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Holiday Decorating Ideas

6 Tips for Live Christmas Trees

The ultimate guide to buying, caring, taking down, and tree-cycling your Christmas tree.

By Nicole Sforza
Potted evergreen treeJames Wojcik

Picking the One

Your local lots may sell only a couple of varieties, but if you have a broad choice, “true firs” (noble, Fraser, Nordmann, and Turkish) last longest: four to six weeks. Second best for life span: Douglas fir, Scotch pine, balsam, and grand fir. Spruce trees last only two or three weeks. Shop where cut trees are kept under shady tents or wrapped in burlap—not open to full sun, where they can dry out. If you prefer an artificial tree but crave the olfactory delight of a fresh one, try ScentSicles ($8 for six,, which are small, realistically fragranced sticks in fir, pine, or spruce to camouflage deep in the branches.

Hauling It Home

After the seller cuts the trunk for you, place the tree on the car roof with the bottom facing forward to minimize needle loss. Get it in water within four to six hours of a fresh cut. If you’re not putting it up right away, set it in a bucket of water in a cool, dark place, like the garage.

Stress-Free Setup

Before you bring the tree inside but while the netting is still on, place it in its stand to minimize the mess in your living room. (Use a metal stand; plastic will break over time.) Tighten the bolts about 75 percent, haul the tree in, set it in place, and finish securing. Then fill with water.

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Blue ice cube tray

A few days before a party, start making ice and storing it in baggies in the freezer.