Published on 11/19/15

Selecting a live Christmas tree? Follow these tips from UGA Extension

By Adam Speir

Christmas trees can be kept healthy and green through the holidays by following these tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

It’s hard to tell exactly how long pre-cut trees have been cut and how long they’ll last after purchase. To do a “freshness test,” hold a branch about 6 inches from the top of the tree. Allow the branch to slip through your fingers. If the tree is fresh, very few green needles should come off.  

Some trees retain needles differently. A Leyland cypress, for example, does not lose as many needles as a fir or spruce.

Another test involves lifting the standing tree a couple of inches off the ground, then abruptly setting it down on its stump. The outside green needles should not fall off. Remember, inside needles turn brown and shed naturally.

Care for the tree should continue once it’s been cut or purchased and brought home.

Before placing the tree in a stand, check the cut on the end of the stump. Trees have the ability to seal off a cut with sap to prevent losing moisture. This would also prevent the tree from taking up water in a tree stand. 

Make a fresh cut about a quarter-inch up from the original cut. Place the tree in the tree stand. If the tree won’t be decorated for a few days, leave it outside in a bucket of water in a spot out of the sun and wind. 

There is no need to add special products to the tree’s water. Just give it a gallon of water the first 24 hours and another 2 pints to a gallon the next day.

Check the stand regularly and make sure it never runs out of water. If the stand were to run out of water, the tree’s cut may seal up with sap and possibly need cutting again to open it back up. Place the tree away from heat sources to help keep it from drying out too quickly.

To find a local tree farm, visit the Georgia Christmas Tree Association’s website at

Robert Adam Speir is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Madison County.

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