University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Christmas Tree Selection & Care

November 22, 2001

Once again it is time to think about the annual hunt for Christmas trees. Both area cut-your-own tree farms and retail lots offer a great selection. After trees are brought home, proper care helps assure freshness for the holidays.

Once the tree is home, keep it in a cool, sheltered area until it is time to put it up indoors. Before placing the tree in the stand, make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk and then fill the stand with water as soon as possible. Do not let the water level drop and the stand dry out. The best thing to put into the stand is plain water.

Tree selection usually is dictated by personal or family preferences. Pines are popular choices. Pines have longer needles than the other species, and typically appear "full" because of the arrangement of needles and branches. In contrast, firs have short, flat needles. Spruces have short needles and branches that hold loads of decorations well.

Balsam fir is a traditional favorite, largely due to its fragrance and upright form. Excellent color and fragrance has made Fraser fir increasingly popular. Douglas fir, not actually a true fir, also has visual appeal and good needle retention.

Scotch or Scots pine is popular in tree lots and on cut-your-own farms. Many cultivars are available, varying in color, needle length, and overall appearance. White pine has good color and soft needles but branches are relatively weak and may not support heavy loads of ornaments. Red and Austrian pines have longer needles, with red usually being a more open tree and Austrian having very stiff needles.

Finally, White spruce and Norway spruce have been traditional favorites, but needle retention is poor for both once the tree is cut and brought inside. Colorado blue spruce has the best needle retention of the spruces. Needles are stiff and branches rather rigid.

For more information or to locate a cut-your-own tree farm near you, visit our Christmas Trees & More website.


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