How to choose the perfect Christmas tree

Posted: December 11th, 2015 | Gardening, Lifestyle, Top Stories | No Comments

By Gary Jones

Nothing says Christmas like the scent of a fresh-cut tree. But if you’ve ever had the experience of having a Christmas tree turn brown and brittle well before the holidays, you know that selecting the right tree is a bit of an art.

Fraser fir (Courtesy of Armstrong Garden Centers)

Fraser fir (Courtesy of Armstrong Garden Centers)

Choosing the perfect tree 

Three considerations will help make sure your tree is almost as fresh when you take it down as the day you got it.

First, purchase a Christmas tree that has been re-cut (after arrival) and is standing in water. In our warm California climate, this is a must to ensure it will retain its freshness.

Second, look at trees from all sides. You want a nice shape of course, but just as important, large patches of brown or bare branches tell you the tree has begun to dry out.

Finally, your tree should be a vibrant green color. Gently pull your hand along a branch. Only a few needles should come off. If you end up with a handful, choose another tree.

Which tree is right for me? 

Did you ever wonder what the differences are between the types of trees on a Christmas tree lot? And why so many kinds are sold? Are some longer-lasting or easier to decorate? The following are the most common types, their characteristics and why they might be best for you.

Noble fir (Courtesy of Armstrong Garden Centers)

Noble fir (Courtesy of Armstrong Garden

—Noble fir: Bluish-green needles are about 1-inch long and have a silvery appearance. The short, stiff branches are great for heavier ornaments. It keeps well and is used for wreaths and garland.

—Silvertip fir: This decorator favorite is sometimes difficult to find. The strong, horizontal branches are layered with plenty of space between them to show off large ornaments. The 1-inch fragrant needles are green with a bluish tint with silvery tips. Botanically, it is known as Red Fir.

—Douglas fir: One of the best for fragrance, unfortunately, this tree dries very quickly. It boasts 1-inch to 1 1/2-inches blue to dark green needles. The rather airy and open, flexible branches are not good for heavy ornaments.

—Grand fir: Grand fir trees are unique in appearance and thick with fragrant foliage. Its shiny, dark green needles are about 1-inch to 1 1/2-inches long.

—Fraser fir: This tree has dark green, flat needles 1/2-inch to 1-inch long and it features very good needle retention with a nice scent. It has many sturdy branches that are perfect for ornaments.

—Nordmann fir: This fir’s dark green, 3/4-inch to 1 1/2-inches, flattened needles are shiny and silvery-blue below. This new tree variety is becoming more popular.

Christmas tree care tips

Use a tree stand that holds at least one gallon of water. Be sure that the water level doesn’t drop below the bottom of the trunk or it will develop a seal that prevents water absorption. Also, add a tree preservative to prolong the life and beauty of your tree. Preservative really makes a difference.

To prevent drying and fire hazards, be sure to keep your tree away from direct heat sources such as direct sun through windows, candles, fireplaces or heating vents.

—Gary Jones is Chief Horticulturist at Armstrong Garden Centers, which has locations on Friars Road and Morena Boulevard. Email your drought and gardening questions to

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