A Complete Christmas Tree Care and Buyers Guide

Find the Perfect Tree and Preserve It for the Full Season

Conifer Christmas tree in forest at night
Conifer Christmas tree at night.

Lauri Rotko/Getty Images

Every year millions of families shop for and buy a "real" cut Christmas trees from Christmas tree farms and local lots. According to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), 56 million trees are planted each year for future Christmases and 30 to 35 million families will shop and buy a "real" Christmas tree this year. Finding your perfect Christmas tree can be a challenge.

Shop Early to Find a Christmas Tree

The weekend after Thanksgiving is traditionally when most Christmas tree shopping occurs. But you should really shop for a Christmas tree earlier as it will pay off with less competition for higher quality Christmas tree selections and a fresher holiday tree. You should consider mid-November a time to find a tree and follow through on your Christmas tree procurement.

Remember, every year is different when it comes to Christmas tree availability. Some years have less shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tree sellers will be busy over a shorter period of time and you might not have as many days to shop for a Christmas tree. Start your tree search early.

Natural disruptions (insects, fire, disease, drought or ice) can cause regional Christmas tree shortages which can make certain Christmas tree species hard to find. In any event, if you are buying you need to plan and purchase early to pick from the best holiday trees on the lot or on the farm.

10 Species of Christmas Trees

Christmas tree growers offer an awesome selection of Christmas tree species with excellent aromatic varieties that retain their needles through the entire season. At least 10 species of Christmas trees are commercially grown and sold in large quantities in North America.

Buying Online

You can now shop for and buy a Christmas tree online with only a few keystrokes - and 300,000 people shop this way every year. Buying Christmas trees directly from a quality Christmas tree grower will save valuable holiday time plus you will avoid a cold, overcrowded holiday tree lot only to find poor quality Christmas trees.

It is especially handy to order online for someone who has trouble getting out to buy. A special Christmas treat for even the healthy would be seeing a delivery truck delivering their own fresh tree for Christmas (make sure you know the size and varieties they like). Read about five of the most popular internet Christmas tree dealers selling fresh from the farm. You need to order early when using catalogs and the Internet as these companies have limited supplies and may require you to furnish a shipping date. Most will not deliver a Christmas tree after December 12th.

Retail Lot Versus Farm

Selecting a Christmas tree at a nearby retail lot or from a Christmas tree farm can be great family fun. To help find a quality Christmas tree near you, check out NCTA's online member database. The National Christmas Tree Association represents the best tree farms and merchants in the United States.

If you are buying a Christmas tree from a retail lot, the main thing to remember is freshness when selecting a Christmas tree. The needles should be resilient. Take hold of a branch and pull your hand toward you, allowing the needles to slip through your fingers. Most, if not all, of the needles, should stay on the Christmas tree.

What to Look For

Lifting and tapping the Christmas tree on a hard surface should not result in a shower of green needles. Brown needles that have shed the previous year are ok. The Christmas tree should have a fragrance and a rich green color. Branches should be pliable and bend without much resistance.

Actually, none of this will be necessary if you purchase the Christmas tree fresh from a local Christmas tree farm. In most cases, you can find a Christmas tree farm close enough to allow you and/or your kids to cut the tree or buy one that the farm has just cut. Harvesting a tree from a local farm is becoming more and more a favorite family event. Again, you need to use NTCA's member database to find a farm.

How to Help Your Tree Last Through the Season

Once you get your Christmas tree home there are several things you need to do to help your tree last through the season:

  • Cut one-quarter of an inch off the base of the trunk if the Christmas tree has been harvested over 4 hours. This fresh cut will encourage the free flow of water into the tree to preserve freshness.
  • Mount tree in a water-holding catchment container attached to a sturdy tree stand. Avoid stands without the ability to provide water.
  • Keep a constant check on stand water and don't let the water ever go below the fresh cut base. This will cause the base to seal and the tree's premature drying out.
  • Maintain adequate watering. Christmas trees are very thirsty and will use up to a gallon of water each day. Check the stand each day for water.
  • Display your Christmas tree in a cool place but out of a draft. Fireplaces can dry your tree very quickly and reduce tree freshness.

Buying a "Living" Christmas Tree

People are beginning to use living plants as their Christmas tree of choice. Most "living" Christmas tree roots are kept in a "ball" of earth. This ball can be wrapped in burlap or set into a container or pot. The tree should be used very briefly as an indoor tree but must be replanted after Christmas Day.

  • Remember that "live" trees should not stay inside longer than 10 days (some experts suggest as few as three or four days).
  • After Christmas, slowly remove it to the outside using the garage, the shed, then to the planting site.
  • You should not plant in frozen soil and have heat protecting plastic put down if that possibility exists after planting.

Do I Add Anything to the Water?

According to the National Christmas Tree Association and Dr. Gary Chastagner, Washington State University, "your best bet is just plain tap water. It doesn't have to be distilled water or mineral water or anything like that. So the next time someone tells you to add ketchup or something more bizarre to your tree stand, don't believe it."

Most experts insist that plain old water is all you need to keep your Christmas tree fresh through Christmas. 

Grow Your Own

You may want to start growing your own Christmas trees! If you are curious how Christmas tree farming takes place, the NCTA's website is probably the best place to go to get into the business. They help you market your trees, pick the tree best suited for your area, give advice on the care of your trees, and more.

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Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "A Complete Christmas Tree Care and Buyers Guide." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/complete-christmas-tree-care-buyers-guide-1341583. Nix, Steve. (2023, April 5). A Complete Christmas Tree Care and Buyers Guide. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/complete-christmas-tree-care-buyers-guide-1341583 Nix, Steve. "A Complete Christmas Tree Care and Buyers Guide." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/complete-christmas-tree-care-buyers-guide-1341583 (accessed May 30, 2023).