LIVING

Christmas Tree Shopping: How To Choose The Perfect Tree

12/06/2013 04:16 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST
Cavan Images via Getty Images

Maybe you've done this dozens of times, or maybe it's your first chance, but buying a Christmas tree takes a lot more skill than simply picking out the best-looking greenery you can find and getting it home. Or, for that matter, choosing the tree you feel the most sorry for — but no judgment, Charlie Brown.

Dawn Bryan, the creator of The Qualipedia and author of “Elite Etiquette,” has a few suggestions as to how people can figure out which tree works best for them. And yes, she gives equal weight to both real and artificial options, so no worries if you're not into the smell of pine.

  • Where Does It Go?
    Shutterstock
    Before picking any kind of tree, think about where it will be in house — and get specific about measurements.
  • Making The Choice
    Shutterstock
    Deciding between real or fake trees comes down to a few questions. Do you want the pine fragrance in your home? Do you have room to store an artificial tree after Christmas?
  • How To Choose A Live Or Cut Tree
    Shutterstock
    Check for fresh needles by bending them gently between your thumb and forefinger. It should bend easily and not break. Needles should also stay attached to the branch when you run your hand along it.
  • More Fresh Tree Tips
    Shutterstock
    If the tree is cut, lift it slightly off the ground, then drop it on its stump. If many needles fall off, the tree probably isn't fresh.
  • Live Or Cut Tree Maintenance
    Shutterstock
    Cut a half-inch from the trunk before putting it in water, but don't whittle the sides, as trees drink mostly from the edges of its trunk base. Keep your tree away from sun, fireplaces and other heat sources, and unplug the lights at night.
  • Picking An Artificial Tree
    Shutterstock
    For a realistic look, pick a tree one with PE needles (rather than PVC), a center pole, and individual stick branch attachments.
  • Picking An Artificial Tree, Part 2
    Shutterstock
    To make it easier to assemble, choose one with PE needles, a centre pole, hinged branch attachments and pre-strung lights. Quality can be determined by branch ends, which look sculpted, not snipped.
  • Picking Your Lights
    Shutterstock
    Key words to look for when buying lights: a 3,000-hour warranty, twist-proof sockets, the ability for the string to stay lit even if a bulb is burned out. And check for approximately eight to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) per light.
  • Storing An Artificial Tree
    Shutterstock
    With the right care, an artificial tree will last six to seven years. Make sure to store your tree in a carrying case, not a cardboard box — otherwise the box could get damp, disintegrate and let dust get into your tree over the year.
  • What To Do With The Tree
    Shutterstock
    Look for recycling centres for your cut Christmas tree, and see if a local thrift store would like your artificial one.