Which Christmas Tree is Right for You?

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Christmas Tree

With Christmas happening in a few weeks, families have been starting to pick out their "perfect" tree. However, everyone has an opinion about the family Christmas tree: should it be live, cut or artificial? What size is best? What about the shape, the color, the needle length, the branch strength and spacing, the needle-holding ability–and even the fragrance?

Dawn Bryan, author of “Elite Etiquette,” and founder of The Qualipedia, a consumer information and lifestyle website, offers the following tips to help shoppers choose the tree that is right for them.

  • Before making any decision, keep in mind where your tree will be displayed and know the measurements of the area before you purchase.
  • Ask yourself: Are you the traditionalist who loves to make the season come alive while stringing lights and breathing in the fresh fragrance of your pine? Do you not have the space to store an artificial tree during the year? If so, select a cut tree with good green color, needle resiliency, and pleasing fragrance.

How to Select a Live or Cut Tree:

  • Check condition of the needles by bending the needle gently between your thumb and forefinger. The fresh needle should bend easily, not break.
  • Pull your hand toward you along the branch. Needles should adhere to the branch and not fall off in your hand.
  • If a cut tree, lift the tree a few inches off the ground, then drop it on stump end. If outside needles fall off in abundance, it is probably not fresh. If old needles, which have been lodged among the branches from prior shedding fallout, this is not a sign of a dry tree.

Tree Care and Maintenance:

  • Living Trees: Store before decorating in unheated, sheltered area out of sun and wind; While inside, keep soil damp; limit inside stay to 7 to 10 days; when moving to the outdoors, do not immediately change temperatures from warm house to freezing cold; when planting, mulch heavily over the top of the planted root ball to prevent freezing and water only when needed.
  • Cut Trees: Cut a half-inch off the base of the trunk before immediately placing it into water; do not whittle down the sides of the trunk, as the tree drinks mostly from the edges of its trunk base; trees may drink as much as a gallon of water in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter; keep tree away from sun, fireplace and other heat sources; and unplug lights at night unless you are expecting Santa. To recycle, check the recycling link on your community’s website.
  • Real Christmas trees are a renewable, recyclable resource, often grown on soil that doesn’t support other crops.

How to Select an Artificial Tree:

  • For a realistic look, purchase one with PE needles (rather than PVC), a center pole, and individual stick branch attachments.
  • For easy assembly, choose one with PE needles, a center pole, hinged branch attachments and pre-strung lights.
  • Artificial trees come in a myriad of varieties, heights and shapes to fit into your space and decorating style.
  • “Tip count” can be used as an advertising ploy, and usually makes little difference to the overall appearance, mattering much less than needle quality.
  • For quality, look at the branch ends: well-crafted trees use heavier gauge metal and have sculpted, not snipped-off, ends.
  • Lights: Look for three-year or 3,000 hour warranty, 80-100 lights per square foot, twist-proof sockets, the ability for the entire string to stay lit, even if a single bulb burns out, is broken or removed; and have 8-10 inches between lights.

How to Care For an Artificial Tree:

    • With proper care, an artificial tree will last 6-7 years, making it an economical choice.
    • Wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when putting up your tree.
    • Store the tree in a carrying case, NOT a cardboard box. The latter will get damp and/or disintegrate and cause dust to inundate your tree, and critters like to chew through boxes to makes warm homes in artificial trees.
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