How to select and care for your Virginia-grown Christmas tree

man looking at pine tree

There are several things to consider when selecting your natural-grown Christmas tree.

Shopping for the perfect Christmas tree can be one of the highlights of the holiday season. There are several things to remember about buying a cut tree that will ensure that it stays fresh throughout the holidays.

“Size is the consideration when selecting a tree,” says Kyle Peer, superintendent, Virginia Tech Reynolds Homestead Forest Research Center. Before shopping, measure the floor area and the ceiling height of the spot where the tree will be. Peer reminds tree shoppers that about an inch will be cut off the tree’s bottom, but a stand can add several inches to the tree’s height.

Peer suggests the following steps for buying a fresh, high-quality Christmas tree:

  • Ask the retailer where the trees came from and when they were cut and delivered to get an idea of their freshness. Generally speaking, locally sourced (Virginia-grown) trees will be fresher.
  • Break some needles. They should be flexible, moist or even sticky, and fragrant when crushed.
  • Check to see that the tree has a fresh, green color.
  • Shake the tree vigorously or bounce the bottom of the trunk on the ground. If many green needles fall, don’t buy that tree. Dead, brown needles falling from the inner part of the tree might have been shed years ago and aren’t a problem.
  • Be sure the limbs are strong enough to support lights and ornaments. Limbs should also be well-placed to give the tree a pleasing shape.

Once you have selected a tree, it is essential to keep it in water. According to Peer, a fresh-cut tree has the capacity to “drink” several gallons of water a day. Just before placing it in the tree stand, cut at least 1 inch off the bottom of the tree. If it goes for any length of time without water in its stand, the cut surface seals off and will not be able to absorb water even when it’s replenished. Avoid locations in your home that can dry out a tree, such as in direct sunlight or close proximity to heating vents.

“Of course the best way to ensure a tree’s freshness is to go out and support your local Virginia farmer,” says Peer. Visit one of the many choose and cut tree farms spread throughout the state to select your own natural-grown Christmas tree.

For more information about tree care and where to find a grower near you, refer to the Virginia Cooperative Extension publication “Selection and Care of Christmas Trees” or visit or


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