December is here! If you’re on your way out to buy a tree, stop a second and consider these five tips for the best Christmas tree. Tree shopping and tree care are a big deal. And I’m really glad I researched first, before buying the cheapest tree I could find.
This is my family’s first year with a real Christmas tree! My wife and I both grew up with real trees but since moving out of our parents’ houses, we’ve only had fake trees. We grew tired of playing pretend and, this year, finally got a real one!
But before we could go buy one, I had to do some research. My dad always made it seem easy, so I had never really worried about it. Price, types of trees, lifespan, proper care, and size were all considerations.
Here’s what I learned, what we bought, and what we’ll do different next year.
The Five Tips:
1 – Soft vs. Strong
Balsam Fir and Fraser Fir. The big two of the Fir family. These are the most popular and, in some places, the only options you’ll find.
Balsam Fir is the classic Christmas tree and the most fragrant. It’s also the softest, with long branches and needles that are very flexible. With the softness comes weakness. You’ll easily bend the branches down with too many ornaments and you better like vacuuming because it loses needles at a quick pace. You’ll also see through a Balsam more easily as most will have at least a few large gaps. Balsam Firs tend to be the cheapest.
Fraser Firs are much stronger and thicker than their Balsam brothers. This means more lights and ornaments are an option. Less cleanup and a fuller body of branches make it easy to see why Frasers are the most popular choice for a Christmas tree. Of course you’re sacrificing the fragrance and the soft look & feel.
Now you know what your choices really are.
2 – Cut Your Tree RIGHT BEFORE You Set it Up
You know you’re supposed to cut a bit off the trunk when you get your tree, right? Most people know this. What most people don’t know is when or why.
If you think it’s fine to let the guy at the tree lot cut it for you and then leave it alone, you’re wrong! The reason why the tree needs to be cut fresh is because the sap wicks out of the cut trunk and creates a barrier to the water in your tree stand. So we trim the bottom of the tree (1/4″ is plenty) to get rid of that barrier of sap.
But keep in mind that as soon as it’s cut, the sap starts to build up again. So if your tree is going to sit around for more than a 15 minutes, I recommend waiting to trim it until you’re ready to place it in the stand. I cut my tree just a few seconds before putting it in the stand and filling it with water.
3 – Water… duh!
It’s pretty simple: don’t let your tree go any length of time without water. As soon as you pull it off the roof of your car, set it up in its stand and give it plenty of water. If you’re not going to set it up right away, get a bucket and fill it with room temperature (lukewarm is okay) water and stand your tree up in it. Most cases of trees dying early is for lack of fresh, clean water. And a dead tree is NOT the best Christmas tree.
4 – Keep Your Cool
Well, the tree’s cool, at least. The cut trees do just fine outside with no water for a week or so. But then you buy them and bring them home to your warm and cozy family rooms. The trees don’t like this so much because they aren’t able to stay dormant for winter if it doesn’t feel like winter.
If your house is quite warm, you should place your tree in the coldest spot. Next to a window is great. And if you ever notice your tree start to lose extra needles or look limp, open the window and make sure it has water! You just might get lucky and bring it back to its former glory.
5 – Go NOW!
You might think that Christmas trees only last a couple weeks in the home. You may have had the horrible experience of throwing out a dead tree before Christmas Day! I’m so sorry for you, but you did something wrong.
The truth is, most trees are cut only a week or less before you buy them and can easily last over a month before wilting or turning brown. If you take care of your tree and water it regularly, you’ll probably throw it out while it still looks as good as the day you brought it home. So you have no reason to wait until the last minute to buy a tree. In fact, you’ll avoid the crowds and higher prices if you leave right now!
There you go, 5 tips and some good explanations to help you hone your Christmas tree kung-fu. But here’s an extra one for good measure.
It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t decorate your tree the same night you set it up. I know, this ruins the tradition for most of you. But it really can make a difference to let your tree have up to a day of relaxation before you start loading it up with ornaments and lights. It’s settling its branches, getting accustomed to the temperature, and drinking lots of water in those first 24 hours. The more time you give it, the less likely you are to break any branches.
We ended up buying a Fraser Fir based on the idea of less mess, a fuller figure, and the many recommendations from family and salesmen. It’s a decent shape, not too heavy considering its full branches, and barely dropped any needles during transportation and setup.
We are happy with our tree, but I already know that I’m going to search for a decent Balsam Fir next year.
The Fraser is full-bodied, but the branches don’t lay down, they almost look like they are still retaining their shape from being tied up in the netting. That’s just how they are. I think a slightly more patchy look from a Balsam is a good compromise for a more welcoming and softer tree. The Fraser also barely smells like a pine tree when you’re just inches away. I really think we’d enjoy the house smelling of Christmas tree as soon as we walk in the door.
Finally, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to save a few bucks, as the Balsams tend to be a bit cheaper. And there you go; 5 tips and some personal experience for the best Christmas tree. Now go out and nab the perfect tree for you!
Got any other “Best Christmas Tree” tips? Let me know in the comments below. And Merry Christmas to you!