How to Pick the Perfect Christmas Tree

Finding the perfect tree Christmas right around the corner so time is running out to find the perfect tree. Over 25 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States each year and it can be difficult to know what type of tree suits your needs and how to care for it. Did you know, for instance, that there are over 15 varieties of Christmas trees, with 6 different types of fir trees alone?

We've asked Christmas tree and decorating experts for tips on choosing the perfect tree, from selection, to caring for your tree, to the best part—decorating!

The White House Christmas tree arrives


• Before you go shopping, do your homework. It's good to know exactly how much room you have for the tree, don't forget ceiling height. There's nothing worse than purchasing a tree and discovering it's too big. 

• If you're tight on space, "consider putting a smaller tree on a table top," suggests sister design team Jennifer and Kitty O'Neill, of Runningwithsisters.com. "Pick out the table you want to use, and measure from the top of table as you would for a full-size tree."

• Do some research on the different types of trees available. Though the most commonly used species for a Christmas tree is the Fraser Fir, there are other types of trees, such as the Leland Cyprus, the Blue Spruce, White Pine, and more. The National Christmas Tree Association has a list of the most popular varieties on its website, with photos and regional guides.

• "The most common question we get is 'what kind of tree lasts the longest?' says Kales Christmas Shop, located in Princeton, New Jersey. "Often called the Cadillac of Christmas trees, the Fraser Firs have an excellent combination of fragrance, needle retention, and striking beauty."

• If your number one priority is a tree that's going to make your home smell like Christmas, your best bet is the Douglas Fir. If you've inherited mountains of ornaments, the O'Neill sisters recommend Noble Firs, which are "perfect for decorating, with their strong branches and tiny needles."

• Avoid trees that are already showing signs of drying out because they won't last very long. Do a branch and needle check. "Run a branch through your enclosed hand—the needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches—they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry," according to the NCTA.

Place your tree where you can enjoy it best. • Where should you put your tree? "We like to put the tree where we will get to spend the most time with it and see it best. You may have a great window in the living room, but if you spend all your time in the family room, that's where the tree belongs," the O'Neill sisters recommend. "Don't be afraid to move a side table or easy chair out to the garage to make room for the tree. Mixing it up is part of what makes Christmas fun!"

• Cut the base of the tree so that it can soak up more water. "Make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis," the NCTA recommends. "Don't cut the trunk at an angle, or into a V-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree."

• Water your tree religiously. A fresh tree will absorb more than a gallon of water in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter. "Do not place the tree near sources of heat like fireplaces, radiators, vents, TVs or constant direct sunlight," according to Green Valley Christmas Trees in California. 

• Unfortunately, there's no magic secret to helping your tree last longer. "There's nothing better than plain old fresh water for your tree," says Jami Warner of the American Christmas Tree Association. "All other recommendations are myths." 

• You want to make sure you don't come home to a toppled tree so buy the right stand. It needs to be large enough to accommodate the tree and safely secured. "There are usually two sizes of stands available based on the height of the tree," says Crest Hardware & Urban Garden Center, located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "If the diameter of your tree stump is more than four inches wide, you'll want to upgrade to the larger stand."

• If the responsibility of a real Christmas tree feels overwhelming to you, there are great artificial options. Balsam Hill, an artificial tree manufacturer, has developed a "True Needle" technology that mimics living tree varieties. Most artificial trees come with at least a seven year warranty. 

• Did you know that smaller lights, which produce less heat, are less drying for the tree? While you're at it, choose LED lights that use less energy so your home is more eco-friendly for the holidays.

• Green Valley Christmas Trees recommends "100 lights for each vertical foot of tree. A seven-foot tree, for example, should have at least 700 lights."

• Once you're ready to decorate, it's best to begin with the lights. "Plug the lights in at the back and bottom of the tree, then work your way around the tree until you have wrapped the tree up to the top," according to the O'Neill sisters. "This is easier to do with the lights turned on!"

• And always, always remember to turn off the lights before going to bed! It's a common misconception that dry trees spontaneously burst into flames. But if you have an overworked electrical outlet, there can be an electrical fire and the tree will easily catch flame so avoid overloading your outlets.

Related links:
Preventing Christmas tree fires
Christmas trees light up around the world
Deck the Halls: 15 weird and wacky Christmas tree ornaments