How to choose and care for your Christmas tree


Do you head out to the tree farm or over to the local lot for your tree? Wherever you go, follow these tips for selecting a fresh tree and keeping it that way.

Measure first

Out in the open air, it can be difficult to judge how a tree will fit in your home. Before you head out to the tree farm or lot, measure the height of the room where you’ll display your tree. (Choose a place away from heat sources like fireplaces, heat vents and space heaters.) Also, measure the width of the space available for your tree.

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) says, “Most trees on tree farms are trimmed to an 80% taper. So a tree that’s 10 feet tall will be 8 feet wide at the bottom.” Make sure your tree will fit your space vertically and horizontally.

Freshness test

Close your hand around a branch and draw it down the length of the branch. Needles of a fresh tree will not come off readily and the branch will be pliable. If the branches are brittle and snap off easily, the tree is too dry. Keep looking!

Also, pass on trees with discolored needles or a musty odor.

Set up your tree

Have a stand with a water reservoir available when you bring your tree home. NCTA recommends cutting a 1/2-inch thick disk from the base of the trunk before placing the tree in the stand. Cut straight across; an angle or v-cut will make it difficult to secure the tree in the stand.

If you won’t be displaying your tree right away, place the tree in a bucket of water. If your tree is out of water for more than 6 hours after cutting, re-cut the base of the trunk so it can take up water.

Caring for your tree

Check the water level daily. Keep the cut end of the trunk submerged in water. Some homeowners use a ping pong ball in the reservoir as visual cue to the water level.

Keep an eye on the freshness. When the tree becomes excessively dry, it becomes a fire hazard – remove it from the house!

When the season is over

When it’s time for your tree to go, check out community recycling programs, use the needles for mulch, or take Popular Mechanic’s suggestion to rent a wood chipper and throw a chipper party.

Consumers helps more than 1,000 members finance their homes each year. When you need a mortgage or home equity line of credit for your home improvements, call us at 800-991-2221. We’re here to help you get the home of your dreams!

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