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Selecting the perfect tree this holiday season

News source/writer: Ron Wolford, 773-233-2900,


URBANA, Ill. – Choosing the perfect Christmas tree this holiday season is simply a matter of following a few simple steps, according to University of Illinois Extension educator Ron Wolford.

"Choosing the family Christmas tree can be a memory-filled tradition," Wolford says. The following tips can help you select a fresh tree for your home and keep it looking its best.

Pick and measure a spot in your home to place the tree before heading out to buy it. Wolford says, "Ask yourself if the tree will be seen from all sides, or will some of it be against a wall?"

Choose a tree that fits where it is to be displayed. For example, if the tree is displayed in front of a large window, then all four sides should look as good as possible. If the tree is displayed against a wall, a tree with three good sides should suffice. A tree with two good sides would work well in a corner. "The more perfect a tree, the more expensive it will be," Wolford notes. Also, bring a tape measure with you to the farm to ensure your tree is not too tall for your space.

Place the tree away from heat sources, such as heaters, fireplaces, TVs, radiators, and air vents. Wolford points out that a dried-out tree is a fire hazard.

If buying from a retail lot, Wolford recommends going during the day. "Choosing a tree in daylight is much easier than trying to pick out a tree in a dimly lit lot," he says.

A fresh tree will have a healthy green appearance with few browning needles. Needles should be flexible and not fall off if you run a branch through your hand. Raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the butt end. Very few green needles should fall off the tree, but it is normal for a few inner brown needles to drop. Make sure the handle or base of the tree is straight and long enough, so it will fit easily into your stand.

"Store your tree in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind if you are not putting it up right away," Wolford notes. "Make a fresh, 1-inch cut on the butt end and place the tree in a bucket of warm water. When you bring the tree indoors, make another fresh 1-inch cut and place the tree in a sturdy stand. The water reservoir of the stand should provide one quart of water for every inch of diameter of the trunk."

Keep the water level above the base of the tree. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water and will dry out quickly.

Commercially prepared mixes, sugar, aspirin, or other additives added to the water are not necessary. "Research has shown that plain water will keep a tree fresh," Wolford says.

For more information, visit the University of Illinois Extension website Christmas Trees & More at