Buying a live Christmas tree? Don't make these nine mistakes

Picking out the perfect Christmas tree should be easy, right? Go to a live tree lot, wait for a tree to call your name, and then haul it home. Sounds simple enough.

But picking out the perfect Christmas tree is a little bit more complicated than that, as anyone who has ever wrestled a tree home only to find that it didn't quite fit through the front door knows.

In the holiday spirit of giving, we give you nine of the most common mistakes people make when buying and caring for a live Christmas tree.

PHOTOS: 47 Christmas decorations from around the globe

1) They go too big: It's not just about getting the tree through the front door. Or making room for the star on top. "Most trees on tree farms are trimmed to an 80% taper," says the National Christmas Tree Assn. "So a tree that's 10 feet tall will be 8 feet wide at the bottom. A tree that will fit in the room vertically may be entirely too big horizontally." Solution: Measure, and resist the temptation to overbuy.

2) They fail to test the tree for freshness. Yep, that's a thing. If the tree is too old, it will be dry. And a dry tree can lead to discoloration and excessive needle loss. And you don't need one more thing to clean up. Simple solution: "Run a branch through your enclosed hand -- the needles should not come off easily," advises the association. The branches should be pliable, too, not brittle.

3) They buy a tree that doesn't fit the tree stand. If the tree is too small for the stand, it might not stay upright. To big, and, well, it's too big. Again, measure.

4) They buy without decorations in mind. If you have a lot of dangling ornaments -- icicles, bells, picture frames and so forth -- a tight, dense tree like a White pine might not give hanging ornaments much room. Perhaps a tree with a little more breathing room between the branches, like a Noble fir, would be the way to go.

5) They don't bring the muscle. Or the tools. Think, how will you get the tree home? In the back of your truck? On the roof? Who will help you get it up onto the roof? And do you need to supply the ropes? Will the lot do that for you? Will they charge you for this service? Do you need an old blanket (to protect the roof of your vehicle)? And then -- most important -- who will help you take it off the roof and bring it into the house? Yep. A small tree is sounding better and better ....

6) They forget to water the tree once it's home. Live Christmas trees need water so they don't go dry. (A dry tree can be a fire hazard, and makes a mess when it starts dropping its needles.) Make sure you have the type of tree stand that includes a water reservoir. The christmas Tree association advises cutting a half-inch disk from the bottom of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand, but says drilling a hole in the bottom does not improve water uptake. Plus, it's dangerous.

7) They don't put safety first. Christmas tree fires are a serious threat. Scrap worn light strands. Don't overload electrical circuits. No open flames or cigarettes near the tree. And always unplug tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed.

8) They think "firewood!" when it's all over. Bad move. Sap can create a fire hazard. And wood needs to dry out before it's usable in a wood stove or fireplace. Just don't do it.

9) They forget to recycle. Many cities and municipalities are eager to divert bulky Christmas trees from taking up space in the landfills, and instead turn them into mulch for open space. Contact your local government for details, as there are typically only a few opportunities for curbside pick up or drop off. The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation runs a Christmas tree recycling program with information online.

10) They forget to share their holiday decoration pictures with the L.A. Times. OK, so this one isn't exactly a tip. But we really do want to see your Christmas tree and holiday decorations. Use the hashtag #LATHoliday on Instagram or Twitter and your photo may appear in our holiday gallery.

I want to see YOUR holiday decorations. Tweet me @renelynch


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