Tree Tips

Buying and Caring for a Real Christmas Tree

Buying a Real Tree

In our opinion, there is nothing like a fresh, fragrant Christmas tree at Christmas time. But that’s not surprising — we “hart” Christmas trees! While we prefer any real tree over an artificial tree, not all Christmas trees are created equal and not every tree is for everyone. Below are some tips for purchasing a real Christmas tree.

  • Tall or Short? Make sure you know how tall your ceilings are and what size tree you can accommodate. Trees generally look smaller on the lot or store. Don’t forget to allow room for the tree topper. The Christmas tree stand will add a few inches or more as well.
  • Skinny or Fat? You want your Christmas tree to be the centerpiece, but you don’t necessarily want it to overtake the room. Before you buy your tree, know how wide you want it to be.
  • Check for Freshness. Yes, you want a beautiful tree, but you also want a fresh tree. A fresh tree will be more fragrant and will last longer. The Freshness Check: If you bend the branch, does it bounce back into place? The fresher the tree, the more supple the branches and the faster they will bounce back.
  • Do a 360 Check: If possible, look at the entire tree before you purchase. You don’t want any surprises when you get it home. If there is a flaw on one side, you might not mind. You can always put that side toward the wall and likely if there is a flaw, you can get the tree at a better price. But you probably don’t want any brown spots, so check all sides.
  • Branches 101: Some tree varieties have sturdier branches than others. How heavy are your ornaments? If they are heavy, you probably do not want to purchase a tree (like a White Pine) that has very flimsy limbs.
  • The Trim: Even trees of the same variety, like Fraser Fir, are not trimmed the same. Some farmers trim their trees tightly and others are trimmed loosely. Depending on how you want to decorate your tree, you might want to consider whether you want a trim that is tighter or looser. In our experience, a looser trim makes it easier to display your ornaments.
  • Is the trunk straight? Some tree varieties, like Scotch Pine, can have a bent trunk. Check the trunk to make sure it is straight. Other varieties, like Fraser Firs, do not typically have this problem, so you don’t have to worry.
  • You Get What You Pay For: Christmas trees generally fall into three grades — Premiums/#1s, #2s and #3s. While trees at the big box stores might be cheaper, most of them are a lower grade tree. In addition, they have been harvested earlier, so that they could make it through the big box store supply line. Independent garden centers and tree lots generally have higher grade trees that were harvested later in the season.
Caring for Your Tree

Caring for a real Christmas tree is easy. All you really need is fresh water. However, below are a list of things to keep in mind. For more information, visit Tree Care Tips from the National Christmas Tree Association.

  • Place Your Tree in Water ASAP. Most tree varieties can go 6 to 8 hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water, but it is best to place your tree in water as soon as possible.
  • Water, Water, Water. Most trees will need adequate water. Displaying trees in water in a traditional reservoir type stand is the most effective way of maintaining their freshness and minimizing needle loss problems.
  • Your Tree Might Not Take Water Right Away. Because of the freshness of our trees, they may not need to take up water for up to a day or two. So, please do not be alarmed if they are not taking up water as soon as you bring it home.
  • Temperature is Not Important. The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.
  • Check Water Level. Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water.
  • Do Not Shave Bark Off the Trunk. Shaving the bark off the trunk of the tree will prevent the tree from being able to drink water.
  • No Need to Drill a Hole. Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not improve water uptake.
  • You Do Not Need to Put Anything in the Water! All the myths of tree perservative are false and/or not proven. Good rule of thumb is to treat your tree like you would treat your own body, fresh filtered water. Sugar will only attract ants.
Recycle Your Tree

There is no reason for a Christmas tree to rot in a landfill when it can be used for something else!  Communities across the nation have found a number of uses for Christmas trees, including wildlife habitat, mulch, dune restoration and much more (see the National Christmas Tree Association website for more information).

To find a recycling program in your area, check out  To find out all of the ways that you can recycle a Christmas tree, visit the National Christmas Tree Association website.

Tree Care Safety

Christmas trees do not spontaneously combust and they do not start house fires.  A properly maintained Christmas tree is not a fire hazard.  By practicing some basic, common sense safety precautions, you can safely enjoy your Christmas tree throughout the Christmas season:

  • Always make a fresh cut at the base of the tree immediately prior to putting it in the stand. Cut approximately two inches off, cutting straight across the trunk. Many retail locations will do this for you.
  • Make sure your tree is at least three feet away from fireplaces, heaters, vents, and other sources of heat or drafts. If you are in a warm climate, keep your tree out of direct sunlight
  • Be sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Fill the stand with fresh water and keep it full. Check the water level regularly. A tree will often absorb over a gallon of water the first day that it is in the house. No additives are needed, just plenty of fresh, clean water.
  • Check all lights and wiring for broken bulbs and frayed wires and don’t overload electrical outlets even if you use a surge protector.  Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are the most common cause of holiday fires.
  • Never string more than 3 strands of lights together. Think smart, never use lit candles to decorate a tree.
  • Always turn off lights before going to bed or leaving home.  Never leave lights unattended.
  • When your tree starts dropping needles, it’s time to say goodbye. Check with your community to find a recycle program. Dried out trees are a fire-hazard when left in the home, garage, or placed outside the home.

Finally, it is important to purchase a fresh tree.  A fresh tree still contains a lot of moisture and is extremely difficult to ignite.  Freshness Check:  If you bend the branch, does it bounce back into place? The fresher the tree, the more supple the branches and the faster they will bounce back.  If you touch the branch and the needles fall off, the tree is already dried out.