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Never Buy a Christmas Tree That Feels Like This, Experts Warn

There are a few warning signs that your most important holiday decoration could be a dud.

Heading out to pick the perfect pine tree is often one of the most cherished traditions of the holiday season. But just because something looks grand and impressive on the lot doesn't mean it's a good option for your home. If you want to avoid a decorating disaster, check out these tips that can help you pick the best Christmas tree based on how it feels. Read on to see how you can easily prevent a fir failure.

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You should never buy a Christmas tree if it feels too light when you pick it up.

man buying a christmas tree and carrying it

Tree shopping is first and foremost a visual experience as you seek out an option that will fit perfectly in your home. But once you've found a Christmas tree with the right dimensions, you should also check to make sure the tree doesn't feel too light when you pick it up.

Due to drought and high temperatures that affected much of the U.S. this year, experts warn that any pines that don't feel heavy likely haven't absorbed enough water to make it to the holiday. "If a tree is extremely light, that's probably not going to be as healthy and strive as long as a heavier tree because that heavier tree is going to have more water in it," Justin Timm, owner of Frog Pond Farm in Wilsonville, Oregon, tells local Portland NBC affiliate KOIN.

The outer branches of the tree should feel soft and pliable without too many needles coming loose when touched.

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

Besides making sure it's not too light, experts suggest using your other senses to help you purchase a Christmas tree just like you would a piece of fruit or produce. You should always test to see that the bark is still smooth to the touch and that outside branches are still soft and pliable, checking for freshness by grabbing one between your thumb and forefinger and pulling towards yourself, landscape contractor Roger Cook tells This Old House. If more than a few needles come loose, you should seek out a healthier option.

Quickly shaking or moving the tree can also be an excellent way to check whether or not it's already too dried out. Cook warns that while it's normal for a healthy pine to shed needles from its interior, any tree that loses a lot of needles from the outer branches when it's put back on the ground is likely pretty dehydrated. And as always, you should make sure the tree you pick is as fragrant as possible.

Watering your tree quickly after it's cut is the best way to keep it healthy through Christmas.

overhead shot of grandparent decorating christmas tree

Even if you've found a sufficiently healthy tree, keeping it looking its best for the weeks leading up to the holiday still takes some effort. Just like any other plant that has been clipped from its roots, experts say it's essential to make sure your spruce, pine, or fir is well hydrated as soon as you bring it home.

"Water is the absolute most important thing you can do to preserve your tree for Christmas," Jane Neubauer, co-owner of Sugar Pines Farm in Chesterland, Ohio, tells Martha Stewart, adding that that sap from the trunk rushes to the bottom of the tree when it's cut and seals it up. "When that happens, the tree isn't as able to absorb water," she says. "Add a fresh cut at the bottom right before you place it in water, and try to put up your Christmas tree the same day you bring it home."

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Make sure you're giving your tree enough water each day and avoid drying it out with harsh heat.

Person spraying their Christmas tree with water to keep it alive

Once you have your tree decorated with plenty to drink, it's essential to keep it well-watered—especially every day for the first two weeks after it's freshly cut. "Get a tree stand with a built-in reservoir and check it regularly," Neubauer says. "People don't always realize how much water their Christmas trees will drink up. You'll need to replenish the water regularly."

Ideally, experts say you should give it one quart of water per inch of trunk diameter. And according to research, there's no reason to fret over adding aspirin, sugar, or bleach: room temperature water from the tap should do just fine.

Besides making sure your fir has plenty to drink, you can also go a long way in preserving your pine's longevity by making sure it's being showcased in the right conditions. Close any heat vents that may be near the tree that could speed up drying it out and lower the temperature in the room, Timm says. And using smaller lights can also help prevent baking the tree with high heat whenever it's lit.

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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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