KC Gardens

On the hunt for the perfect tree and lifelong memories

Which of these trees is perfect for your house?
Which of these trees is perfect for your house?

Cutting and decorating the family Christmas tree is one of my best holiday memories. When I was growing up on a farm, my family chose to cut a wild red cedar from the pasture. We would trek out looking for the perfect tree. Finally we would find it, that one tree that was just right for the house. Many families have these memories, as the tree is the centerpiece of holiday decorations.

Finding the perfect tree is sometimes exhausting. Here are a few tips to help you select one.

First, know your space. Trees in wide-open spaces all look smaller. It’s amazing how trees tend to get bigger once in the house. Know the height and width of your selected space.

In some cases, those one-sided trees may be perfect if space is limited: They can be pushed closer to the wall or window.

Make sure the tree is fresh. There are several tricks to help determine freshness. Bounce the tree on the ground: If it’s fresh it should drop few needles. If a lot of needles fall, this is a warning of what will happen in the home after a few days or weeks.

Freshness can also be determined from the feel of the needles. Run your fingers down the needles: They should feel moist and flexible. Next run your hand against the flow of the needles. They should also feel fresh and flexible when pulled back.

Once you select the perfect tree, keep it in water. Cut at least 1 inch from the base before setting it up, then place it in water immediately. Water the tree with warm water to help keep the natural resins from plugging its vascular system.

Tree preservatives or homemade concoctions of aspirin or lemon-lime soda do not work. If you wish, you can add a few drops of chlorine bleach to inhibit algae growth and keep the water fresh. Initially the tree may drink a gallon or more of water a day before slowly decreasing its use.

Indoors, keep the tree away from warm drafts such as a heat vent or fireplace. Dry air will quickly dehydrate the tree, shortening its life and increasing the chance of a fire.

Make selecting the Christmas tree a family affair. It will help create happy memories that will last a lifetime.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to garden.help@jocogov.org or visit KCGardens.KansasCity.com