How to pick your Christmas tree and keep it alive

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Christmas tree season is here.

Tree farms and lots will only get busier over the coming weeks. If you plan to hunt for the perfect live tree, there are a few things to keep in mind for selecting the right tree and keeping it alive.

Selecting the right tree

The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t apply to Christmas trees.

Jeff Owen is an area extension forestry specialist on Christmas trees at North Carolina State University. He says you can tell a lot about a tree’s health by its looks.

Whether you’re looking for the bushiest, tallest, or skinniest tree – take a look at the color. Owen said a dry tree will often be a paler green or yellow in tone. That’s one to skip.

Is the tree cold to touch? If so, that means it’s nice and hydrated.

“A tree that’s got lots of water in it will be very cold because that water cools off at night and tends to stay cold and, those trees will just feel cooler. Whereas, the dry tree will be very close to ambient day temperature,” Owen explained.

Good needle retention is also an indicator of a thriving tree.

“If you look at the bark of the twig, the stem between the needles, it should not be shriveled. It should be nice and smooth,” said Owen.

Keeping it alive

Owen’s research on Christmas tree fertilizers found store-bought preservatives are largely ineffective.

The powdered form often contains salts that don’t do much to help.

“The majority of those products actually will worsen the capability of the tree, some of them will cause needle drop and cause the tree to dry out faster,” Owen said.

Those homemade concoctions you see online may be even worse in some cases, according to Owen.

“Either you’re wasting money or you’re actually hurting the tree,” he said.

While simple, he said plain water will go a long way.

“Continuous water is the best way to make sure all still works. And if you do that, you should have a tree that holds up well past Christmas,” Owen said.

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