University of Illinois Extension


John Church
Extension Educator, Natural Resources
Rockford Extension Center

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Buying Fresh Christmas Trees

The best way to assure freshness when buying this year's Christmas tree is to buy it directly from a fresh-cut or cut-your-own farm. Another way to have a fresh tree is to buy a living tree for use during the holidays and then plant them outside afterwards. There are many farms and nurseries in northern Illinois with both kinds of trees available.

It is a good idea to call ahead to check on tree availability, since some farms may sell out of stock quickly. Also, check with area tree farms for the variety and size of the tree that is needed. Some specialize in large trees, unique varieties, or other characteristics. Farms also vary as to the availability of other holiday decorations, such as boughs, wreaths, pinecones and other items. They also vary as to the services they offer customers in preparing the tree for transporting and some possibly even offer delivery.

If cutting your own tree, remember to do some measuring at home before making the trip. Trees in the field look smaller than they are in reality and will appear to be in the house. Don't forget to measure for width as well as height.

When buying a live balled and burlapped tree, plan ahead. Be sure to have the hole for planting dug before the ground is frozen solid. It helps to cover the hole with straw and burlap to keep the soil thawed around it until planting. Be sure the tree is kept well watered inside the house, since it can quickly dehydrate indoors. Using an anti-desiccant at planting will help reduce moisture loss outdoors. Keep the tree watered after planting as much as soil conditions will allow. Live trees can be used successfully, but it does require some work and care.

Regardless how fresh the tree is when purchased, care needs to be taken on the trip home and once the tree is in the house to maintain that freshness. The tree should be wrapped or covered on the way home. Wind can rapidly desiccate the needles. Be sure to take along a tarp, old blankets or other material to cover the tree and plenty of rope. Once in the house, maintain water levels in the stand above the bottom of the trunk to avoid it sealing over and restricting water uptake. Also, keeping the house cool and using a humidifier will help keep the tree fresher longer.

For further information, contact your local University of Illinois Extension office.

December 2001 - January 2002: Pointsettas Are Here | Buying Fresh Christmas Trees | Winter Weather & Plants | Pesticide Licensing in Illinois | Winter Deer Feeding

Past Issues

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