Selecting and Caring For Live Christmas Trees

David Lott Horticulture Extension Educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in North Platte, Nebraska.

It's that time of year again to select fresh cut Christmas trees to enjoy for the holiday season. Here are some simple tips to follow on selecting and keeping a tree in good condition in a home or office.

  1. Decide on the space in the home or business where the tree will be located. How tall are the ceilings? Do not choose a tree that is too tall or too wide for the room and the furniture in it.
  2. Avoid placing a fresh cut tree near heat vents, fireplaces, stoves, or portable heaters to prevent the tree from drying out on accident, and becoming a potential fire hazard.
  3. Look for trees that have bright shiny needles. Trees with dull needles are usually a sign of a tree that is not fresh and is drying out.
  4. Rub your hand against the pattern of the needles. If the needles fall off when brushing them, it is another sign that the tree is drying out.
  5. When purchasing a fresh cut tree, bring blankets or tarps to wrap the tree in, and secure the tree in vehicles before driving. Wind exposure on the drive will also dry out trees.
  6. When arriving at the home or office, fill a bucket with lukewarm water. Re-cut one inch off of bottom of the tree trunk with a sharp saw. Recutting the tree trunk will open up the tree’s vascular tissues that have closed from the previous cut and will  help moisture intake in the tree. Place the newly cut tree in the bucket of water to hydrate.
  7. Check the water level in the tree stand daily. Replenish with lukewarm water as needed to help the tree from drying out.
  8. At the end of the season, do not burn the tree in fireplaces or stoves to avoid accidental house fires! Many communities have tree recycling programs that will pick up these trees, and will recycle them instead of going to a landfill.

Check out the YouTube file for the “Garden Minute” bilingual video blog on selecting and caring for fresh cut Christmas trees

For more information about selecting and caring for fresh cut Christmas trees, please call the Nebraska Extension Office in North Platte at (308) 532-2683, or by sending an email to for assistance.