Picking and caring for the perfect Christmas tree

For many families, the annual tradition of putting up a Christmas tree is fast approaching. Follow these simple tips to ensure your tree looks its best throughout the holiday season.

Christmas tree farmSelecting the “perfect” Christmas tree can be an enjoyable family experience. Before setting out to get your tree, determine where in your house the tree will be located, the size of tree you need and whether all sides will be displayed. Looks can be deceiving; not measuring your ceiling height or the height of the tree has led to homeowner hacksaw alterations that can leave the tree looking less appealing.

Consumers have two choices when purchasing a Christmas tree, they can go to a retail lot where harvested trees are available, or choose and cut a tree themselves. When selecting a tree at a retail lot, care is needed to ensure the tree is fresh. The most effective way for a buyer to evaluate the freshness of a cut Christmas tree is by how firmly the needles are attached to the branches. The easiest way to evaluate this is to lightly grasp the branch of the tree and gently pull the branch and needles through your hand. If the tree is fresh, very few needles will come off. Of course, if you are cutting your own tree you will still want to look the tree over carefully for signs of overall quality. Needles should not shed easily or be discolored.

A cut Christmas tree should last the entire holiday season without becoming excessively dry or dropping a large amount of needles provided it is fresh when purchased and is given the proper care. Be sure to place the tree in water as soon as possible and keep it out of direct sunlight as much as possible. If the tree has been cut within the last six to eight hours, it is not necessary to retrim the trunk. If the tree was cut by more than a day befoChristmas treesre you purchased it, you should trim a 1- to 2-inch piece off the bottom of the trunk to help ensure continued quality.

Cut Christmas trees will absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week. While there are many commercial products and home remedies to help keep a tree fresh, research has shown that the best additive is just plain water and plenty of it. Ideally, the water level should never fall below the cut end of the stump.

For safety, place the Christmas tree well away from heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, televisions and other heat sources. When using decorations or trimmings, always keep small children and pets in mind. Make sure the tree is sturdily mounted in its stand so that kids or pets cannot knock it over. Electric lights should be checked thoroughly for safety and defects prior to use by looking for frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections. Use only UL-approved electrical decorations and extension cords. Do not leave tree lights on when unattended.

Now that you know how to pick the perfect tree and keep you holiday safe, it’s up to you to make it merry! Keep an eye out for upcoming Michigan State University Extension articles on variety selection and how to recycle your tree.

For more information on selecting and caring for your Christmas tree, see the following MSU Extension articles:

Photo credits: looseends, Flickr.com (top picture) and Tom Trechter, Mathisen Tree Farms (bottom picture)