How to choose the perfect live Christmas tree

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PHOENIX -- It's that time of year -- time to deck the halls!

Generally the first step in decking said halls is choosing a Christmas tree. Not just any Christmas tree. The Christmas tree.

Garden Guy Dave Owens explains not only how to choose the perfect tree, but also how to care for that tree so it stays lush and green all through the holiday season.

The three main things to consider are needles, freshness and shape. You also need to make sure you know how tall your ceiling is before heading to the tree lot.

To keep your tree as fresh as possible, start with a fresh cut. You don't have to cut much. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, as little 0.5 inch will do it. Make sure the cut is straight and not angled or tapered. A straight cut leaves more surface area to absorb water. With an angled cut, more water is required to cover the entire surface.

Be sure to keep your tree watered; you might be surprised just how much a tree can drink. The NCTA advises using a large-capacity water stand because cut trees can absorb up to 1 quart of water for each inch of stem diameter -- every day.

While some people advocate special additives like bleach or aspirin, the NCTA says you should use just plain tap water.

"Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually be detrimental to a tree's moisture retention and increase needle loss," reads the NCTA website. "Water holding stands that are kept filled with plain water will extend the freshness of trees for weeks."

Be aware, that the amount of water your tree absorbs will change on a daily basis. The NCTA says that's normal.

"The best indicator of dryness is the tree itself, not the water level in the stand," the organization's website reads.

You also want to keep your tree out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources. The extra heat will cause it to dry out faster that it might otherwise.

For more information, visit www.gardenguy.com or www.pocoverde.com.