For many Americans, the holiday season begins with trimming their tree — but first they have to select one.
For those who are considering getting a live Christmas tree this year, experts offer a few tips on how to choose the one that’s as close to perfect as possible.
“The perfect Christmas tree depends on what the buyer is looking for,” Donna Allison Cole, executive secretary and treasurer of the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association, told Fox News Digital.
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Pay particular attention to the height, she recommended.
“The trees in the field always look smaller than they do when you get them in the house — and then they look huge,” she said.
It’s also important to make sure the branches can hold all the ornaments and lights you plan to place on the tree, experts said.
One way to check this is to pull your fingers through the branches.
“If many needles come off in your hands, this means the tree will likely not hold the needles for the duration of the holiday,” Timothy Waller, PhD, an evergreen researcher who works on Christmas tree disease management in New Jersey, said in a press release from Rutgers University.
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“This is especially important with pre-cut trees, as they may or may not have sufficiently been placed in water,” added Waller, who is an agricultural agent with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cumberland County, New Jersey.
Not all varieties are equal when it comes to needle retention, he told Fox News Digital.
“Norway spruces should not be harvested or purchased until 14 days prior to the holiday, as they are notorious for needle drop if cut too early,” he said.
“Generally speaking, spruces will drop their needles much faster than many firs.”
Some fir varieties, such as Canaan and Concolor firs, will hold their needles for very long periods if properly hydrated, the expert noted.
Trees maintain needles as long as they can maintain a good moisture level, he said.
Additionally, a well-hydrated tree decreases the risk of a house fire and the likelihood of having needles on the floor around the tree.
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“A cut tree should never be dry once brought indoors to the warm spaces we prefer during this season,” Waller told Fox News Digital.
It’s also recommended that people look completely around the tree to confirm that at least three sides appear full.
This will allow you to place it in a corner and still have the appearance of a full tree, even if one side is skimpy, said Waller.
He also said to look for a tree with strong vertical branches that are about 6 inches high, which will enable the tree topper to stay in place.
What’s the best type of tree?
The most popular Christmas tree sold in the U.S. last year was the Fraser fir, Greg Walsh, owner of Greg’s Trees in New York, told “Fox & Friends” in an interview last December.
He has been selling Christmas trees to New Yorkers since 1985.
As for Cole, she recommends the White pine, which has “long, graceful needles for excellent needle retention.”
She added, “You could probably leave the tree up until Easter.”
Nordman and Turkish firs are becoming more popular among growers, Waller said, because “they are highly resistant to the devastating Phytophthora root rot disease, which is central to my research,” per the release.
“Although there may be shortages this season of specific types of Christmas trees, such as Fraser and Balsam firs, a farm local to you certainly still has a variety of unique trees that just might become your new favorite,” Waller told Fox News Digital.
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He is still partial to the Concolor fir for its unique color, growth habit and appealing citrus scent.
“I also like the Canaan fir for its classic pyramidal shape that just feels like Christmas,” he said in the release.
As a bonus, this tree type is also more resistant to certain pest issues and root diseases.
Ultimately, Cole said, “you want a healthy green tree with no brown anywhere.”
When purchasing a pre-cut tree, she suggested always requesting a second cut before placing it on the stand so that it will better absorb water.
Consider adding a preservative to the water to keep it from evaporating quickly, said one expert.
“Generally, a fresh-cut tree will be more hydrated than any tree you find at a pre-cut lot, but regardless, trees should be placed into water immediately,” Waller told Fox News Digital.
“Trees can pull in upward of a gallon of water on the first day and continue to need water throughout the holiday season.”
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Walsh also advises adding a preservative to the water to keep it from evaporating quickly.
Amazon sells a popular variety called Christmas Tree Preserver from Oregon Forestry Laboratory that retails for less than $10.
Having a good tree stand is also important.
“We have a tree stand called Stand Straight Tree Stand, which has a spike coming up from the center,” Cole said.
The trees on her lot are drilled, “so there’s a hole going up the center of the trunk.”
This allows the customer to easily slide the tree over the spike.
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“It will never fall down and there’s plenty of room for water,” she said.
Added Waller, “If we broaden our outlook on what constitutes a perfect Christmas tree, our local growers will continue to flourish, so please keep an open mind — you might just be pleasantly surprised.”
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