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Picking the perfect Christmas tree

Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree

By Katie Drewitz, University of Minnesota Extension 

PRESTON and CALEDONIA, Minn. (11/29/2022) — As we gathered with family and friends last week to give thanks for our many blessings, some of our minds likely wandered to decorating for Christmas. While I personally wait to put up any Christmas decorations until December, I want to provide you with information for finding the perfect Christmas Tree before you embark on the search. If you are like me, you want your Christmas tree to last as long as possible. With a few tips and tricks from the National Christmas Tree Association you can find the perfect tree for your family and keep it healthy throughout the season. 

As a kid I never thought that a Christmas tree could be too big. Sorry, Mom! Thankfully, I now understand that putting too large of a tree in too small of a space will negatively impact your tree’s overall health and longevity. Choosing a tree with a size appropriate to your space will also prevent you from having stained walls and ceilings from the sap. Before you head out, take time to measure your intended space. Be sure to choose a location that is away from heat sources such as vents and fireplaces which will cause your tree to dry out more quickly. Then take the tape measure with you so you can be sure that your tree will not touch walls, windows, or ceilings. Also know the size of your base. You do not want a trunk that is too big to fit into the stand.

Now that you know how big of a tree you can get it is time to start the search at either a local tree farm or somewhere that has precut trees. If you start with an unhealthy tree, it will be very hard to keep it alive through the holiday season. One easy way to check a tree’s health is to run a branch through your lightly enclosed hand. If the branch loses a lot of needles the tree is not healthy or has been cut for too long. You can also check the branch to see if it is brittle. Brittle branches are a sign of an unhealthy tree. 

Many locations offer a variety of tree types. A Scots pine is going to be your most economical option and they tend to have the best needle retention. Scots pines are also good if you use heavy ornaments. If you long for that really strong “Christmas Tree '' smell you should consider a Balsam Fir. These trees are usually mid-range in price and have a bit of a silvery tinge. However, their branches will not support a lot of weight. Fraser Firs also have a great scent but tend to be more expensive. Fraser Fir have the sturdiest branches of the firs but are still not ideal for heavy ornaments. Colorado Spruce are great for heavy ornaments but tend to be quite expensive. 

Once you have found the perfect and healthy tree and brought it home you will want to trim the trunk right before putting it into the stand. If you cut your tree fresh you only need to trim about 1-2 inches. If your tree has been pre-cut, you will want to trim more. This will ensure that your tree is able to take up water. 

Finally, be sure to keep your tree well-watered.  Trees drink a LOT of water. Depending on the size of your tree and tree stand it may need to be watered more than once per day to keep it healthy. Fresh trees will drink about 1 quart of water per inch of trunk diameter. Therefore, if your tree trunk is 4 inches in diameter it will take up approximately one gallon of water per day. 

I hope you find the perfect tree to compliment your home and family traditions this year! If you have questions about this any other agriculture, horticulture or natural resources question please reach out to your local Extension Educator. Residents in Fillmore and Houston counties can call 507-765-3896 or 507-725-5807 or email wins0115@umn.edu.   

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