The Thanksgiving weekend marks the beginning of holiday planning, decorating and celebrating for many across the United States. Perhaps one of the most treasured traditions of the Christmas season is selecting and decorating the Christmas tree.

In fact, four out of five households in America display one or more Christmas trees each year. While the majority of these trees are artificial, Americans purchase over 27 million live Christmas trees from box stores, garden centers, Christmas tree lots and local Christmas tree farms each year. Christmas trees are grown on over 15,000 tree farms across the US.

If you have not already purchased a live tree this year but are interested in doing so, consider these tips for selecting and caring for a live tree.

First, determine the height and width of the location where the tree will be displayed. Most Christmas trees are tapered to roughly 80% of the height where a 10’ tall tree would be 8’ wide at the base. Trees tend to look much smaller when outdoors but quickly fill an indoor space.

Determine which tree species you prefer. Pine, spruce, and fir are the most common conifers grown for Christmas trees. One can identify the type of conifer by counting the number of needles attached to the stem. If needles are attached in clusters of two to five, the tree is a pine. Spruce and fir trees have individual needles directly attached to the stem.

To distinguish between a spruce and fir, feel the texture, shape, and rolling ability of the needle. Spruce needles tend to be sharply pointed and easily roll between your fingers. Fir needles tend to be soft and flat and are difficult to roll.

Choose a healthy, freshly cut tree. Christmas trees will vary in needle retention based on how long the tree has been cut and how the tree was handled since cutting. Several hours after cutting, the trunk is no longer able to absorb water unless the base of the trunk is cut again. Signs of an excessively dry tree that will not perform well indoors include wrinkled bark, excessive needle loss, and discolored needles.

Once purchased and transported home, cut ½ to 1” from the end of the trunk and immediately place the tree in a stand with cool water. Use a tree stand with a reservoir that holds at least one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Trees take up the most water in the first few weeks after cutting.

If the tree stand is out of water for more than six hours, an additional ½ to 1” should be removed from the base of the trunk. This can be nearly impossible once trees are decorated, so check stands for ample water several times each day. Indoor pets also like to drink from tree stands which may require more frequent watering.

When possible, place your Christmas tree in a cool room. Warm temperatures can causes trees to dry out quickly. Keep live trees away from heat sources such as air vents, wood stoves, fireplaces, etc.

Once the Christmas season is over and needles begin to shed, it is time to remove the tree. You may want to wrap the tree in a sheet or tree bag before taking it outdoors to prevent considerable needle shed in the home. Trees can be chipped and recycled into mulch or taken to a recycling program.

If you are considering a live tree this year, nearby Christmas tree farms may be located at For other information, please contact the Putnam County Extension office at 419-523-6294, by email at or stop in at 1206 East Second Street in Ottawa. You can also find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.