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Fresh-Cut & Live Christmas Trees

Family shopping for a fresh-cut Christmas tree

Why buy a real Christmas tree?

Whether you're craving a more traditional experience, or you simply enjoy the festive smell of pine in the air, selecting and decorating a real Christmas tree is something the whole family can participate in.

Along with carrying a lower initial cost than artificial trees, fresh-cut and live Christmas trees require some extra care and attention, which can become an important part of your holiday traditions. Consider the following questions as you begin your search for the perfect tree:

  • What tree height and width are best for the area you plan to place your tree?
  • Are you interested in a particular type of tree?
  • What is the difference between a fresh-cut tree and a live one?

Planning

It's important to choose a cool, draft-free spot for your fresh-cut tree. You also want to make sure it's placed away from heat sources (vent, fireplaces and appliances) to prevent drying.

Once you find the right location, measure the available height and width of the area. The taller the tree, the larger its base will be, so keep both these measurements in mind when shopping. You should also consider your decorating goals. Since each tree has certain defining characteristics, the number of decorations and their weight can help determine what type of tree is right for you. Allow an appropriate amount of space between the tree and the ceiling for a topper.

Christmas Tree Types

Most of the available fresh-cut tree varieties come from the fir, spruce or pine families. Keep in mind certain trees are sometimes suited to particular regions, which can affect their availability in your area.

In addition to fresh-cut trees, some people choose a "live" or "living" tree. This environmentally appealing option comes in either a large pot or a burlap sack with its roots completely intact. After enjoying the tree over your Christmas holiday, it can be transplanted to your backyard. Recycling programs in your community may also allow you to drop off your tree so it can be turned into mulch.

Selection

Because of its limited life span, you'll want to purchase a recently harvested Christmas tree. While some needle loss is normal, it should retain the vast majority of its needles when shaken or if you run your hand lightly across a branch. One of the more obvious signs of freshness is a bright, vibrant colour. If you're selecting a live tree, be sure to do your homework and choose a species that will grow and thrive in your region.

Selection Tips:

  • Withered bark on the outer twigs and branches indicates excessive dryness
  • Pine trees with brittle needles that break easily are dehydrated
  • Fir needles that are fresh and well hydrated snap crisply when bent
  • Inspect both fresh-cut and live trees for the presence of insects and other pests

Care and Maintenance

Taking the time to properly set up, decorate and water your fresh tree gives you the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the season. When you get your tree home, the first thing you need to do is get it in water. Keep your fresh-cut tree thriving all season long with a stand designed to deliver a constant supply of water. Look for models with adjustments that allow you to accommodate the natural slant of the tree. Stands are available in both plastic and metal and should have a minimum capacity of one litre.

Before you place your tree in the stand, you'll need to make a new cut on the trunk so it can more readily absorb the water. Simply saw off about 1/2" to 1" of the base. Trees drink as much as four litres of water a day, depending on the type and size of the tree. Make sure your stand has a large enough capacity to keep the base of the trunk submerged at all times.

Fresh-cut trees usually last between 4 and 6 weeks, so be careful not to purchase one too far in advance of the holidays.

Maintenance tips:

  • Choose a stand that fits around the entire width of the tree trunk
  • Check water daily and make sure the base of the tree is always covered
  • A funnel with a long hose attachment can make watering an easier task
  • Water your tree using plain tap water
  • Recycle your tree at the end of the season through a local community program
  • Live trees (with roots attached) should only be indoors for 3-10 days before being replanted

Safety

When it comes to fire safety, the most important thing to know is that a well-hydrated tree provides natural protection against fire hazards. Additionally, using smaller, less heat-intensive lights, such a mini lights or LEDs, reduces drying. Always inspect light cords for damage or wear before hanging them and discard defective ones immediately.

If you have small children or pets in your house, take extra precautions to ensure your tree will not be easily toppled. It's also recommended you don't burn your tree in a fireplace or woodstove as flammable creosote can build up on the walls of your chimney and create a fire hazard. Always unplug lights when leaving the house or going to bed.

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