How To: Choose the Best Christmas Tree (and Keep It Fresh)

There's more to choosing the perfect tree than just looking at it from every angle. Follow these tips, and you'll be enjoying your tannenbaum through the New Year.

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  1. Choose Wisely

    Shutterstock 783684 cutting fresh christmas tree

    Trees are often cut weeks before they appear at your local supplier. Make sure the tree you choose is fresh—the needles shouldn't come off when you pull at the branches, and the branches shouldn't break when you bend them. Give the tree a good bounce and watch the needles that fall. Brown needles, which come from the center near the trunk, are fine, but if you see fallen green needles, the tree is too dry. Keep shopping.

  2. Tree Type

    Plantsweuse douglasfir dup

    The Douglas fir is one of the most common Christmas tree types sold in the United States, especially out West. It has soft, shiny needles that grow on all sides of its branches. The tree grows very symmetrically and is particularly full. But if the branches have been sheared, it can become too full (and difficult to decorate). For the sweet aroma alone, this evergreen is worth considering.

  3. Blue Spruce

    Forestviewtreefarms coloradobluesprucefrond dup

    The Colorado blue spruce is so named for the bluish color of its needles. It is often sold as a living tree, which can be planted outside after the holidays. Once the tree's been cut, however, the needles fall off relatively quickly. Still, the blue spruce has a nice pyramid shape with strong branches that can hold heavy ornaments.

  4. Balsam Fir

    Schuettfarm balsam fir closeup dup

    The balsam fir has two-toned needles that are dark green on top, silver underneath. Its symmetrical shape and evergreen smell make it a wonderful Christmas tree. Be aware, however, that balsam fir trees have flexible branches—not the best choice for heavier ornaments. But the needles will last for a long time, so if you like to put your tree up the day after Thanksgiving, this could be your best best.

  5. Fraser Fir

    Mitrees fraser fir dup

    The Fraser fir is famed for its scent. It also has a delightful shape and holds its needles well, even after cutting—assuming it’s well watered. The needles are a silvery-green color, about one inch long, and softer than those of many other evergreens. Its sturdy branches are able to hold heavier ornaments. / mitrees

  6. Scotch Pine

    Shuettfarm scotch pine closeup dup

    The Scotch pine is known for holding its needles, even after becoming dry. Those needles are sharp, though, so beware while decorating! If the tree has been sheared for shaping, the branches may be very close together, making it even more difficult to decorate. The dark green needles of the Scotch pine are from one to three inches in length, and its branches are sturdy and suitable for ornaments of all weights and sizes.

  7. Make a Fresh Cut

    Christmas tree cutting trunk marthastewart

    Once you've found the perfect tree, be sure to make a fresh cut in the trunk and get it into water as soon as possible. If you don’t plan on putting it up right away, store your tree in a cool place—like the garage—in a bucket of water. Once brought indoors, the tree should be placed away from heat sources and preferably away from the sun (or just keep the blinds drawn).

  8. The Stand Matters

    Christmas tree stand mat atgstores

    The biggest mistake people make is getting a cheap tree stand that doesn’t hold enough water. Stands that require that a hole be drilled in the base of the trunk are good for providing stability, but they don’t affect the water intake. Keep replenishing the stand's basin with fresh water daily and, if possible, mix in floral preservative, which you can pick up at the florist or at the Christmas tree lot.

  9. Go Small, Go Live

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    Trees don't have to overwhelm the room to provide holiday cheer—or even make a statement. Tabletop trees have become increasingly popular for people who live in cramped quarters or wish to bring some seasonal green to other rooms of the house. To be truly "green," consider a live tree to enjoy indoors for the holiday and plant outdoors come spring.


  10. Fake It!

    Artificialtree flickr trekkyandy

    More than 30 million evergreens are sold every year, but increasingly consumers are choosing to purchase artificial trees. Last year, Americans bought about 12 million artificials, which means the debate between real and fake has only become more heated since Teddy Roosevelt declared, in 1901, “It’s not good to cut down trees for mere decoration.” Here are Bob Vila's Top 10 Artificial Trees. / trekkyandy

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