Picking the perfect Christmas tree (and tricks to keep it alive!)

Families take a wagon ride out to cut the perfect tree at the Pleasant Valley Tree Farm in Elk Mound.

By Salina Heller

December 7, 2023

Wisconsin is home to nearly 1,400 Christmas tree farms and 36,000 acres of trees!

“Wisconsin is one of the biggest producers of Christmas trees in the US,” said Sarah Scharlau of Pleasant Valley Tree Farm in Elk Mound. “They promote family traditions and family bonding.”

Choosing the right tree

“Your firs are going to be your short needle trees, the pines are going to be your long needles,” Scharlau explained. “For the most part, when a family’s looking to decorate, firs are going to be your best bet.”

Here are a few popular varieties grown in Wisconsin:

BALSAM FIR:  Balsams are among the most popular Christmas trees, thanks to their strong fragrance and short, soft needles that are perfect for hanging ornaments.

FRASER FIR: Frasers are another popular choice. They’re also fragrant with short, soft, flat needles that don’t shed easily. A strong and hardy tree, Frasers have impressive staying power—when properly cared for, they can last as long as six weeks!

WHITE PINE: If you prefer big, bushy trees, White Pines are for you. The softest of the bunch, pines aren’t great for ornaments, but they rarely shed and are the most “traditional-looking” Christmas tree available.

Keeping it alive

Water is the single most important factor for reducing needle loss and keeping your tree fresh.

“That’s one area people tend to fail,” Sharlau cautioned. “Never, ever let it be without water! The minute it’s without, the tree goes into starvation mode and starts dropping needles. If you keep it in water the whole season, it’ll do just fine.”

How much? Most Christmas trees should be put in a stand with at least one gallon of water.  Cut trees absorb a surprising amount, especially during the first week, so replenish daily.

Another tip? Don’t whittle down the sides of the trunk to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed. 

And if your tree has been cut more than 12 hours before putting it in a stand, you might need to recut the trunk to improve its water intake.

Author

  • Salina Heller

    A former 15-year veteran of reporting local news for western Wisconsin TV and radio stations, Salina Heller also volunteers in community theater, helps organize the Chippewa Valley Air Show, and is kept busy by her daughter’s elementary school PTA meetings. She is a UW-Eau Claire alum.

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