How To Select a Christmas Tree

Tips on Choosing the right Christmas TreeSelecting a good Christmas tree is the best step you can take to keep your farm-grown Christmas tree fresh and lively.  Fresh, farm-grown Christmas trees may be purchased from either retail lots or Choose & Cut farms.  Following these tips will help you select the best possible tree from each type of location:

Retail Lots

  • Know the size (height and width) you need BEFORE heading to the lot.  It is easy to overbuy trees sometimes that look smaller than they are.  Most trees are trimmed to an 80% taper, meaning that a 10 foot tree will be 8 feet wide at the bottom.  Make sure you have enough horizontal room for your tree.
  • When purchasing a cut tree, the freshness depends upon the care the trees have received. Pay attention to the manner in which trees are stored and displayed. For example, are they stored under shade, displayed standing in water or misted at night, especially in warm weather areas? If so, the lot operator is working hard to keep the trees as fresh as possible.
  • The amount of time trees are at a lot effects how fresh the tree will be, and consequently how long it will last.  Ask the retailer when he receives the trees and how old the ones offered are.
  • One simple test for freshness is to gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh.
  • Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and will occur over the lifetime of a tree.
  • Bend the outer branches.  They should be pliable.  If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.
  • Discolored foliage, musty odor, needle pliability, and wrinkled bark are all indicators of the freshness of a tree.  If in doubt, select another tree or go to another lot if none of the trees appear fresh.
  • Some species of Christmas trees will last longer.  Ask your retailer which tree will perform best in your climate.
  • Many lot operators will make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk for you. Trees should always have a fresh cut made within 3-6 hours of being placed in water.  This will greatly extend the lifetime of your tree.
  • Bring the whole family for a fun outing!

Choose & Cut Farms

  • Know the height and width dimensions of the area where your tree will go BEFORE you get to the farm.  It is easy to overbuy and select a tree that is too large for the space you have at home.
  • Most farms have well groomed fields, but occasional hazards do exist.  Be careful to watch out for fire ant nests, tree stumps, occasional thorny vines, uneven ground, and sharp saws.
  • Make sure to wear older clothes and be prepared for a day in the country.  Closed-toe shoes are a must, as well as gloves for those who will be handling the tree.
  • Bring a camera to document the event.
  • Pets are better left at home and many farm owners do not allow dogs.  If a pet must come along, be sure they are on a leash and do not leave “presents” or “marks” on or around the other trees.
  • Saws are usually provided by the farm, but not all farms will provide one.  Be sure to check ahead.
  • Depending on the farm, prices are calculated differently.  Ask before heading into the field about the pricing policy to avoid any unexpected prices.
  • Straight trunks are important, although most pine trees will have at least slight crooks or twists in their trunks.
  • All conifer trees will drop or shed some of their needles in the fall.  This is part of the normal growth cycle as the tree prepares for winter.  Many farms can provide shaking or blowing services to ensure that you depart with a perfectly clean tree.
  • Cutting the tree is easiest as a two person project. The “cutter downer” usually lies on the ground. While the helper holds the bottom limbs up. While the cut is being made, the helper should tug on the tree lightly to ensure that the saw kerf remains open and the saw does not bind. The tugging force should be applied to the side of the tree opposite the cut. The cut is best made by an attendant at the farm using a chain saw. A back cut should be made first with the final cut coming from the opposite side.
  • After the tree is cut, bring it to the processing area where it can be cleaned and netted.  Netting trees makes transporting and handling the tree much easier, cleaner, and safer.

Be sure to read our Christmas tree care guide to keep your new tree fresh and lively at home.  Enjoy decorating your real Christmas tree!