Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some of the most commonly asked questions we receive from consumers and the media:

Is it okay to buy a tree that is losing its needles?
Some dropping of older, interior needles is natural and normal. However, if the overall color is faded, the bark of the outer twigs is wrinkled and the green, exterior needles easily fall off at a gentle touch or when the tree is bounced on a hard surface, it is excessively dry. Select a different one.

Is a fresh cut really necessary before putting a tree in a water stand?
Always make a fresh cut if possible. After time, generally 3 to 6 hours, the cut stump gets air in the plant tissue, which lessens a tree's water absorption capacity. A fresh cut will reopen the pores that take up water.

How much should be cut off?
Only one half inch is necessary, not one or two inches as is sometimes instructed.

Will tapering the base or cutting it at an angle increase the area that takes up water?
No. This reduces the surface area of plant tissue that absorbs water molecules. Once the water level falls below the exposed surface on a tapered trunk, drying will begin. An angle or "V" cut will require more water depth to cover the cut surface. It also makes the tree more difficult to hold upright in a stand and less stable.

Should I add bleach, aspirin, fertilizer or other things to the water to make my tree last longer?
No! Research has shown that plain tap water is best. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually be detrimental to a tree's moisture retention and increase needle loss. Water holding stands that are kept filled with plain water will extend the freshness of trees for weeks.

How large should my water stand be?
Choosing a large capacity stand is one of the most important steps to maintaining your tree's freshness. Avoid small "coffee cup" stands. Check the water level frequently since trees can drink large amounts of water each day, particularly pre-cut trees during the first week of display. Generally, a tree can use up to one quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter. Therefore, a stand that will hold a four-inch trunk should hold at least one gallon (4 quarts) of water with the tree in the stand.

What kind of tree stand should I use?
There are several different types and styles of tree stands to choose from. The most important characteristic is water capacity. You should also make sure the stand "fits" the tree -- if it is too big or too small it might cause the tree to tip over. Do NOT trim the sides of the trunk to fit it in a stand. Ask the retailer if you need advice.

What if my tree doesn't seem to be absorbing water in the stand?
If you've followed all the care tips there are a couple of things to consider. First, if you cut your own tree at a choose and cut farm, it will not absorb water right away since it has not had time to begin drying out. Second, the best indicator of dryness is the tree itself, not the water level in the stand. The rate of water absorption will fluctuate from day to day. This is normal.

What if I forgot to make a fresh cut off the base of the tree before setting it up?
If a fresh cut was not made the tree will still take up water, but at a reduced rate. Hot tap water in the tree stand increases water uptake in some trees. If you're still concerned, do a freshness test every few days and continue to add water to the stand.

Do Real Trees present the type of fire hazards we often hear about on the news?
Less than 0.0004% of Real Christmas Trees used each year are ignited in home fires and NEVER has a Real Christmas Tree caused or started a fire. Even though the chance of a Christmas Tree fire is very slim, you can ensure that your Real Christmas Tree stays fresh and safe by following the NCTA recommended care tips.

Don't believe us? Watch this clip shown on the NBC Tonight Show with Jay Leno in December, 2004:

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Should I be concerned about bugs being in a tree?

Although extremely rare, a number of different insects and spiders have been found in Christmas trees after setup. Cleaning and shaking trees before setup are valuable preventive actions. If troublesome after setup, the first thing to do is to vacuum. If necessary, household insect sprays specifically labeled for use indoors on ornamental plants and evergreens may also be used, following label directions. It is important to turn off and unplug all tree lighting before any sprays are applied to your Christmas tree.

What is the best species of Christmas tree?
The best species is the one YOU like best. Read through the tree varieties section of our website and find the one that has the most characteristics you desire, then go to a tree lot or farm and have fun shopping for just the right tree!

What type of tree smells the best?
The sense of smell is very subjective. Different people smell things differently. If you go to tree varieties section of our website, you will get general descriptions about the fragrance of the tree species.

I can't seem to find the tree that I want. It is often referred to as a Charlie Brown Tree because of its sparse look with short needles. I love these trees and don't know what they are or who might have one for sale.
The sparse look is dependent somewhat upon the genetics of the tree, but mostly through the shearing practices of the grower. The more open, less dense look is starting to become more popular among consumers, so the Christmas Tree farmers will be working to meet that demand; however, the average tree takes 7 to 10 years to get to 6 or 7 feet high and the majority of consumers still want a full, thick tree. Check with farms in your area and ask them if they have a "less sheared" tree or one that would be graded a "cull." The grower will understand what you are looking for.

Isn't it bad for the environment to cut down a tree and use it for Christmas?
It is much better environmentally to use a natural agricultural crop and recycle it after the holidays. Real Christmas Trees are a renewable, recyclable, natural product grown on farms throughout North America. Unfortunately many people have the misconception that Christmas Trees are cut down from the forest. Real Christmas Trees are grown as crops, just like corn or wheat, and raised on a farm. Once they are harvested, new seedlings are planted to replace harvested trees. These would NOT have been planted if trees hadn't been harvested the previous year.  Fake Christmas Trees however are a non-renewable, non-biodegradable, plastic and metal product most often made in overseas factories.

I thought I'd buy a living tree with its roots intact and plant it after Christmas. How do I do that?
If you need landscape trees anyway, then a rooted tree may be a good option. Whether "balled & burlapped" trees or potted, you can find care tips here for trees with its roots still intact.

Where can I recycle my tree after Christmas?
Successful tree recycling programs are coordinated on a local basis. In most communities, the news outlets (TV stations, newspapers and radio) will provide the info on drop off locations and dates for any curbside pick up programs.

How do I get information on how to start my own tree farm?
Many good books and guides have been published on how to start a tree farm; your local library or an Amazon.com search should yield plenty. One example is "Christmas Trees for Pleasure and Profit" by Robert Wray.


In addition, growing trees varies a great deal, depending on your climate, soil, terrain and what kind of tree species you're interested in growing. We recommend that you contact a county extension agent and the state association closest to you. Visit our list of state and regional association contacts for assistance. NCTA membership information can also be found here.

Some of our more "unusual" questions are also addressed on our "Tree Talk" blog, posted regularly throughout the holiday season by NCTA PR Manager Rick Dungey.

Tree Finder

Looking for your perfect Christmas Tree this season? Use NCTA's Locator Tool to search for retail farms and lots in your area.

Tree Talk Blog