Make your holiday season complete with the sight and scent of a real tree. There's no denying the
special holiday feeling that comes with bringing home a fresh-cut, rich-green Christmas tree.
Whether you crave a more traditional experience or simply enjoy the festive smell of pine in the air, selecting and decorating a real Christmas tree is a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy.
Fresh-cut or live Christmas trees require a little extra care and attention, which can become an important part of your holiday traditions. Before you begin to shop, consider:
- Where do you plan to place your tree?
- What tree height and width are best?
- Are you interested in a particular type of tree?
- What is the difference between a fresh-cut tree and a live one?
- How can you help your tree thrive throughout the holiday season?
Before choosing the ideal location for your fresh-cut tree, it's important to find a spot that is cool and free from drafts. You also want to make sure that the tree is placed away from heat sources, such as vents, fireplaces or appliances to help the tree retain moisture and remain healthy. Once you find the right location, you’ll want to measure the available height and width of the area. Remember that the taller the tree, the larger the base, so keep this in mind when shopping.
Fresh-cut Christmas trees are generally selected for their ability to retain their needles, general coloring, overall shape and natural fragrance. Most trees come from the fir, spruce or pine families, though other popular types are available. Keep in mind that trees are sometimes suited to particular regions, which can affect their availability in your area.
Live trees are an environmentally appealing option that come in either a large pot or a burlap sack, with roots completely intact. After enjoying the tree over your Christmas holiday, it can then be transplanted to your backyard. If purchasing a “living Christmas Tree” in a cold weather climate, store the tree in a cool to cold (non-freezing) area for 10-14 days to allow the tree to proceed into winter dormancy.
The below highlights some of the more popular tree types and their defining characteristics. You’ll want to choose one with the right combination of features to help you create your ideal tree.
Balsam Fir: Needle size 3/4" to 1-1/2", dark green, pyramidal shape with spire-like tip,strong fragrance, good needle retention.
Colorado Blue Spruce: Needle size 1" to 1-1/2", dark blue-gray to silvery blue, pyramidal shape with conical crown, symmetrical form, excellent needle retention, popular choice for living trees and landscaping.
Douglas Fir: Needle size 1" to 1-1/2", dark or blue-green, pyramidal shape, sweet scent, commonly available, long lasting needles.
Eastern White Pine: Needle size 2-1/2" to 5", blue-green to silver-green, conical shape, little or no fragrance, may be better for allergy sufferers, flexible needles, not ideal for heavy ornaments.
Fraser Fir: Needle size 1/2" to 1", dark green, pyramidal shape, strong branches are ideal for heavy ornaments, excellent needle retention, fresh fragrance.
Grand Fir: Needle size 1" to 1-1/2", dark green, symmetrical shape with rounded crown, strong fragrance, needles have a glossy appearance.
Noble Fir: Needle size 1", blue-gray with silver appearance, pyramidal shape with upturned, long-lasting needles, stiff branches are well suited for heavier ornaments, pleasing aroma, often used to create swags, garlands and wreaths.
Norway Spruce: Needle size 1/2" to 1", dark green, triangular shape, subtle scent, fair needle retention.
Scotch Pine: Needle size 1" to 3", ranges from bright greens to blue-greens, conical shape, sturdy branches for supporting heavy items, lasting aroma, excellent needle retention.
White Spruce: Needle size 1/2" to 3/4", green or blue-green, symmetrical shape with a conical crown, dense foliage, sturdy branches can hold heavier ornaments, crushed needles release an unpleasant odor, fair needle retention.
When it comes to selecting your fresh-cut or live tree, look for one with a bright, vibrant color. Needles that look dull and listless can indicate dryness or excessive age. Because fresh-cut trees have a limited life, you’ll want to purchase one that was recently harvested. While some needle loss is normal on any tree, shake the tree and make sure retains the vast majority of its needles. If there is much loss, move on to the next tree.
If you're selecting a live tree, be sure to do your homework and choose a species that will grow and thrive in your region.
- Withered bark on the outer twigs and branches indicates excessive dryness
- Pine trees with brittle needles that break easily are dehydrated
- Fir needles that are fresh and well hydrated snap crisply when bent
- Inspect both fresh-cut and live trees for the presence of insects and other pests
Care and maintenance
Having a fresh tree requires additional care. As soon as you get the tree home, make a new cut on the trunk so it can readily absorb water. Saw ½-1" off the base trunk and immediately place it in water. You can also ask the tree supplier to cut the tree trunk for you, so you can place your tree directly in the stand upon arriving home.
Keeping your tree hydrated is the key to maintaining a healthy, vibrant life. Trees drink a considerable amount of water, as much as a gallon or more a day, depending on the type and size of the tree. Make sure your stand has a large enough capacity to keep the base of the trunk submerged at all times. Fresh-cut trees usually last between 4-6 weeks, so be careful not to purchase a tree too early. Buying one sometime around Thanksgiving will suffice.
- Be sure to choose a stand that can fit around the entire width of the tree trunk
- Stands should have a minimum capacity of 1 qt. of water for every inch of stem diameter
- Look for stands with easy adjustments that accommodate the natural slant of the tree
- Stands come in both plastic and metal models and should have a minimum capacity of 1 gallon
- Check water daily and make sure that the base of the tree is always covered
- Water your tree using plain tap water with no additives for best results
- Recycle your tree at the end of the season through your local community program
- Live trees should only be located indoors for between 3 and 10 days
When it comes to Christmas tree fire safety, the most important thing to know is that a well-hydrated tree provides natural protection against fire hazards. Therefore, the best thing you can do is water your tree every day, without exception.
Additionally, using smaller, less heat-intensive lights, such as mini lights or LEDs, reduces drying. Always inspect light cords for damage or wear before hanging them and discard defective ones immediately. Use only UL listed lighting that has been tested by an independent agency.
- If you have small children or pets in your house, ensure your tree will not be easily toppled.
- Always unplug and turn off tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed
- Replace worn or damaged lights and electrical cords
- Keep breakable ornaments and cords out of reach of small children and pets
Easily dispose of your tree without scattering needles, branches and other debris all over your house with the help of a tree bag. These specially designed units fit over and around your tree at the end of the season so you can more easily transport it out of your home. Some even feature handles on the side for easier carrying.
Need some expert assistance? Visit your local Home Depot store to ask associates about products or how-to instructions. Can't make the trip, but need answers now? The Home Depot expert associates are also available to answer your questions online. Visit them here.