How to Select and Decorate a Christmas Tree

Christmas tree next to fireplace

Whether you cut down your own tree at a Christmas tree farm or visit one of the many tree lots popping up during the holidays, selecting and bringing home a Christmas tree is one of the highlights of the season. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about how to select and care for a cut Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree Selection

What kind of tree should I get?

Douglas Fir

The type of tree you choose is really a matter of personal preference. Some prefer the stiffer branches of firs for hanging heavier ornaments, others like the soft openness of pines or the interesting colors of spruce. Christmas trees vary widely in shape, texture, and cost, although the decision is too personal to call one of them superior to another.

Different tree species have different characteristics, and the method of growing and pruning will also affect the overall appearance. Be sure to ask the grower about the care and harvest of their particular trees, to make sure you’re getting a healthy tree that will last all season.

How do I select a healthy tree?

Check for strong needles.

Look for a tree whose branches are upright and perky. The color should be green and glossy, with few to no brown needles. Grasp a branch and bend it a little, then gently pull it through your hand – look for flexible branches that don’t leave your hand full of needles. Gently shake the tree by its trunk and see what falls. A few brown needles will fall out naturally, but you shouldn’t see many green needles on the ground.

How big should my tree be?

Branches should be flexible.

That depends on the space and ceiling height available as well as your personal preference. When you’re out in the open field or at the tree lot, the trees will seem small – many a family has chosen the perfect tree and taken it home, only to discover that it won’t fit in the house! Before choosing your tree, be sure to measure the spot in your room carefully to determine how tall and wide it can be, then measure your tree before buying it. Don’t plan on trimming or shearing a tree – instead buy one the right size and shape.

How long will my tree last?

A freshly cut tree, kept well supplied with water, will last about a month. If you’re buying a precut tree, be sure to ask when it was harvested. All Christmas trees will begin to lose needles as they dry out. Fir, spruce, and cypress generally keep their needles longer than pines.


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9 Comments on “How to Select and Decorate a Christmas Tree”

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  • Jennifer L Fisher Says:
    December 9th, 2018 at 6:08 am

    Cutting our Christmas tree this year. Does cutting it in colder temperatures make it last longer, or warm. This weekend vs next weekend with have a 10-20 degree difference (-15 today, vs predicted temps of +6 next weekend)

  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    December 7th, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Hi, Trisha,
    Gardening questions can be tricky since the rules can change based on the region. You didn’t include the location, so we would suggest contacting your local Master Gardeners association.
    Master gardeners train on a range of topics so they can provide advice, at no charge, for people in their area.
    Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  • Trisha Says:
    December 4th, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Help my husband is an idiot he bought a tree with a big gap of branches missing it looks hideous against my advice and n ow I have put it in the stand with water and the branches will not open Why?

  • louis Says:
    November 27th, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    If the tree appears to be drying out, use warm or hot water to refill the stand. Warmer water can be absorbed more quickly and will help rejuvenate the tree.

  • Sandy Says:
    December 15th, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    We have a freshly cut live tree that was put immediately from returning home into a bucket of water 10 days ago…it has basically drunk no water. Instead of doing a fresh cut again, can we drill holes in the bottom to allow this tree to drink water? Need help ASAP…plan to bring it inside today or tomorrow.

  • paige Says:
    December 15th, 2015 at 11:42 am

    My tree is turning brown. It was fresh cut, and I put it in the water right away, and it has been full of water. I heard putting sugar helps, but I don’t know what to do.

  • kim brown Says:
    December 10th, 2014 at 3:39 am

    have got my tree in a stand but keeps falling over when decorated ,what am i doing wrong .

  • james gage jr. Says:
    January 25th, 2013 at 10:58 am

    i have designed a tree stand that has a built in resovoir that holds 7 us gallons. no external componets, water tanks, hoses, valve assemblies. just physics. not only does it hold an incredable amount of water, the weight of the water makes it virtually tip proof.

  • janetaylor Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 7:12 am

    The Christmas tree symbolizes peace and love and is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree. It is a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas or the original name Yule. According to Christian lore, the Christmas tree is associated with St Boniface and the German town of Geismar.

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How to Select and Decorate a Christmas Tree