Christmas Tree 101: Branches-to-Trunk Tips for a Beautiful Holiday Season

Few family moments are more joyous than the day you pick out that perfect Christmas tree. The lights, the ornaments, the tinsel—it’s all part of the fun. And once your tree is up and your decorations are out, it’s amazing how quickly your home fills up with holiday cheer.

But there’s a lot to consider before the decorating begins—and if you go with a real tree, you have a few extra things to think about. But is a real tree right for you?

Plant vs. plastic.

Your first decision is whether you should get a real tree or an artificial one. While artificial trees require assembly and a storage spot, their living counterparts need constant watering during the busy holiday season to keep them fresh. That means an artificial tree might be a bit more work on the front end, but once it’s set up, you won’t need to worry about it until it’s time to go back in the box.

Convenience is only one factor, though.

Aesthetic appeal is another important consideration, and artificial options offer opportunities to perfectly complement your home’s décor. A white tree with white lights will coordinate perfectly with a contemporary, neutral-colored room, for example. But when it comes to look, smell, and feel of the tree, nothing compares with the real thing.

If a real tree sounds more appealing, it’s time to pick one out—and prepare to keep it looking green and gorgeous until the new year.

Choosing fresh.

There’s no fresher tree than one cut down at a tree farm. But if wielding an axe isn’t your idea of fun, there are a few things you can do to help determine if any pre-cut tree will hang on through the holidays, including:

  • Finding a tree on display in the shade. Cooler temperatures help plants maintain moisture.
  • Running your fingers across its branches. If the tree’s needles are pliable and stay on the branch, that’s good. It means they haven’t dried out yet.
  • Lifting the tree up a few inches and dropping its trunk on the ground. If green needles fall off with the slight jolt, pick a different one.

Once you have your tree, the real fun begins: It’s time to install it, make it beautiful, and keep it fresh.

Staying green.

The key factor in keeping your tree looking its best is moisture, but making sure it has adequate water isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you aren’t careful, your tree will dry out quickly, so here are a few things you can do to keep that from happening.

  • Cut a ¼-inch disc off the bottom of the trunk to optimize the tree’s ability to soak up water.
  • If you’re storing the tree for a couple of days before decorating, submerge the trunk in a bucket of water and leave it in a cold, protected area—an unheated garage is ideal. And if it takes longer than 12 hours to move into the house, consider cutting another disc off the trunk.
  • When deciding where to place the tree, think about cooler locations away from heating vents, fireplaces, and direct sunlight. They will speed up the drying process.
  • Once the tree is in a stand in your home, submerge the base in water. All it needs is a daily addition of fresh tap water, especially when it’s new and will absorb more.

With proper care, your live tree will last at least three to four weeks. But when The Twelve Days of Christmas are over, your tree will be done, too—and it’s important to dispose of it quickly, because it can become a fire hazard.

Taking out the tree.

So, when it’s time for the tree to go, what do you do? And how do you keep it from shedding needles everywhere? The good news is there are easy and responsible answers to both questions.

First, cover the tree in a plastic bag or sheet to take it out of your house. Then, remove the cover and any forgotten decorations, and deliver it to a tree-recycling program. In the end, your Christmas tree will become mulch for a walking trail or another public space.

While we love Christmas trees, our team at Engledow specializes in working with lots of different kinds of plants all year round. If you’re looking for help designing and building new landscaping features, or if you need assistance planning your next big event, we’d love to talk!

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