Many of us choose a fresh cut tree to decorate our homes for the holiday season. Choose a tree with dark green color, good shape, a straight trunk at the base, and no taller than you really need. Check to see if the tree is fresh by bending needles; they should bend and not break. Needles should not fall off in great numbers, but some needle drop is normal. Have the vendor make a fresh cut of about 1/2 inch at the base, or do so yourself. Cut off small low branches, do not pull off. Some vendors will trim, shake, and wrap for transport.
Choose a good location in your home for your tree, not in a sunny window or near a fire place or heat vent. Until you bring it indoors, keep the tree in a cool, shady location, and stand it up in a bucket of water. Cut trees take up a lot of water in the first 5 days. Inside, use a tree stand that can hold at least a quart or two of water. Add water daily and try to not let the w ater level go below the cut end of the tree. Resin on the cut surface will cause it to stop taking up water. There are many “old-wives-tales” but adding a little lemon-lime soda, vinegar, or mouthwash to tree water may help keep bacteria levels low and trees fresh a bit longer. Keeping the thermostat set cool (about 68 F) will help a tree last.
Some people choose a live tree that has roots and soil wrapped in burlap. These trees can be planted outside after the holidays, but the time indoors adds to the stress of transplanting. Live trees should not be kept inside for more than about 8-10 days. The hole for planting should be prepared ahead of time since soil may freeze. Live trees are heavy and do cost more, but can be a memory that lasts. Cut trees must be discarded, but many municipalities will chip for mulch.