Choosing a Christmas Tree


With Thanksgiving behind me, I can now get ready for Christmas. I will leave the radio station on when a Christmas song comes on. Houses will be decorated, cards sent out, gifts will be bought, and a tree will be set up.

Many Americans have enjoyed the tradition of a fresh, fragrant evergreen tree as part of their Christmas celebrations. Today 30–35 million real trees are sold each holiday season, and there have never been more sources from which to select.

Freshly cut Christmas trees are available from a variety of sources – garden centers or nurseries, local retail lots and choose-and-cut tree farms. My efforts here are to help you select a fresh tree and explain the characteristics of different types of Christmas trees.

If you are going to purchase a pre-cut tree from one of many places around town, go ahead and purchase the tree early so that it can go in water closer to the time when it was cut. The longer it has been cut before you bring it home, less color and fragrance can be expected. I urge to you buy locally grown trees. Not only are locally grown trees usually fresher than those shipped from out of state, but buying local helps local growers.

While choosing your tree, select a tree that is at least one foot shorter than the ceiling height in the room where you will display your tree. A standard eight-foot ceiling means no more than a seven-foot tree.

Make sure the base of the trunk is straight and 6 to 8 inches long to allow placement in the tree stand. Many trees may need trimming so that the lower branches will not be in the way.

Look for a tree with a healthy, green appearance and few dead or browning needles. Avoid trees with a wilted look. One test is to run your hand along a branch. Needles should be fresh and flexible and should not come off in your hand.

Another test is to bump the trunk of the tree on the ground. If green needles fall off the tree, it is not fresh. You can expect a few brown needles to fall from the tree. Choose another tree if many brown needles fall off.

If you shop around you may find several varieties available. Virginia Pine is a dense, short-needled tree with artistically spiraled foliage. Its strong limbs support heavy ornaments. It has a pleasant pine fragrance and excellent needle retention.

Virginia pines are commonly available at both retail lots and choose-and-cut farms.

Other varieties to consider include Scotch Pine, Norway Spruce, Leyland Cypress, Fraser Fir or a Douglas Fir.

After arriving home, remove one or two inches from the base of the trunk to encourage better water absorption. Place the trunk in a bucket of water for a day or two and keep the tree in a cool, shaded area before bringing it indoors.

When setting up your tree, locate it away from any heat source that can accelerate drying. Christmas trees can absorb a lot of water, so place the tree in a stand with a generous capacity, at least one quart or larger. Check the water level each day and add water as needed. Depending on size and other factors, a tree may absorb as much as a gallon of water the first day.

Since real Christmas trees are biodegradable, after the holidays they can be converted into landscaping mulch or put to other organic uses. Each year the City of Lufkin offers a Christmas tree recycling service.

Around the farm, trees can be cleaned of all decorations can be sunk in a pond to provide structure and habitat for fish.

Above all else, I hope you have a great start to this Christmas season. Keep your tree watered and keep candles and heat sources away from it.


Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

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