There are some factors to choosing a healthy tree. A straight trunk is great, but there is more to consider. There should be no damaged bark, cracks in the trunk, or oozing sap, as these will cause needles to become brittle more quickly. Needles should feel supple, somewhat waxy, and provide resistance against the hand. Those that are limp, dry, and easily bent may be ready to drop.
Freshly cut trees should be put in water as soon as possible. If a stand is not ready, set the trunk in a bucket, or put warm, damp towels over the base. Don’t put trees in direct sun – for those in a sunny window, a sheer curtain will help.
Tree preservatives contain wood softeners to help water reach the needles. Home remedies – from using hot or carbonated water, to adding Aspirin – are all reasonably effective in promoting water transfer. Remember that a large tree can drink a gallon of water its first day. If it does not, give another fresh cut, or use hot water to soften the sap and add tree preservative to get water flowing.
The trick is to get the tree into water within 30 minutes of the fresh cut. Don’t allow the basin to dry once it runs out of water because after 30 minutes of being dry, the tree will not take up any water.