There is nothing as wonderful as a fresh cut or live Christmas tree. The feel, look and scent will put you right and get you into the Christmas spirit. There are so many choices when it comes to choosing the perfect fresh tree. First you need to decide if you want a fresh cut or a live (container grown or ball and burlap) tree. Fresh cut is just that, harvested from a Christmas tree farm and placed in a tree stand in your home for the holidays. A live tree is one you can bring inside for holidays then take it outside and plant it in the yard to be enjoyed year after year.
When it comes to fresh cut or live trees there are some big differences so I’ve compiled a list of common varieties usually available plus some tips on caring for them…
Christmas trees at a glance:
Douglas Fir: One of the top Christmas tree species in the U.S. Great aroma when needles are crushed. Holds blue to dark green; 1” to 1 ½ “ needle that radiate in all directions from the branch.
Fraser Fir: Good form (pyramid-shape) and needle-retention. ½” to 1” long flattened needles, dark green on top with silver underneath. Branches are strong and turn upward slightly.
Colorado Blue Spruce: Nice symmetrical form with attractive blue sharp needles that are 1’-1 ½” long. Good needle retention.
Norway Spruce: Good conical shape with 1/”-1 ½” shiny, dark green needles. Strong fragrance but for needle retention must give proper care.
Virginia Pine: dense form with stout branches and dark green 1 ½”-3” needles twisted in pairs. Strong pine scent. Popular Christmas tree in the South.
White Pine: Shape is full with 2”-5” long blue-green needles. Retains needles throughout holiday season. Little or no fragrance, which is good for those who have allergic reactions to strong scented evergreens. Branches not as sturdy as other Christmas trees for holding heavy ornaments.
Cut Tree care tips:
- Be sure the tree is healthy and fresh – of course if you cut your own you won’t have to worry! If tree is already cut, check for excessive needle loss by giving the tree or branch a good shake. Naturally occurring loose needles should have been removed mechanically prior or if you are buying a fresh tree, the farm will have a mechanical shaker to remove loose needles eliminating any unnecessary mess when you get home.
- Don’t buy a tree that is too big for your home. If you have to cut off a large portion of trunk – it may ruin the shape of the tree.
- Look at the bottom of the tree, be sure there is plenty of trunk before branches start so you can carry and cut some off at home.
- If your ride home is more than 15 minutes, wrap the tree with a tarp or place it inside to keep the wind from causing damage. Most tree farms and retail centers will wrap it in netting for you.
- Place the bottom – trunk of the tree forward to protect needles and keep it securely in place when you tied it.
- Keep tree out of sun if it can’t be placed in home right away and make a fresh cut at the base of trunk then stand it in a bucket of water in a cool, shaded location inside or out. If trunk remains covered in water a second cut when it goes into tree stand will not be necessary.
- Before placing in sturdy tree stand make a straight across cut of ½” – 1” on bottom of trunk. Most retailers and many farms will do this for you if you are going straight home to display your tree. My husband and I purchased a heavy duty tree stand a few years back called “the marriage saver”. I highly recommend it or any stand that holds the tree firmly in place without fishing line running hither and yon while holding a large amount of water as a tree will drink up to a gallon the first day and a quart or so every day thereafter. Investing in a quality tree stand will save many tears and “I told you so(s)” keep water in the stand covering bottom of trunk at all times for best needle retention.
- Use cold water without chemicals. Do not let the bottom of the trunk dry out. A sap will form sealing it so water can no longer be taken up. No need to spray tree with any chemicals to keep needles from drying out.
- Place Christmas tree in a cool area of home away from direct sunlight and heat.
- After Christmas, set your tree in the garden. The birds love to have a place to get out of the wind appreciate some holiday food in the form of popcorn and cranberry chains along with bird seed ornaments.
Live tree care – container or ball and burlap:
- Keep tree in shady area, unheated garage or porch until it is time to bring inside.
- Carry tree by ball or container, not the top.
- Keep soil or ball moist. A galvanized tub works well to hold ball if not in pot.
- Place tree in a cool spot inside home away from direct heat.
- Try to keep tree inside home no longer than 1 week to 10 days.
After Christmas go ahead and plant your live tree if the ground isn’t yet frozen.
- Dig hole in yard 3-4 times size of container or ball.
- Amend soil if it is heavy clay by adding organic matter; ground leaves, compost, soil conditioner, etc.
- Remove burlap, twine, etc before planting or take out of container. Be sure the top of ball is level with ground, not to deep and not sticking above soil.
- May want to stake tree for first year if needed.