How To Pick the Freshest Tree for Christmas

Finding the perfect tree is simple if you know what to look for.

If you are one of the 27 million households that opts to buy a live tree for Christmas, you probably already know that unless you cut it down yourself, it is hard to know if you’ve got a winner or loser on your hands until the needles start raining down after you get it home and decorated.

Since I hate those smug artificial tree-owners that are always going on about how easy their tree is and how they’d happily trade the smell of pine for never having to sweep up needles again, I am determined to not make my mistakes of the past. Fortunately, there are some tricks to picking out the freshest tree at the lot and Andrea Woroch, the consumer-savings expert, is sharing them with us.

Suck it, you lovers of fake trees, here’s the lowdown on how to get the most perfect tree ever this season.

1. If you are buying your tree at a lot, always ask the vendor where the trees came from and when they bought them. Some trees are shipped in before Thanksgiving and may have been sitting around for weeks—which equals a lot of time cleaning up fallen needles once it gets to your house.

2. Check the tree for freshness. A fresh tree will have have moist, flexible needles, beautiful green color, and will smell piney and Christmas-y. Watch out for broken branches and damaged bark. Give it the bounce test: Lift the tree and let it fall back down—does it drop a ton of needles? If so, that is not a good sign.

3. Look for a heavy tree. If it is heavy for its height, that shows it is still holding a lot of water and is probably a good bet.

4. Buy local. Look for places that sell trees that were cut nearby—it doesn’t guarantee their freshness, but chances are greatly improved. Give it a bounce test to check. Look online for Christmas tree farms in your area.

5. Cut down your own tree. Make a day of going to a tree farm and start a new family tradition. Kids love helping select the tree and all that fresh air and exertion will make hot cocoa at home afterward all the sweeter.

6. Treat it tenderly. Leave the tree in a shady spot outside, preferably in a bucket of water, for a few days. Before bringing it in, cut off the bottom half inch of the trunk to make it easier for the tree to soak up water in it’s tree stand. Don’t forget to water your tree every day and you should have a happy, healthy tree for the duration of the holiday season. You can get more information on caring for trees from your local extension office, or check out The Ohio University’s Extension Fact Sheet on caring for your live tree.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: ©Steven Depolo via

Read more of Amy Windsor’s writing at Bitchin’ Wives Club.
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