Christmas Tree Selection and Care

By John Wilson, Extension Educator

I hate rushing the Christmas holiday before we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, but this might be too late for some people if I wait until next week. I’m guessing some people will select a Christmas tree on the weekend after Thanksgiving, along with their other early Christmas shopping.


For many families, once the Thanksgiving leftovers are in the refrigerator, it’s time to start preparing for Christmas. For many, the most prominent part of the holiday display is the Christmas tree. There has been a trend with more people selecting natural trees, but it is important to select a fresh tree.


This reduces the potential for fires, aids in cleanup… and makes it more pleasant for whoever has to crawl under the tree to distribute the gifts found there. OK, the last one is a family tradition and since I have the profile most closely resembling Santa Claus… never mind!


Follow these steps to assure the tree you are buying is fresh:

 Gently pull on the needles. They should be tightly attached to the twig.

Shake the tree vigorously or hold the tree several inches off the ground and drop the butt end on a hard surface. If green needles fall to the ground, look for a different tree. Dead, brown needles falling from inner parts of the tree may have been shed years ago and are less of a problem.

 Other considerations when selecting a tree should include:


Measure the height and width of the space you have available in the room where the tree will be placed. There’s nothing worse than bringing a tree indoors only to find it is too tall or wide. Take a tape measure with you when selecting your Christmas tree.

Remember to choose a tree for the area where it is to be displayed. For example if the tree is displayed in front of a large window, then all four sides should look as good as possible. If the tree is displayed against a wall, then a tree with three good sides would be okay. A tree with two good sides would work well in a corner. In general, the more perfect a tree, the more expensive it is.

Make sure the base of the tree trunk is straight for six to eight inches so it will fit easily into the stand.

 Once you have chosen a fresh Christmas tree, do your best to keep it fresh. A tree can stay fresh and healthy for several weeks if it is well cared for.

If you are not putting the tree up right away, store it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and freezing temperatures. Make a fresh cut one inch from the butt end and place the tree in a bucket of water.

When you bring the tree indoors, make another fresh cut one inch higher and place the tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least one gallon of water. A rule of thumb is a tree will use one quart of water each day for every inch of diameter of the trunk.

Be sure to keep the water level about the base of the tree. If the base dries out resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly. Commercially prepared mixes; aspirin; sugar and other additives added to the water are not necessary and may be detrimental.

If it’s a nuisance to water a Christmas tree once it’s decorated with a tree skirt and surrounded by presents, here’s an easy solution. Buy a funnel and a 3 to 4 foot length of vinyl tubing to slip over the end of the funnel. Fasten the funnel/tube with a twist-ties or twine in an out-of-the-way but reachable part of the tree. Extend the tubing down the tree trunk and into the tree stand reservoir. Now you can water the tree through the funnel without bending over or disturbing the tree skirt or its ornaments.

Keep the tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, TVs, radiators, and air ducts. Never use lighted candles or have open flames near your Christmas tree. Check all Christmas tree lights for worn electrical cords. Use UL approved electrical decorations and cords. Unplug tree lights at night or plug them into a timer.

 Following these guidelines on selecting and caring for your Christmas tree helps ensure a safe and happy holiday. But once the holidays are past, here are a couple final suggestions.

Take down the tree before it dries out. Many fresh cut trees if properly cared for will last at least five weeks before drying out.

Recycle your tree after Christmas. Many communities will pick up trees and turn them into wood chip mulch. You might put the tree in your backyard and place bread and suet among the branches for the birds.

 For more information on Christmas tree selection and care, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.

About katcountryhub
I am a graduate of Northeast Community College with a degree in journalism. I am married to Jeff Gilliland. We have two grown children, Justin and Whitney and four grandchildren, Grayce, Grayhm, Charli and Penelope. I will be covering Lyons, Decatur, Bancroft and Rosalie and am hoping to expand my horizons as time progresses!

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