9 Expert Tips for Your Best Christmas Tree Ever

BHG.com Garden Editor Justin Hancock offers these tips for choosing the best real Christmas tree for your family -- and keeping it looking good as long as possible.

  1. Know what you want. Each Christmas tree species is a little different, so choose the one with the best characteristics for your household. For example, if you have children, you might lean toward pines or firs with soft needles instead of spruce trees, which have sharp needles that can hurt when you step on them.
  2. Check how fresh your tree is by bending a needle in half with your fingers. The freshest firs snap between your fingers; fresh pines bend and should not break.
  3. Ensure the needles aren't already falling off by gently grabbing the inside of a branch and pulling your hand toward you. The needles should stay on the tree. Alternatively, gently tap the cut end of a tree on the ground; if a few needles fall off, it should be fine. If lots of needles fall off, look for a different tree.
  4. Look for a tree with even coloration. Some types of Christmas trees will go from deep, rich green to a dull gray-green if they get too dried out.
  5. If you purchase a pre-cut tree, cut off about a half inch from the bottom of the tree's trunk. The fresh cut will absorb more water, so your tree holds its needles and keeps its color longest. Put the tree in water as quickly as you can after making the cut.
  6. If you cut your own tree, make sure you know how tall your ceiling is -- and how high your Christmas tree stand is -- so you don't have to measure and re-cut the tree when you get home.
  7. Keep your tree cool. Heat sources -- such as a fireplace or heating vent -- will cause your tree to dry out faster.
  8. Don't let your tree dry out. Keep the water in your tree stand filled all the time. You may need to add water two or even three times the first few days.
  9. Fill your tree stand with tap water. Additives such as bleach don't usually help and can cause your tree to decline more quickly.