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7 Secrets Christmas Tree Vendors Don't Want You to Know

Get all the vital information before you pick your most important decoration off the lot.

Amid all the excitement and chores that come with the holiday season, setting out to pick your Christmas tree for the year is one tradition that's usually seen as a fun event. But even as an annual purchase, people tend to forget just how complicated the process can be. From selecting the right size and type to making sure you take the proper steps to take care of your most prized decoration, there's much more to it than scooping up whatever looks best on the lot. Fortunately, the same people who sell this precious pine have plenty of intel that could make this year's setup that much easier. Read on for the secrets Christmas tree vendors don't want you to know.

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You probably can't haggle a better price.

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The Christmas tree industry knows it relies on a once-a-year purchase with only a few weeks to make its sales. This might lead some people to believe that operators are so desperate to empty their lots that they would take any offer thrown their way. But if you're planning on walking in and sweet-talk your way into a better deal, you'll like to wind up disappointed.

"The trees, before we ship them either out of country or load them to take to one of the lots where we sell them, are tagged," Reddit user and Christmas tree farmer Lord_Nuke explained in an AMA.

However, this also means you're probably not going to get gouged on your purchase. "The tag is based on height and density, and they're priced by tag. It wouldn't matter if…Scrooge McDuck walked in: The tag on the tree is the final say," they write.

Not all styles of Christmas trees are easy to keep looking fresh.

A young couple shopping for a Christmas tree

The crew helping you pick your Christmas tree each year have usually learned a thing or two from their time on the lot. And while there might not be a "sweet spot" deal with any specific style, employees often have their favorites picked out for a reason.

"At our lot, all trees of a certain type have a fixed cost, but my favorite tree type is the Fraser Fir because it retains its needles much better than other trees like the Balsam or Colorado Spruce. So it lasts longer and is a better value," one Christmas tree vendor posted in a Reddit AMA.

Others say the right choice comes down to appearance—and that doesn't mean just the height and width of your pines. "Make sure you get a tree with short wide stubby needles [as] these tend to hold onto moisture longer," Christmas tree specialist and Reddit user cptnslinger posted in an AMA. "Varieties like Douglas or Grand Firs tend to lose moisture because the long thin needles have a higher efficiency oxygen exchange rate, which is great if the tree is still alive, but tends to cut down on longevity once it's harvested."

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You should avoid buying your tree at certain stores.

christmas traditions

Big-box stores can always come through in a pinch while you're out running errands. But while they're a convenient one-stop-shop situation for essentials, groceries, or other items, experts say some home improvement stores are notorious for their poor-quality pines.

"Home Depot and Lowe's cut their trees by the thousands and don't keep them in water," Reddit user cptnslinger says in their AMA. "Usually, they are almost dead by the time they hit the lot."

You can still go wrong with an artificial tree.

artificial christmas trees in a store
Sergey Ryzhov/Shutterstock

Not everyone who sets out to buy a Christmas tree heads to a farm or lot. Whether it's because of environmental concerns, saving some money, or just not wanting to deal with the annual clean-up of needles, many homes opt for an artificial tree they can pull out of storage when it comes time to decorate. However, there are still some trade-offs and problems when opting for an inauthentic fir.

In an AMA, artificial Christmas tree vendor and Reddit user factoryelf said that even plastic options can create a headache for everyone involved—especially if they are covered in the fake snow known as "flocking."

"Flocked trees are a pain to make and pack away for both you and us," they explain. "It creates a big mess for the workers, and generally, within one to two years, it looks awful if parts of the tree are starting to lose flock."

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You have to act fast with a freshly cut tree.

man cutting christmas tree outside in snow

Even though you may not know precisely how long the trees you're perusing have been sitting on the lot, a little care can go a long way in ensuring they will last through the holiday. But experts point out that in the case of some pines, doing so requires some immediate action.

"Most Fir trees after they are 'fresh cut' have a three-to-four-hour window before they sap up and seal the bottom of the trunk," cptnslinger explains in the Reddit AMA. "Within a half hour is best, but most will continue to 'drink' as long as you meet the three-to-four-hour deadline."

But don't worry if you've already missed your window of opportunity. "There is a—pardon the pun—Hail Mary you can try. Drill into the trunk of the tree about an inch or two below the water line in a few places [while being] careful not to drill through the bowl of the stand," says cptnslinger. "If the tree is still alive, it should start drinking again, and that may get your tree through to Christmas."

Certain types are known for lasting longer than others.

couple choosing a tree is a christmas tree farm

It's hard not to walk straight out onto the lot and go for the first tree you see that seems like it's the perfect size for your home. But if you're concerned with how long the tree will look and smell alive, experts say you should gravitate toward certain styles and avoid others.

"Douglas Firs are notorious for shedding and browning out," warns cptnslinger. "They typically last three to four weeks with a fresh cut and ample watering."

"For next year, if you are going to get a tree the day after Thanksgiving, get a Frasier Fir," they suggest. "They last on average seven to eight weeks as long as they are cared for, have a low rate of shedding and needle drop, and you can probably leave them up until February."

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Many Christmas tree vendors love their jobs—up to a certain point in the season.

A young woman smelling a Christmas tree she is about to buy while shopping

Working a Christmas tree lot can be difficult, with plenty of physical labor, cold weather, and pushy crowds to deal with. But ultimately, many say their job offers a unique way to partake in holiday joy.

"I do love helping people, and it's especially rewarding when you help a really nice family pick out that perfect tree and see them all happy and excited to go home and decorate," Christmas tree vendor and Reddit user BigBabyBurke posted in a Reddit AMA.

However, just like the trees they sell, the goodwill can sometimes fade as the season progresses. "Towards the end, when Christmas is a couple [of] days away, there's a completely different crowd."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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