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Children picking a Christmas tree

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – For many, finding the perfect Christmas tree can make or break the holiday season. Luckily, people can easily find a perfect tree if they keep a few things in mind.

Species

Some people get their Christmas tree from a “cut your own” tree farm, while others buy from vendors with pre-cut trees. Norm Haley, an Alabama Extension regional agent of forestry, wildlife and natural resources, said either of these options usually have several species to choose from.

“Common Christmas tree species grown in the South available at farms are Leyland cypress, Virginia pine, Arizona cypress, Eastern red cedar and white pine,” Haley said. “Species found at vendors with pre-cut trees often include Fraser fir, Douglas fir and blue spruce.”

Knowing ahead of time how the tree will be decorated can help decide what species to select. If people know they have heavy ornaments, they need a species with stiff branches. Certain species have stiffer branches than others.

“The Arizona cypress, eastern red cedar, blue spruce, Fraser fir and Virginia pine all have stiffer branches and are good options for heavy decorations,” Haley said.

Buying

Before purchasing or cutting down a tree, people need to measure the height and width of the room the tree will be in. This gives people a good idea of how much space their home has for a tree.

Haley said the best time to buy a tree depends if the tree is pre-cut or freshly cut.

“Expect most trees to last a maximum of three weeks after cutting,” he said. “After that, the tree’s needles begin to shed and lose fragrance.”

If purchasing a fresh cut tree or cutting one yourself, it is easier to estimate how long it will last. When buying a precut tree, Haley said the timing can be difficult because it is hard to know exactly when the tree was cut.

“For precut trees, I suggest shaking the tree and running your hand down the branches,” Haley said. “If the tree is fresh, very few green needles should come off.”

Also, when purchasing or cutting a tree, Haley said to make sure the trunk is reasonably straight and that there is only one trunk. Trees with dual or split trunks can be difficult to put in a stand.

Tree Care

Once people bring their perfect tree home, they must cut the stump again and place it in the stand with water. People should continue to check the water levels daily. A fresh cut ensures the tree can take up water.

“Fresh cut trees will absorb a great deal of water in the first few days after cutting,” Haley said. “Making sure there is always water in the stand prolongs the fragrance and keeps the needles from shedding.”

More Information

For more on caring for this year’s Christmas tree, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.

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