Tips for Choosing the Right Christmas Tree

Consider size, shape and freshness when choosing your Christmas tree.

If the great debate over real or artificial has already been decided wait just a minute before you head to the garage to find your ax. Enthusiasm without planning causes thousands of families to open presents outdoors on Christmas morning because their tree wouldn't fit through the door. Well maybe not, but it is the cause of many beautiful trees getting butchered in order to fit into their allotted spaces.


Measure your room height before you leave home. Typically speaking the tree should be 12 to 24 inches shorter than the wall. Leave more room if you have an especially tall tree topper. Also measure the width of your available space. Remember to leave room for walking around the tree. For safety and to preserve fragile ornaments don't block furniture or exits with a too-full tree. 

Remember to leave room for walking around the tree.


If the hunt is part of your fun you might choose to ignore this bit of advice, but if you want to streamline your tree-shopping experience it helps to know which variety fits your idea of the perfect tree.

Douglas Fir -- This long-lived cut tree has a festive pyramidal shape with dark blue-green needles

Fraser Fir -- Bi-color needles of green on top and silver-white on the bottom make the Fraser particularly striking. It's a slender, pyramidal tree that fits well in smaller spaces.

Scotch Pine -- With its classic conical shape and long needle retention the Scotch pine rates as the most popular cut tree.

Virginia Pine -- More well-known in the American South, the Virginia pine has an appealing pyramidal shape and holds its needles tightly.

Red Cedar -- An excellent choice as a living or cut tree, the Red Cedar has a homey, old-fashioned look and delightful fragrance.

When you purchase a tree ask the staff to make a new cut on the trunk of at least ½ inch.

Is this Tree Fresh?

Once you've located a tree that's the right size and shape it's time for the "sniff and snap" test. Crush the needles at the end a branch gently and smell the aroma; the scent should be pungent and immediate. Then, bend the branch with your fingers, it will snap like a carrot if it's fresh.

Follow up with a visual inspection; look for signs of dryness that include:
  • Yellowed needles
  • Wrinkled bark
  • Needle loss
  • A fresh cut that's not too clogged with sap (if it's pre-cut)

When you purchase a tree ask the staff to make a new cut on the trunk of at least ½ inch. As soon as you get home place the tree in a bucket of water. Let it have a long drink while you move furniture, locate the tree stand and unravel some lights. Keep your tree watered throughout the season. Expect it to use 1 to 4 quarts of water each day.

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