How to Choose a Real Christmas Tree

Real Christmas trees are beautiful, but they also can be expensive. Make sure you get your money’s worth.


Up next in Christmas Trees & Decorations (38 videos)

Get all your questions about Christmas trees and Christmas decorations answered, and pick up a few new tricks, in this Howcast video series.


You Will Need

  • A tape measure
  • A freshness test


  1. Step 1

    Measure your space

    Measure the space where you’ll put your tree. Take into account the height added by a tree stand and a top ornament.

  2. Step 2

    Find a good seller

    If you don’t have the luxury of going to a farm and cutting down a fresh tree, choose a seller who gets ongoing shipments during the holiday season, and who stores the trees in a shaded area. If the seller keeps the trees in water, even better.

  3. Step 3

    Decide on a type

    Consider which type of tree works best for you. White firs, Fraser firs, and Scotch pines all have long-lasting needles, and Scotch pines can handle heavy ornaments. Leyland cypresses are pollen-free, so they’re great for people with allergies.

  4. Step 4

    Test for freshness

    Lift the tree and then set it down roughly; if the needles easily fall off, the tree is already drying out. Other bad signs are wrinkled bark, discolored needles, and a musty odor. And check the cut end of the trunk; a fresh tree will feel sticky thanks to sap.

  5. Look for a tree with a straight trunk; it will work better in a tree stand.

  6. Step 5

    Check out the branches

    If the tree is tied up, ask to see how they unfold so you can check for bare spots.

  7. Step 6

    Keep it hydrated

    As soon as you get home, saw at least a half an inch off the trunk so the tree can absorb water more easily. If you’re not decorating the tree right away, leave it outside in a shaded area, standing in a bucket of water.

  8. The first record of a decorated Christmas tree was in Latvia in 1510, when a merchants’ guild trimmed one in roses in the marketplace.