Skip to main content

How to Choose, Store, and Decorate A Live Cut Christmas Tree

Tree by a cool north facing window

Tree by a cool north facing window

Buying a Christmas Tree

If you want to buy a live, cut Christmas tree, you will need to shop around as prices vary greatly. You can buy a live cut tree at a garden center, big box store, or from a local dealer at a seasonal Christmas tree lot.

Try to find a reputable dealer and buy your tree from them every year. Look out for sellers that seem dishonest (like the one's that promise that all trees cost $25.00 except the ones that you want). Make sure that most of the trees on the lot look attractive. Don't attempt to find the only pretty tree on the lot.

Christmas trees have usually been cut much earlier in the year when the trees are at their prime and look their best. They are then put in cold storage until the holiday season sales, often on Thanksgiving weekend.

Buy your Christmas tree as soon as possible after they appear at garden centers or tree lots. Then, you will be in charge. You can store your tree out of the sun and give it water in order to keep it looking fresh. The longer a tree stands in a lot, the more it will dry out. If there are a few warm days, and the trees are out in the sun, they can dry out very quickly.

Live Christmas Tree Options

An alternative to buying a stored tree is to purchase and cut a live tree at a Christmas tree farm. Some farms allow you to select a tree in the fall and reserve it for for purchase at a time closer to the holiday. It can be a lot of fun for the whole family to go out and cut down your own tree.

However, Christmas trees cut down in December may not be at their prettiest. They may have sustained some damage due to weather conditions such as drought, wind, or cold snaps. The needles of many evergreen trees become yellow or brown once cold weather sets in.

Local Christmas tree farms are smaller operations than the ones that deal wholesale so cutting down your own tree may be a bit more expensive. But figure in the extra cost as entertainment and the ability to support a small, local business.

You can also find live Christmas trees with root balls that you can plant after the holiday and grow for years to come. Just make sure that you choose an evergreen tree that will grow well in your region.

Many areas collect old Christmas trees after the holiday and chop them up to make mulch! Check your local sanitation department for scheduled pick up days.

What to Look for in a Live, Cut Tree

There are several things to look for when selecting a live cut Christmas tree:

  • A tree that feels heavier than others may be heavier due to moisture retention - a good sign that the tree will maintain its good looks for a longer period of time.
  • Holding the tree at arm's length, bounce the tree trunk on the ground. Check to see how many needles fall off the tree. The more needles that fall off, the drier the tree. Buy the tree with the least amount of needle loss.
  • Remember to check the size of the tree. You don't want one that is too large. However, you may buy one a bit larger than you need in order to cut yourself some green boughs off the bottom for decorating or making a Christmas wreath.
  • Have the attendant at the Christmas tree lot cut off a bit of the trunk. The fresh cut will allow the trunk to draw up water in order to keep it looking fresh.
Check out several trees for the right size and weight; a heavier tree is fresh!

Check out several trees for the right size and weight; a heavier tree is fresh!

How to Store a Live, Cut Christmas Tree

  • When you get your tree home, place in a cool, sheltered location out of the sun and wind. Keep it outdoors in cool weather if possible.
Scroll to Continue
  • Place the tree in a bucket of water. Check the water level often to make sure the cut area is submerged. Newly purchased trees can take up a lot of water.
  • Add commercial Christmas tree food or add a tablespoon of sugar and some crushed up aspirin.
  • Remove any packaging material several days before you put up the tree. This will allow the branches to spread into their natural shape.
  • When you are ready to bring the tree indoors to decorate, cut off another thin slice of the trunk to allow the tree to absorb more moisture and nutrients. Make sure the cut is straight so that the tree with stand firmly in its container.

Is that a radiator back there? Don't place your tree near heat sources as they will dry out the tree.

Is that a radiator back there? Don't place your tree near heat sources as they will dry out the tree.

Putting Up the Christmas Tree

  • Place the tree in a Christmas tree stand that holds water. Make sure the stand has a deep well to hold water. And make sure the stand is somewhat heavy. A lightweight Christmas tree stand may cause the tree to fall over.
  • Place the Christmas tree in the coolest area of your home. Do not place the tree near a heat vent (or air conditioner vent in warmer climates) as the dry air will quickly dry out the tree.
  • Do not place the Christmas tree near a fireplace. Do not place candles near the tree. Have you ever heard the expression, when talking about something that burned, "it went up like a Christmas tree?" That alludes to the fact that a Christmas tree, when exposed to flame, catches fire and burns extremely fast.
  • After the tree is situated, fill the well in the tree stand with water. Add an aspirin and some sugar or commercial Christmas tree food according to the package directions.
  • Check the well in the Christmas tree stand often. At first, water uptake will drain the liquid quickly. Once you allow the water to dry up, the trunk will seal and will not be able to absorb any more water.
  • If you have pets, cover the well in the Christmas tree stand with something that will prevent your cat or dog from drinking the water. Some trees exude a substance that may be toxic. And you can't be sure that the chemicals in commercial Christmas tree food won't harm your pet.
I hope they don't use that fireplace

I hope they don't use that fireplace

Fire Safety

Decorate the Christmas Tree

Decorating the Christmas tree is almost as fun as the holiday itself.

Put the lights up first. Do not connect more than three strands of lights. I find it helpful to put the Christmas lights on the tree at dusk or dark in order to get a good look at how the lights balance out.

Next, add anything that comes on a string - garland, beads, and such.

Add decorations. Secure expensive or precious Christmas ornaments by adding a wire or twist-tie to the hanger to avoid breakage. Place antique, or breakable ornaments up high if you have small children or pets.

© 2010 Dolores Monet

Related Articles