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A row of beautiful and vibrantly green Christmas trees with the sun beating down on them on a cold winter evening.

Selecting a Christmas tree for the holiday season can be as simple as selecting from the endless styles of artificial trees. Several companies provide artificial trees complete with ornaments and lights. It is easy and can be practical, but for some families, choosing and decorating a live tree is pure holiday joy. The more traditional, “A Christmas Story” method, involves selecting a pre-cut tree from a lot. Hardcore Christmas tree aficionados, for example, will make that time tradition trek to a local Christmas tree farm to pick, cut, drag, and wrap their tree just like urban lumberjacks of old. Below are some suggestions for selecting a live Christmas tree.

Selecting Live Trees

Live Christmas trees are usually grouped into three categories for retail: precut, you-cut, and balled and bailed. Locally grown Christmas trees will be the freshest and last the longest if selected and cared for properly. Most local Christmas tree farms will harvest trees around Thanksgiving to sell on their tree lots. Some tree operations will also sell trees directly off their farm as pre-cut or you-cut. In Alabama, locally grown trees are usually limited to Virginia pines (Pinus virginiana) and white pines (Pinus strobus) in some North Alabama locations.

These recommendations apply to precut trees as well.

  • Pick the freshest tree possible. If you are looking at precut trees, ask approximately when the tree was cut. Anything cut more than three to four weeks ago will be on its last leg of looking green and will drop needles soon after you get it home. Look for flexible needles that remain firmly attached when you tug on them. Also, give precut trees a good shake. If needles shower down, keep looking. When selecting fresh trees, look for flexible tough needles and uniform green color throughout the tree. Keep in mind, a cut-your-own tree from a local tree farm will guarantee the freshest tree.
  • Water the tree right away. Regardless of a fresh cut or a precut tree, immediately place your tree in water upon arriving home. If the tree was cut within 12 hours, there is no need to cut off a quarter to a half-inch piece off the bottom of the tree. If needed, make sure the cut is smooth and perpendicular to the trunk. Pre-drilling the center of your tree for a tree stand will not harm your tree’s ability to take up water. Water is transported along the outer edges of the trunk, just underneath the bark.
  • Place your live tree away from heat sources. Keep your tree away from fireplaces, heaters, and heat vents. Keeping the room temperature cooler will also slow the drying process, lowering water consumption each day. New LED lights are a plus. They use less energy and produce less heat on the tree. Remember to turn the lights off when the tree is unattended.
  • Use a tree stand that will hold enough water for the tree. A tree will absorb one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. An average 4-inch diameter tree will need at least one gallon of water per day. This amount will vary depending upon the location where one places a tree. So, check the tree stand water basin daily. A fresh-cut tree will absorb a lot of water, especially during the first week. Clean water is all that is recommended to maintain tree freshness.

After the Holiday Season

Remember to recycle your tree after the holidays. Several local municipalities will host Christmas tree recycling drives that will accept drop-offs.

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