Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association

Tree Selection, Care, and Recycling

Involve the whole family in selecting a tree and plan fun things for everyone to do during the trip. Make it a great family outing! Take a small treat or some hot beverages to enjoy.

Before you go, consider these pointers:

  • Be sure you know what size tree (height and width) you need. Check your room height by raising your arms toward the ceiling to determine how tall you may want the tree. Trees look smaller outdoors, so use yourself or a tall friend to help evaluate the height of a tree. If you end up buying a tree that is a bit too tall, you can cut off and use the extra branches to decorate your room.

  • If you want the same species you are familiar with or have always used, great. If you want to try a different species, browse the Tree Pictures and Description page or the NCTA website www.realchristmastrees.org to become familiar with the species popular in your area before heading out.

Tips on Selecting a Tree at a Wisconsin Retail Lot

  • Go to a retail lot that is well-lit and stores their trees in a shaded area.

  • Go ahead and touch the tree.

  • Look for indicators of dryness or deterioration: excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor, and wrinkled bark. A good rule-of-thumb is, when in doubt about the freshness of a tree, select another one. If none of the trees on the lot look fresh, go to another lot.

  • Some species simply last longer and remain fresh much longer than others. Ask your retailer which tree performs best in your climate.

  • Ask the retailer about recycling Christmas Trees in your community.


What to Expect at a "Choose & Cut" or "Cut Your Own" Farm

  • Be aware of possible farm hazards - Most tree farms keep their fields very well groomed, but there are some things that are beyond the farmer's control. Be careful of tree stumps, an occasional blackberry vine, uneven ground and sharp saws.

  • Go to the farm prepared for a day in the country - Wear comfortable boots and old clothes. Bring rain gear if the weather is threatening. The "cutter downers" and the "loader uppers" should also have gloves. DON'T FORGET THE CAMERA. It's best to leave the family dog at home (many farms will prohibit pets). But, if a pet is allowed at the farm, keep him on a leash at all times. Please don't let him "mark" other people's trees and clean up after him.

  • Equipment to bring - Saws are usually provided by the farm operator. Check ahead of time to determine if you need to bring a saw.

  • Pricing - Some farms measure and price their trees individually, others sell them by the foot. Ask about the pricing policy before heading out in the field.

  • Tree size - Head out to the field and select the tree that fits your predetermined needs. Check the trunk to be sure that it is sufficiently straight. Keep in mind that pines will usually have some crook in their trunks. Also check that the tree has a sufficiently long handle to accommodate your stand.

  • Needles - In the fall of the year ALL conifers drop or shed a certain portion of their oldest needles. This is a normal part of the life cycle of the tree and occurs because the tree is preparing itself for winter. Some farms provide tree shaking services so that you will depart with an acceptably clean tree.

  • Cutting your tree down- Cutting the tree is easiest as a two person project. The one cutting usually lies on the ground while the helper holds the bottom limbs up. While the cut is being made, the helper should tug on the tree lightly to ensure that the saw kerf remains open and the saw does not bind. The tugging force should be applied to the side of the tree opposite the cut.

  • Transportation - Bring the tree to the processing area where it may be cleaned and/or baled/netted. Baling makes transporting and handling the tree substantially easier.

  • Payment - Pay for your tree and load it up

  • Recycling - Ask the retailer about recycling Christmas Trees in your community.

Now you're ready to load up and head home to set up and decorate your Real Christmas Tree.....

Caring For Your Cut Christmas Tree

Dr. Ricky M. Bates, Department of Horticulture, Penn State University

The key to maintaining your live Christmas tree throughout the holiday season is to give it the proper care from the time it is purchased until the tree is removed from your home. Maintaining a high moisture level in the tree is the single most important factor in reducing needle loss and keeping the tree fresh. This is accomplished primarily through the use of water-holding stands and maintaining the water level in the stand above the base of the tree.

The following research-based guidelines will help you to maintain the freshness and aroma of your live Christmas tree this holiday season.

  1. Use a tree stand with an adequate water-holding capacity. A tree stand should have a water basin that provides 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. For most Christmas trees, the stand should hold at least 1 gallon of water. A cut tree will absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week, so replenish the water daily.

  2. The tree stand should fit your tree. Some stands have circular rings at the top, so the ring must be large enough for the trunk to go through the hole. Avoid whittling 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.

  3. If the tree is to be stored more than a couple days before display, it is advisable to place its trunk in water and store it in a cool, shaded and protected area such as an unheated garage.

  4. If the tree has been cut within the past 12 hours, it will not be necessary to recut the trunk prior to display indoors. If it has been longer than 12 hours since harvest, the trunk should be recut to improve water uptake.

  5. Cutting off a disk of wood about ¼" thick from the base of the trunk is all that is necessary before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also may reduce the amount of water available to the tree.

  6. Keep displayed trees away from sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.

  7. The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.

  8. Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree. With many stands, there can still be water in the stand even though the base of the tree is no longer submerged in water.

  9. Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not improve water uptake.

  10. The use of "I-V" type devices to supply water directly to holes drilled into the sides of the tree trunk is not as effective as displaying the tree in a more traditional, water-holding tree stands.

  11. Applying anti-transpirants to the tree does not significantly reduce the rate of moisture loss. These products are marketed as a way to block evaporation from the foliage surface, but in reality they have little effect on a cut tree displayed indoors. 

  12. Adding water-holding gels to the stand is not beneficial and they can reduce the amount of water in the stand that is available to the tree.

  13. Do not use additives in the water, including floral preservatives, commercial tree preservatives, molasses, sugar, bleach, soft drinks, aspirin, honey, and other concoctions. Clean water is all that is needed to maintain freshness.

  14. Displaying trees in water with proper care is much more effective in reducing fire hazards than spraying trees with flame retardants. Some flame retardants can damage needles and actually increase the rate of moisture loss from trees.

  15. Monitor your tree for dryness. Run your fingers across the needles to determine if they are dry and brittle. If the needles break easily or fall off in your hand, the tree is dry and should be removed from the house. A well-cared-for tree should normally remain fresh at least three to four weeks before drying to an unacceptable level.

Recycling Your Tree

Of course, be sure to take off all decorations first. Pieces of tinsel will attract birds and they may digest it - not a good thing.

Put your tree in the back yard, propped against a post or railing next to a bird feeder. The birds love to hide in it. Make some bird seed treats and hang them on your tree. Hang suet on it too. In the spring, you can put the tree in a brush pile or set out for the city to collect with brush.

In the rural areas: you may be able to just put your tree in your back yard on a brush pile, or on your property. Wildlife will use it as protection.

In a city: contact the department in your city that handles brush or specifically, real Christmas trees. Some will pick up on designated days after Christmas. Others may pick up in the spring with brush pick up. And some of you may need to take it to a recycling location. Some non-profit groups will collect trees as a fund-raiser.

Tell us how you recycled your real tree on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RealWiChristmasTrees




The mission of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association is to promote real Christmas trees, wreaths and greenery through marketing, and education of our members and customers by quality production of real farm fresh and fragrant products while protecting the environment.

ph 608/742-8663; E-mail Us
YouTube page