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Proper Christmas Tree Selection & Safety

Make Your Christmas Tree Attractive and Safe

A man and woman with three children select a Christmas tree.

As autumn’s days shorten, temperatures drop and colorful landscapes turn to hillsides of leafless trees, the holiday season is in full swing. One prominent feature set up in many households around West Virginia is the family Christmas tree.

For those who enjoy a fresh, green tree during this special time, a few simple considerations will help to make this splendid decoration both attractive and safe.

Christmas Tree Selection and Setup

Tree selection depends on the types and species of trees available. Trees may be produced wholesale and sold to buyers in distant cities, while other growers retail the trees they produce.

Choose-and-cut operations allow the buyers to visit the tree farm, select the tree and cut it themselves. Other retailers cut the trees and sell them at local lots for buyers to choose from.

Apart from selecting a tree with a pleasing appearance, the key feature to consider is its freshness. If you are cutting your own tree, the tree will be as fresh as you can get.

Still, when you get home from cutting your tree, put it into its tree stand and water it. Check the water level frequently in the first week, and refill the water reservoir when needed.

For trees purchased on a lot, grab a branch about six inches from the tip and gently let the needles run through your hand as you pull outwards. The needles should be flexible; dry, brittle needles indicate that the tree has been without water for some time and should not be chosen.

Needle retention varies by species and how fresh the tree is when purchased.

Scotch pine, white pine and firs have good needle retention. Spruces, while beautifully shaped and otherwise excellent Christmas trees, tend to lose their needles faster. Hence, it is even more crucial to keep these trees well-watered.

Christmas Tree Safety and Care

An image of a Christmas tree up close with decorations.One disadvantage of a real Christmas tree is that they can burn if they are dry and near an ignition source. To assure that the decorated tree is protected, keep the tree away from heat sources like fireplaces, radiators and heater vents that tend to dry out the needles. Keep candles and any other open-flame sources well away from the tree.

Test any lights you plan to hang on the tree; replace strings of lights that have worn or frayed insulation or flicker for an unknown reason. Finally, do not leave the lighted Christmas tree unattended.

Christmas trees can be a great source of holiday spirit. The fragrance and ambiance add to the festivity of the season. By assuring that you purchase and maintain a fresh and flexible tree – and mind a few simple safety considerations – you will be sure to enjoy your tree throughout the holidays.

By Dave McGill, WVU Extension Specialist – Forest Resources
Last reviewed: November 2018