Selecting a Live Cut Christmas Tree

Selecting a Live Cut Christmas Tree

by Michelle Wallace

Many of you over the years have developed a family ritual tied to selecting a live cut Christmas Tree.  While choosing the perfect tree for the holiday season isn’t rocket science, here are a few tips to help make sure your Christmas tree makes it through the season.  As fun as selecting and decorating a tree can be, it is no fun at all to have to buy a second tree and redecorate because the first tree didn’t last long enough.

North Carolina is second largest producer of Christmas Trees in the nation and the first producer of the Frasier Fir Christmas Tree.   Frasier Firs are the most popular Christmas tree variety since they retain their needles for the longest period (approximately 42 days) after being cut.  Their branches are firm and able to hold many ornaments without bending from excessive weight.  Their fragrance is also wonderful.

While Frasier firs are the most popular there are several other varieties available including White Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, Leyland Cypress, Colorado Blue Spruce and Norway Spruce.  Of these varieties, the Eastern Red Cedar retains its needles for the shortest period of time (approximately 12 days).

Once you have selected the variety of Christmas tree:

1)      Decide what size tree will fit in your designated space.  Be careful not to select a tree that is too big and remember the tree will need to be placed in a tree stand and you will need to leave room for your tree topper.

2)      Check for symmetry.  Is this tree uniform?  While some of you may look for the wild and whimsical, most of you will want a very uniformly developed tree.

3)      Shake the tree.  Is it already losing lots of needles?  When you select a cut tree from a Christmas tree lot, there is no way to tell how long the tree has been on the lot other than by checking needle loss.  Some Christmas tree lots bring new trees in daily, some weekly, or just once depending on their volume of customers.  The needles should not be falling off the tree yet and the branches should be firm but flexible.

4)      Check for insects.  It is not uncommon to find a Praying Mantis egg sack on a Christmas tree.  They look like a small potato and can be found attached to the branch of a tree.  Inside each sack are between 100-200 baby Praying Mantis.  While these insects are considered beneficial in the landscape, most would agree that finding 200 baby Praying Mantis crawling up the walls of their holiday decorated house is an experience they would prefer to forgo. The egg sack will hatch in the warmth of your house.  What a gift that would be on Christmas morning!

5)      Plan to bring your tree stand with you to a cut and choose lot.  Most operations will cut the tree trunk and set the tree in your stand before you leave.  That is one less thing you’ll have to do when you get home.

Once your tree is home, you will need to water it to ensure that it lasts the duration of the holiday.  Don’t place you tree near a heat vent where it will dry out, and remember to turn off the Christmas lights when you are not in the room, both for your home safety and to save on your electricity bill.  Finally it’s time to decorate and have some fun, best wishes to you all.

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2 thoughts on “Selecting a Live Cut Christmas Tree

  1. Pingback: Holiday Decorating with Cut Greenery | Durham Extension Master Gardeners

  2. Pingback: Holiday Decorating | Durham Extension Master Gardeners

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