Holiday Home & Garden

Tips for Choosing the Best Christmas Tree

Christmas trees are showing up at retail locations throughout the area. The appropriate steps in selecting a fresh tree are important in its longevity in your home. In addition, by selecting a tree that is fresh, you can avoid some potential hazards.

Choosing a real Christmas tree is fun for the whole family and is easy to do. There are a few simple steps when selecting and caring for your tree.

First, when selecting a tree, do a freshness test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Second, look at the ground around the tree. You should not see excessive amounts of green needles on the ground, although some interior loss of brown needles is normal and will occur over the lifetime of the tree. Once you’ve chosen your tree, keep it in a bucket of water in a sheltered, unheated area such as a porch or garage to protect it from the wind and sun until you’re ready to decorate it.

Before you set up your tree, make a fresh, straight cut across the base of the trunk – about a quarter of an inch up from the original cut – and place the tree in a tree stand that holds at least a gallon of water.

Caring for your real tree is easy. The most important thing to remember is that real trees need water daily. Never let your tree stand go dry.

A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump if the water drops below the base of the tree – preventing the tree from absorbing water when the tree stand is refilled. If a seal does form, make another fresh cut to allow the tree to absorb water.

It is important to remember that a tree will absorb more than a gallon of water in the first 24 hours and 1 or more quarts a day thereafter. Water is important because it prevents the needles from drying and prevents the boughs of some species from drooping.

In addition, keep your tree away from heat and dry draft sources such as fireplaces, lights, vents and TV sets. Test your light cords and connections to make sure they’re in good working order before hanging them on the tree. You don’t want to use cords with cracked insulation or broken or empty sockets.

Be sure to unplug lights before you go to bed or leave the house. You should also keep pets and young children away from the tree and cords. Sensible precautions such as these will help preserve the unique beauty and tradition only a real Christmas tree can provide.

The preceding article was produced by the LSU AgCenter.

About the author

Dan Gil

Dan Gil

Dan Gill is an Associate Professor in Consumer Horticulture with the LSU AgCenter, a position he has held since 2001. He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in horticulture from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Before moving to Baton Rouge to take on statewide responsibilities, he was headquartered in New Orleans as an extension horticulturist from 1980 to 2001. While there, he became established as a reliable source of helpful, useful advice on lawn and garden topics through his media work.

He is the spokesperson for the LSU AgCenter’s Get It Growing project, a statewide educational effort in home horticulture utilizing radio, Internet, TV and newsprint. Gardeners throughout Louisiana read his columns in local newspapers watch his gardening segments on local TV stations, listen to him on local radio and access content on the Internet.

In the New Orleans area, Dan appears weekly on the Channel 4 Morning News, writes a weekly gardening column for The Times-Picayune and hosts the Saturday morning Garden Show on WWL 870-AM, a live call-in radio program that reaches southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Dan is author of Month-by-Month Gardening in Louisiana and co-author of the Louisiana Gardener’s Guide, Month-by-Month Gardening in Texas and Texas Gardener’s Resource. His “Only in Louisiana” column appears monthly in the Louisiana Gardener Magazine, and his articles have also appeared nationally in Fine Gardening Magazine.

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