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Horticulture and Home Pest News
Horticulture & Home Pest News is filled with articles on current horticulture, plant care, pest management, and common household pests written by Iowa State University Extension specialists in the Departments of Entomology, Horticulture and Plant Pathology.

Christmas Tree Selection and Care

This article was published originally on 11/11/2009

 
Good quality artificial trees are time-saving, clean, safe, and attractive. Yet, for many individuals (me included) even the best quality artificial tree lacks the beauty, charm, and romance of a real tree. 
 
A few decisions should be made before going out to buy a Christmas tree. Decide where you are going to place the tree in the home. Also, decide on the size (height and width) of the tree you want. 
 
Christmas trees may be purchased from cut-your-own tree farms or as cut trees in commercial lots. Tree species commonly available at tree farms and commercial lots in Iowa include Scotch pine, white pine, red pine, Fraser fir, balsam fir, Canaan fir, Douglas fir, white spruce, and Colorado spruce. Trees cut and purchased at cut-your-own tree farms are obviously fresh. (A list of tree farms in your area can be found at the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association web site. Carefully check trees at a commercial tree lot to insure the freshness of previously cut trees. Freshness can be determined with a few simple tests. Gently run your hand over a branch. The needles on a fresh tree will be pliable. Those on a dry tree will be brittle. Another test is to lift the tree by the trunk and lightly bounce the butt on the ground. Heavy needle drop indicates a dry tree. A fresh tree will drop only a few needles. 
 
When looking for a tree, select one that has a straight trunk. A tree with a straight trunk will be much easier to set upright in the stand. Check the diameter of the trunk to make sure it will fit in your stand. A tree with a bare side may be fine if you intend to place it in a corner or against a wall. 
 
Once home, place the tree in a cool, sheltered location if you don't intend to set it up immediately. A garage or shed is often a suitable storage site. (The sun and wind will dry out trees stored outdoors.) Put the butt of the tree in a bucket of water. Saw off 1 inch of wood at the bottom of the trunk before bringing the tree in the house. A fresh cut helps facilitate water uptake. Place and secure the tree in its stand and fill the reservoir with water. Check the water supply as least twice a day and add water as needed. Promptly remove the tree when it begins to dry and drop needles.