Selection and Care of Christmas Trees

Artificial Christmas trees are convenient and attractive.  However, for many individuals the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a real (cut) Christmas tree.  For those who prefer a cut Christmas tree, a few simple guidelines will help insure an enjoyable and safe holiday season. 

A few decisions should be made before going out to buy a Christmas tree.  Decide where you are going to place the tree in the home.  Be sure to choose a location away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or radiator.  Also, decide on the size (height and width) of the tree you want.

Christmas trees may be purchased from cut-your-own tree farms or as cut trees in commercial lots. A list of tree farms in your area can be found at the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association website at 

Tree species commonly available at tree farms and commercial lots in Iowa include Scotch pine, white pine, red pine, Fraser fir, balsam fir, Canaan fir, Douglas fir, white spruce, and Colorado spruce. 

Trees cut and purchased at cut-your-own tree farms are obviously fresh.  Carefully check trees at a commercial tree lot to insure the freshness of previously cut trees.  Freshness can be determined with a few simple tests.  Gently run your hand over a branch.  The needles on a fresh tree will be pliable.  Those on a dry tree will be brittle.  Another test is to lift the tree by the trunk and lightly bounce the butt on the ground.  Heavy needle drop indicates a dry tree.  A fresh tree will drop only a few needles. 

When looking for a tree, select one that has a straight trunk.  A tree with a straight trunk will be much easier to set upright in the stand.  Check the diameter of the trunk to make sure it will fit in your stand.  A tree with a bare side may be fine if you intend to place it in a corner or against a wall. 

If you don’t intend to set up the Christmas tree immediately, place the tree in a cool, sheltered location.  An unheated garage or shed is often a suitable storage site.  (The sun and wind dries out trees stored outdoors.)  Put the butt of the tree in a bucket of water.  Remove an inch or more from the bottom of the trunk before bringing the tree in the house.  A fresh cut facilitates water uptake.

Indoors, immediately place and secure the tree in its stand and fill the reservoir with water.  Check the water supply as least twice a day and add water as needed.  Promptly remove the tree when it begins to dry and drop needles.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on November 14, 2014. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.