How Do You Choose The Perfect Christmas Tree?

In this latest installment of "You Ask ... Patch Answers" we go to some local experts to find the answers to an age-old problem.

As Christmas approaches and the season speeds by one thing becomes more and more apparent. It is, without a doubt, time to head out and pick out this year’s Christmas tree.

Before you leave the house, however you need to do a quick once over and decide where you plan to put the tree. In order to keep your Christmas tree fresh and safe always look for a spot that isn’t near a heat outlet, fireplace or even a sunny window. Next make certain that it will be well protected from young children and pets.

Once you decide where the tree is going it is time to figure out what shape and size will be the best fit. Do you want a tall, narrow tree? Or perhaps a shorter, wider Christmas tree would be a better fit? It’s all a matter of preference but it is always a good idea to know what you are looking for before you head out to make your big choice.

Experts Ken Risher from and Frank Colantuonio from offered some tips and tricks to make sure that you have a beautiful Christmas tree that will last all season.

For Risher, picking the right tree starts with picking the right tree lot. “You really want to be able to ask when the tree was cut,” explained Risher. “A tree that’s cut during the first or second week in November, not mid October, is fresher and that’s one key to it lasting longer.”

The way the tree lot stores the trees also makes a huge difference. “Trees should always be stored upright and over mulch,” said Risher.

“The mulch helps to hydrate the trees,” he added. “If it gets hot during the day the mulch can be wet down to keep the trees moist.”

Both experts agree that freshness matters and each has some tricks to help you make sure that your tree passes the test. 

“Make sure that the needles are soft to the touch and have good color to them,” suggested Colantuonio. “You need to take a good look and see just how fresh it is.”

Risher has a slightly different technique. “Run your finger along the needles. If they don’t bounce back then it’s not the right tree.”

While a tree that’s not perfectly shaped may hold a certain “realistic” charm it is bare branches that can also be a bad sign. “Watch out for branches without needles,” mentioned Risher.

As for the type of tree you bring home, that remains, for the most part, a matter of preference. While the balsam fir is a long standing favorite because of its strong fragrance it is, by far, not the only choice.

Growing in popularity, explained Colantuonio is the Fraser Fir. “The Fraser fir doesn’t have as strong a smell but it does hang on to its needles a lot longer.”

With dark green needles and strong thick branches the Fraser Fir is a hardy tree that can hold even the heaviest ornaments.

For something a little different there are two West Coast trees, The Noble and Grand Firs. The Noble fir, like the Fraser, has long lasting needles, a dark green color and strong branches to hold ornaments. 

The Grand Fir has a “softer” appearance with flat needles and fairly thin branches. Its claim to fame, however, is actually rather surprising. Break off a stem from a Grand Fir and you would swear you were sniffing a freshly sliced orange. That little trick has helped it grow in popularity over the years.

Before you head home with your tree, however, there are still a couple of things to think about. 

First and foremost every tree needs a fresh cut before it goes home. “You should have them cut about one inch right off the bottom,” said Colantuonio.

As for making sure that your house stays neat and clean, Risher has a couple of suggestions. “Its good to find tree sellers that have a tree shaker,” he mentioned. “By shaking the tree it releases the previous year’s needles so you don’t end up with as many needles on the carpet after you put it up.”

Next, he suggested, “If you get the tree wrapped in netting it helps with less needles around the house as you bring it in and you can get it through the door a lot easier too!”

So, you finally have the tree home, and it is time to take care of it. As Colantuonio explained, “The tree needs to get in water as soon as possible.”

How much water? Well, according to Risher, the tree needs at least one quart of water for every inch the trunk is in diameter. The water needs to be full at all times and even a couple of hours “gone dry” can cause a “sap plug” to form and the tree will no longer be able receive hydration.

If that happens there is only one solution. A fresh cut will solve the problem but, nobody, wants to try to do that on a tree that’s already been decorated.

As for water additives they are useful if, as Colantuonio pointed out, you plan to keep the tree two or three weeks. Much like the packets that come with fresh flowers these additives he explained, “Kill bacteria and keep the water cleaner.”

One product, however, that Colantuonio does swear by is Wilt-Pruf, coating, which, as he put it, “coats the needles and keeps them from drying out.”

All, in all, choosing a tree is a fun, family experience and with a few experts tips from PATCH you can have a perfect holiday season.




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