12 Tree Tips

A Christmas Tree Shopping Guide

A Bug's War on Christmas

The Canaan Valley fir is struggling in the wild thanks to an invasive insect.


  1. Get a real tree, not an artificial one. Real trees are better for the environment, better for the economy, and smell wonderful. 
  2. Cut your own tree from a nearby national forest or state land if you can. Permits are usually inexpensive, and it can be a fun family tradition.
  3. Get two permits or buy two trees, and donate your extra tree to a local charity, youth home, or non-profit. Make sure to call ahead to find out if they can use it, and what height tree they’d need.
  4. When buying a real tree from a vendor, make sure they are reputable local dealers. They should have a business license and be able to tell you exactly where their trees came from. Fly-by-night operators are less likely to comply with regulations or be properly inspected.
  5. Buy resilient, healthy trees. Run your hand along the branches—they should be flexible and springy. If many needles are falling off that suggests a tree that was cut too soon or is unhealthy. A dry tree is less beautiful and can create a fire hazard in your home.
  6. Live trees will travel best if gently wrapped in a reusable tarp or placed in a large burlap bag. Make sure to tie the tree to your vehicle firmly to prevent broken branches.
  7. Christmas trees with root balls rarely survive being transplanted in the dead of winter. Stick with a cut, local, tree for your holiday display—and use the money you save to buy a healthier sapling in springtime!
  8. Make homemade and inexpensive garlands, wreaths and table arrangements from Christmas tree cuttings and other local materials. Re-use!
  9. When creating homemade decorations, take care not to use invasive species like Asian bittersweet or multi-flora rose.
  10. A simple bowl of pine cones can make a free, fragrant and gorgeous centerpiece. Collect your cones locally and intersperse a few dry cinnamon sticks to make a fresh, aromatic display.
  11. Dispose of small holiday greenery in the trash, or at a municipal compost facility. Don’t throw them out in a brush pile or your home compost—they could contain weed seeds or foreign bugs that can infest the trees around your house.
  12. Recycle your Christmas tree whenever possible. Many areas now offer a post-Christmas curbside pickup, and the trees are typically chipped or ground to use in mulch. Look for information specific to your area in your local newspaper, or do an internet search for “Christmas Tree Recycling (your town).” Learn more.


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