Buying a Christmas tree is one of the most exciting and crucial parts of the holidays — and the choices are plentiful. If you've opted for a real tree, then the next stop is one of the tree lots around town.
There are two types of tree shoppers: those who do the research, and those who go on gut feeling. If you're a researcher, you'll need to decide which kind of tree you want. There are different varieties of firs, pines and spruces and each one has its own color, smell and needle types. Check out the Better Homes and Gardens guide to Christmas tree varieties to help you pick the best one for your home.
If you'd prefer to browse until the perfect tree reveals itself, then follow the tips below to ensure you get a good one and that it lasts all the way through to Christmas morning.
Tips on Choosing a Real Christmas Tree — and Keeping It Fresh
The following advice come from Mike Bondi, a professor at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, who specializes in Christmas trees and is a spokesperson for the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association.
When you're on the tree lot:
- Be sure you know what size (height and width) you need before heading to the retail lot. If you’re short on space, remember real Christmas trees can be found in smaller, table-top sizes, too.
- Use the “Smell and Snap” test: Give the branch a gentle crush and smell the needles to check for a fresh Christmas tree fragrance. Then, bend a needle between your fingers; if it snaps, similar to a carrot, the tree is fresh.
- Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration: excessive needle loss, discolored or yellow foliage and wrinkled bark, or a musty/mildew smell.
Once you've chosen a tree, here's how to keep it fresh:
- Make a fresh cut on the bottom of the tree to open up the pores, which have been clogged by sap. Don’t worry about making the cut yourself — have the staff at your local lot cut off at least one-half inch — and put the tree in water as soon as possible.
- Water, water, water! An average tree may consume between a quart and a gallon of water per day. Don’t forget to add water every day because if the water level drops below the cut end of the trunk, a seal will form and no more water will be absorbed by the tree unless another fresh cut is made. And, plain water is best, no additives needed.
How do you choose a Christmas tree? Share your tips and experiences below.