Come the holiday season, perhaps no tradition evokes the warm and fuzzy "feels" more than a family outing to pick a Christmas tree. Whether it's a trek to a live Christmas tree farm or a short drive to the nearest pre-cut tree lot, the process of selecting a tree that will serve as the crown jewel of the entire season is a great way to make lasting memories.
Selecting a tree is a yearly ritual and each person has his or her set of criteria for what makes the ideal Christmas tree. These tips can help families find the right tree.
Choose your species
Do some homework on the type of tree you want prior to buying the tree. Balsam fir and fraser fir are popular Christmas tree varieties, but there are many others, such as noble fir and Norway spruce. Balsams are known for having the most fragrant smell, but frasers tend to keep their needles the longest. For those who prefer a douglas fir, keep in mind that they sometimes drop their needles prematurely due to foliar diseases like needle-cast fungus.
Space for ornaments
In addition to aroma and needle longevity, look for trees that have a desirable shape and allow for adequate space between branches, advises the home and garden resource The Spruce. Trees groomed to be lush and full will look beautiful unadorned, but once ornaments are added, full branches may cause those ornaments to hang low or even fall off. Trees with sparse branches allow for ornaments to hang straight.
Measure your space
Trees in the field or in a lot may look much smaller than they do when brought into the living room. Don't make the mistake of selecting a tree that is too large for your home. The agricultural firm Ragan & Masey says to measure the room from floor to ceiling and subtract the height of the tree stand and tree topper. It's equally important to measure the width of the area where the tree will stand and allow for ample space for foot traffic around the tree.
Perform a needle check
Every tree will drop some needles, and most evergreens hold their foliage. Modest needle loss is not an indicator of a poor tree. However, Decker's Nursery in Greenlawn, NY says if 50 percent of the needles are lost when you swipe your hand down three to five different branches around the tree, the tree likely is not a good choice. In addition, avoid a tree that has glaring defects in the trunk as it can impede water flow through the tree.
Heavier is better
A heavy pre-cut tree means it is full of water and has been cut more recently. A healthy, fresh tree is going to require an effort to lift. Older, dried out trees will not be heavy.
Upon arriving home, make a fresh cut off the tree trunk and get it in water as soon as possible - even if that's a bucket until the tree stand can be set up.