatback tree for small spaces ($429 for a 7-foot Fifth Avenue Flatback).

Check out Christmas Trees Decorations Ideas for more about Christmas Tree.

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