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8 Tips on Selecting your Tree at a Retail Lot

Use these practical tips to be a more informed consumer and to ensure a great experience with your Real Tree.

Measure your space


Be sure you know what size (height and width) you need before heading to the retail lot. Measure the ceiling height in the room where the tree will be displayed. The trees in the field look small when the sky is the ceiling. Don't overbuy. Measure the width of the area of the room where the tree will be displayed. Most trees on tree farms are trimmed to an 80% taper. So a tree that's 10' tall will be 8' wide at the bottom. A tree that will fit in the room vertically may be entirely too big horizontally.

Think about what type of decorations you will be using

Some species have more open foliage, stiffer branches or longer needles. Research the characteristics of the different species in our tree varieties section.

Learn about the different species of trees

If you want the same species you know or have always used, great. If you want to try a different species, browse the tree varieties section of our site.

Safety first

Go to a retail lot that is well-lit and stores trees in a shaded area.

Ask questions about the trees at the lot

Ask the retailer when he/she gets the trees: are they delivered once at the beginning of the season, or several shipments during the season? Often, a tree obtained soon after its arrival on the retail lot will be very fresh because it was cut recently. Also ask the retailer which tree type performs best in your climate. Some species last longer and remain fresh longer than others in different climates.

Do a branch/needle test for freshness

Run a branch through your enclosed hand—the needles should not come off easily. Bend the outer branches—they should be pliable. If they are brittle and snap easily, the tree is too dry.

Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration

Indicators might include: excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor, needle pliability, and wrinkled bark. A good rule of thumb is, when in doubt about the freshness of a tree, select another one. If none of the trees on the lot look fresh, go to another lot.

Recycling your tree

Ask the retailer about recycling Christmas Trees in your community.


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