How to choose a Christmas tree—plus, tricks to make it last

If you haven't already done your Christmas tree shopping, now is the perfect time to go for it. And before you make your way over to your local tree lot, there are certain things you should know to score the healthiest, freshest, best-looking tree possible. Read on for a re-cap on how to prep for picking the perfect specimen, along with a host of guidelines for making it last the entire season.

Take Measurements. Do yourself a favor and figure out exactly how much space you have to work with, so you know what size tree to buy (you really want to spare yourself the hassle of buying one that's too big and having to wrestle with a chainsaw in your front yard!). Not only do you need to know your ceiling height and the width of the spot where you plan to stick your tree, but you'll also want to factor in your tree topper and how tall your stand is, too. Bring your tape measure with you to the lot so you can check the diameter of the trunk, since you'll need to make sure your stand is wide enough to accommodate it.

Go Prepared. When you go to buy your tree, bring work gloves in case you have to maneuver the tree into your car. Bring an old blanket or plastic sheeting with you too, to protect your car from scratchy pine needles and/or sticky sap.

Give Yourself Room To Work With. Keep in mind that trees with shorter needles-like frasers and noble firs-as opposed to longer-needled pines, can be easier to decorate, since there's more space between branches for decorations to dangle, and because the stems tend to be a bit more robust, so you don't have issues with heavier ornaments. If you have a lot of ornaments you want to show off, you'll want to make sure they don't get lost among the branches. To learn more about different species of trees, visit

Pick A Fresh One. Ask someone at the store when they got the trees in-clearly, the more recently they were cut, the better, and some lots get shipments a couple times within a season, whereas some only get them at the beginning of the season. Needles should be pliable and look shiny and green-not dry and brown. As a test for freshness, rub your hand along a branch, and make sure the needles don't fall off. (and keep in mind that spruces tend to lose their needles faster than pines). You can also try pinching one of the needles-it should break crisply, like a carrot. If you're at all unsure about a tree's freshness, it's probably best to move onto another one. Always ask the seller to make a fresh cut off the bottom of the tree before you take it home, which will help it soak up water better.

Keep It Well Nourished. You'll want a stand that can accommodate at least a gallon of water, since a tree can drink that much within the first 24 hours. Once you have the tree set in the stand, add a packet of tree nutrients (which they usually sell at the tree lot and/or your local nursery). Check daily to make sure the water level is at least halfway full. To make it easier to add water, you can add a bit of PVC piping into the basin, so you don't have to crawl underneath (which is both potentially awkward and messy) the tree to keep it hydrated. Keep it as far away from heating vents, direct sunlight, and fireplaces to keep the branches from dying out.


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