How to Choose a Live Christmas Tree

By Brad Cochran, Extension Agent

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. It’s that time of year when the lights, decorations and, of course, the Christmas tree go up inside and outside the home. Tree lots suddenly appear all over the neighborhood, selling freshly cut, live Christmas trees. But before you rush out to purchase the biggest and bushiest tree on the lot and strap it to the top of your car, there are a few things you should do to ensure you choose the best tree for your home.

  • How tall of a tree can your home handle? This may seem like common sense, but you don’t want to buy a 10’ tall tree and bring it home to a family room with 8’ ceilings. A quick measurement before you leave the house could save you lots of heartache later on.
  • How wide of a tree can your home handle? This falls right in line with the previous point. It is a good idea to measure all doors and hallways along the path from your driveway to where the tree will be staying through the holidays. Thankfully, tree branches are flexible and can bend a little bit, but trying to squeeze the tree to make it through the hallway always opens up opportunities to damage both the tree and your home. After all, remember what happened to the Griswolds in that holiday favorite National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!

  • Always inspect the trees at the lot. This allows you to check the tree for damaged places, such as dead or dying branches, and more importantly to check that the tree is well-balanced with about the same amount of greenery on each side. If one side is heavier than the other, it can make insertion and balance in the tree stand difficult.
  • Which species should you choose? One of the best tree species is a Balsam Fir, however other trees to consider are Douglas Fir and Fraser Fir; White Pine; and White, Norway and Blue Spruce. Each of these has positive and negative traits, like needle holding, branch firmness and fragrance to name a few. However, all of these would be quality trees to consider for your live Christmas tree.

Once you are through these steps and have your tree home and placed in the tree stand, be sure to keep it watered thoroughly. The warmer you keep your home, the more water it will require. But generally speaking it will require at a minimum of 20 ounces per day. The general recommendation is to keep the tree stand full, or close to full, at all times. Also, remember to never leave the lights on your live tree turned on while you’re asleep or away from home. Visit the National Christmas Tree Association for some additional tree care tips.

After the holidays are over and you are packing up your decorations, think about disposing of your tree. If you have a backyard space or some unused area, consider placing the tree outside to become a habitat for birds and other small critters for the winter. If you don’t have this sort of space or it doesn’t interest you at all, contact your local Department of Environmental Protection or Division of Natural Resources office. They may be interested in using it for wildlife habitat creation or even in streams to create habitat for fish. West Virginia has traditionally hosted a Christmas tree recycling event each year for the past decade (like this event last year). We’ll share details on a similar event this year should the tradition continue.

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