It's one thing to find the perfect tree. It's another to maintain it for a month.

You buy the tree, strap it to the roof of your car, get it into your living room…now what? Nick Voykin, vice president of customer care at Mariani Landscape in Lake Bluff, Illinois, gives Christmas tree tips and tricks from selection to disposal. With the right care, your tree will stay fresher longer-which means fewer needles to clean up and a tree that is truly evergreen.

Midwest Living: Let's get real about freshness – pre-cut lots or tree farms?

Nick Voykin: Many families enjoy the annual tradition of cutting their own tree, and this obviously ensures absolute freshness. The easiest and most convenient however, is to buy from a pre-cut lot. Trees in pre-cut lots are typically harvested within just a few weeks prior to delivery and remain fresh throughout the holiday season.


Dull's Tree Farm - Thorntown, Indiana

MWL: What should buyers look for to make sure they're buying a good tree?

NV: Look first at the overall aesthetics of the tree to make sure it doesn't have any browning or holes in the branching structure. Then, grab some of the branches and gently pull the needles back towards you. If the tree sheds needles easily and in abundance, then it's beginning to dry out and most likely won't last long inside the home.


Courtesy of Mariani Landscape

MWL: What does a trendy tree look like this holiday season?

NV: There are so many trends and great ideas, like monochromatic decorating to using handmade ornaments. We are seeing a shift away from the traditional, eclectically decorated tree. Many people are focused on creating one cohesive look into their decorating. With social media as well, it is so easy to gain inspiration for news ways to decorate.


MWL: What are your tips for keeping trees fresh as long as possible?

NV: One, be sure to make a fresh cut at the bottom of the trunk to ensure optimal water absorption. Cutting ½" to 1" off of the base is recommended. Once you have trimmed the trunk, don't wait more than two to three hours before securing it in the stand. You will risk the base drying out.

Two, you should check the water levels twice a day-first thing in the morning and again in the evening-for the first week and then you can wean off from there, but always make sure there is enough. Your tree stand should hold about 1 quart of water per caliber inch of the tree. Also, placement is key. Try not to put your tree by a floor register. The blowing air/heat will make your tree dry out much faster.

Three, different types of trees also tend to vary in life expectancy. At the Mariani Landscape tree lot, the Fraser Fir trees are the most popular as they tend to stay fresh and hold their needles the longest. Personally, I always get a Fraser Fir for my home.


MWL: So, Christmas is over-what should people do with their trees?

NV: Well, definitely enjoy your tree for as long as possible. Once it is time to say goodbye to the holiday season, simply recycle your tree. Don't just throw them away. They are biodegradable and can be reused for other purposes. Most communities offer curbside recycling or offer recycling drop-off areas. You can also just chop it up yourself and use it for mulch – get a head start on your spring gardening.


Bottom photos courtesy of Mariani Landscape