Shopping for a Christmas tree this holiday season? Here are tips to pick the best one

Daniel Kim/Sacramento Bee file

Picking the perfect Christmas tree is a nostalgic family tradition but can require determination and patience.

Each year approximately 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S., according to the National Christmas Tree Association. That’s why the trade group recommends shopping for a Christmas tree early in the season to get the best pick.

But what should you look for? Chad Ericson owner at Chad’s Fresh Cut Christmas Trees in West Sacramento and the association offered these tips on picking the best holiday tree.

Come prepared

Arriving prepared to a tree farm or sales lot is the first step in securing the perfect tree. You’ll want to know exactly the size and type of tree you’re looking for. Especially since holiday trees come in all shapes and sizes it’s important to consider expectations before arriving to a tree farm, this will help make the process easier.

Here are some quick tips to consider before arriving:

  • Measure the space where you’ll be placing your tree, both the height and width are important factors to consider when purchasing a tree. Especially because a tree can look smaller when it is out in the farm. In fact, “most trees are trimmed to an 80%” according to the association.

  • Take some time to learn about the different trees that are available like: firs, pines and cypress trees.

  • Consider the decorations you’ll be using for the season. Some trees are not equipped to support heavy decorations which can be disappointing to discover after the fact.

Pick a sturdy tree

Whatever theme you decide to decorate your tree, you want to make sure it’s sturdy enough to hold ornaments. Some trees are sturdier than others which is why Ericson recommends picking a tree like the Noble fir if you’ll be using heavy ornaments.

“A good Noble fir, its branches are a lot sturdier than say a Douglas fir, it does hold ornaments better,” Ericson said.

You’ll want to avoid the white pine if you plan on using heavy ornaments. The tree is known for having soft, flexible needles that don’t work well with heavier ornaments according to the association’s website.

Another point to consider when picking a sturdy tree is the straightness of its trunk. When shopping for a tree hold the tree upright by the trunk to make sure you’re not taking home a crooked tree.


The goal is to pick a fresh tree that will last through the month of December. Although a dry tree can be spotted with the naked eye by its browning branches, another indicator is to snap the branches.

“Grab branches and bend them, there is no reason the branches should snap,” Ericson said. “The branches should be nice and moist and still holding water from when they were cut.”

Picking a stand

Picking the proper stand for your tree will help keep it green and lush through the winter season. Below are some tips from the association’s website to ensure you pick the correct stand for your tree.

  • Stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter

  • Pick a stand that properly fits the trunk of your tree. You want to avoid whittling the tree to make it fit into the stand because it can remove the outer layer of the tree which helps the tree in taking up water

  • Avoid drilling a hole at the base of the tree — it’s not effective and does not improve the tree’s water intake

Get your tree home

Once you’ve picked a tree it’s important to get it home and put it in water as soon as possible. If you don’t you risk your tree drying out sooner than expected.

“You got about an hour to get it home and get water on it,” Ericson said. “After that the tree will seal up and then it will not drink water and that’s when they dry up faster.”

Once you get your tree in water, it’s important that you regularly check the stand and make sure the water never falls below the base of the tree.

In addition to water, Christmas trees thrive in cooler temperatures, which is why it is also important to keep the tree away from places like fireplaces, heaters and direct sunlight according to the Christmas tree association.

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