Vijai Pandian - UW-ExtensionReprinted by permission from WisContextWith so many varieties and sizes of live Christmas trees, making a suitable selection that stays fresh throughout the holiday season can be daunting. But keeping several things in mind can help enliven the season.

    1. Before heading to the tree farm or lot, choose the location inside where the tree will be placed, and then measure the ceiling height and width of the display area. A spot away from doorsteps and heat venting areas like fire pits, radiators and refrigerators is best.


    1. Being familiar with Christmas tree varieties prior to shopping can make the purchase decision easier. Balsam fir, Canaan fir, Douglas fir, Frazier fir, Scots (or Scotch) pine, white pine, Colorado blue spruce and white spruce are some species commonly used as Christmas trees.
        • The Frazier fir is a popular species that has thick and dense needles that last longer than many others, a silvery color underneath the needles and a dense branching structure. It is also noticeably aromatic.

        • The balsam fir has an attractive pyramidal form, dark green flat needles, good needle retention and a pleasant fragrance.

        • The Canaan fir has characteristics similar to those of the balsam and Frazier firs: pleasant balsam-like aroma, an attractive pyramidal to conical form and dark green flat needles with silvery band underneath.

        • Although not a true fir, the Douglas fir has long soft blue green needles and a sweet fragrance when crushed.

        • The Scots (or Scotch) pine has twisted green needles with strong, open branches that suitable for hanging heavy ornaments, and it has excellent needle retention.

      • The white pine features soft green needles in clusters of five, flexible branches that are not suitable for hanging heavy ornaments, good needle retention and mild aroma.


    1. Trees purchased early in the holiday season will be fresher because new deliveries in the lot tend to be so. The retailer can tell customers whether trees were stocked at the beginning of the season or were replenished at regular intervals during the season. Newly arrived trees stored in shaded areas and/or protected from the cold winds will last the longest.


    1. Ideally a fresh cut tree will have healthy green, flexible needles and should feel moist inside when a branch is broken. The green needles should not drop when a branch is pulled or if the tree is dropped on its basal trunk end from a few inches above the ground. However, a few brown needles shedding from inside the trunk is quite normal to witness.

Like other firs, the balsam fir has a pleasant aroma.University of Wisconsin-Extension


    1. A tree with a straight base that is 6-8 inches long is best to fit a tree stand.


    1. Before hauling the tree inside, slice the base of its trunk by about one-half inch to shorten it slightly, unless the trees was harvested within 12 hours. The cut should be clean and straight to provide the best water uptake by the tree and enhance its fresh look and needle retention.


    1. Once the tree is in the stand, water should be added to the stand's reservoir. A cut tree requires one quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter. That makes for an astounding amount of water consumption by the tree, especially if it is placed early in the holiday season. The tree stand should be checked daily to make sure the water level is sufficient.


  1. Lighting decorations that emit little or no heat, such as those with LED bulbs, will minimize needle loss.

Vijai Pandian is a horticultural agent and educator for the University of Wisconsin-Extension Brown County.

How To Pick And Place A Fresh And Fragrant Christmas Tree was originally published on WisContext which produced the article in a partnership between Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and Cooperative Extension.

Support local news with a membership!

Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Association, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley

News Section

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.