Statewide— The freshest Christmas trees are found at choose-and-cut tree farms, and Maryland has many of them.
Christmas trees sold at lots, often run by churches, scout groups and other service organizations, can also be very fresh. Even though the trees were most likely cut weeks in advance and shipped long distances, most will have been refrigerated for much of the time to keep them fresh. Many local service organizations buy their cut trees from Maryland growers, and these trees tend to be fresher yet.
When selecting a tree at a local tree lot, apply these tests of freshness:
Bend several needles on the tree. If they spring back into shape, the tree is fresh. If they break or remain bent, the tree has dried out too much.
Tap the base of the tree on a hard surface. If many needles fall off, the tree is too dry. The tree should have a pungent evergreen smell, and its branches should be full and springy.
Feel the base of the tree. It should be moist and sappy. Make sure that the base is small enough to fit into your stand.
Whether your tree is cut or live, wrapping it for the drive home will prevent additional drying. Transporting the tree inside your vehicle will serve the same purpose.
Once home, place your tree in the basement or garage for a day or two. Bringing a cold tree immediately into a warm house will shock the tree and cause its needles to drop earlier. To help the tree absorb water and stay fresh, saw 1 inch off its base, cutting diagonally, and place the tree in a bucket of water until you are ready to mount the tree in its stand.
Purchasing live Christmas trees, their roots balled and wrapped in burlap, has become popular in recent years. Replanting them after the holidays allows enjoyment for years to come. Remember that live trees should be kept inside no more than 5 days: A warm home can shock the tree and cause excessive dryness. Digging a hole beforehand is a good idea because it avoids the problem of frozen ground later. Popcorn and fresh cranberries used as decorations will provide food for the birds after the tree is replanted.
Be Fire Safe
Fire safety in the home is especially important during the holidays because Christmas trees are very flammable. To reduce the risk of fire:
Water your tree daily; a tree absorbs a surprising amount of water.
Place your tree away from radiators, fireplaces, and other heat sources.
Avoid a placement that blocks an exit.
Use only UL-approved electric decorations, and do not plug them into overloaded outlets.
Always turn off the Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.
For more information on Christmas trees, contact your local Forest Service office; the staff will be happy to help you. DNR’s Forest Service wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season.