What To Do When Christmas Tree Is Too Tall?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve bought a fantastic Christmas tree only to realize that it is unable to fit through doorways or it brushes the ceiling of your living room? Yes, I know, the tree looked smaller in a wide-open retail lot! But is there something that can be done about it?

When selecting the height of a Christmas tree, 1) ceiling height and floor space, 2) accessibility, 3) room coordination, and 4) distance to an electrical outlet must be considered. A tree that is too tall can be trimmed by removing the bottom branches and cutting off the trunk.

If the Christmas tree you’ve chosen is taller than what you intended, read on to see how you can resize your tree instead of replacing it.

9 Steps in Trimming A Christmas Tree

To trim down a Christmas tree, 1) use safety equipment, 2) don’t chop off the top, 3) trim the leading shoot, 4) take the adjusted measurements, 5) remove the lowest branches, 6) cut off the trunk, 7) put up your Christmas tree, 8) prune the tree further into an even shape, and 9) cover the gaps.

1. Use safety equipment. Put on goggles, leg guards, and boots when using a chainsaw or any heavy equipment. Wear gloves to protect your hands against prickly needles. Use sharp tools for a cleaner cut.

2. Don’t chop off the top. Since Christmas trees are valued for their conical shape, cutting off the top part of the tree will result in an unnatural, asymmetrical form. Besides, you wouldn’t want to prune the newer, green growth at the top branches which keep the tree fresh and healthy.

3. Trim the leading shoot. The leading shoot is the center, topmost branch of a Christmas tree where people usually hang a topper such as an angel or a star. If the leading shoot is wilting downwards or scraping the ceiling, use secateurs to trim it down to a sturdy length. Remove other branches which look like they are competing with the center branch.

These handy secateurs have shock-absorbing handles to protect your hands when cutting, and are sharp enough to cut buds without leaving a stump.

4. Take the adjusted measurements. If your tree is too tall to be mounted upright, measure the height of your ceiling and decide how many centimeters or inches you want to subtract from the base of your tree. Don’t forget to include the height of the stand and the topper in the calculations. Mark the trunk where you plan to cut it.

5. Remove the lowest branches. Cut off the bottom branches of the tree, making sure that the handle is long enough to be mounted on the stand. Allot space for gifts. Use a handsaw to remove bigger, harder branches. Use long-handled shears, hedge clippers, or a shearing knife for shorter, softer branches.

6. Cut off the trunk. Using a bow saw with a 20-inch blade, a handsaw, or a chain saw, make a fresh cut from the base of the trunk. Follow the mark you made earlier.

7. Put up your Christmas tree. After cutting, mount your tree on its stand properly. Submerge the base in water before the sap hardens and prevents your tree from drinking water.

8. Prune the tree further into an even shape. Once the tree is upright, carefully trim the ends of branches that stick out from the overall silhouette of the tree. Prune the tree evenly on all sides to avoid an unbalanced tree that may eventually tip over. Remove overly dry and discolored branches and needles.

9. Cover the gaps. Cover bare patches and visible gaps with baubles, ribbons, and other ornaments. For a leading shoot which refuses to stand up straight, you may tie a lightweight bow on top, or attach the topper using a zip tie.

Christmas tree trimming tutorial, how to trim your real Christmas tree to a more triangular shape

Things To Check Before Choosing The Height of a Christmas Tree

Here are four important factors to consider before deciding on the size and display location of your Christmas tree:

Ceiling height and floor space: Measure the exact height and the floor area of the space where you will display your Christmas tree. Accounting for the added height of your decorative topper and stand, pick a tree that is at least 1 foot shorter and 2 feet narrower than your display location.

Accessibility: Choose a tree that has enough space at the bottom to allow for foot traffic. Make sure that the tree’s branches are not obstructing doorways, getting pushed up against walls, or scraping the ceiling.

Room coordination: A decorated Christmas tree with a full shape can make a small room appear overcrowded and cluttered. Clear a wide space for your tree so that its branches won’t cover your furniture, fixtures, and appliances. To avoid a fire accident, display the tree away from sources of heat such as lamps and vents.

Proximity to an electrical outlet: When choosing the size of your Christmas tree, check if you have enough lights and ornaments to surround the whole tree. More lights will mean more extension cords and wires to manage. Make sure that there is a nearby socket for plugging your lights.

What Is The Ideal Height of a Christmas Tree?

Christmas trees typically have a conical shape, with long bottom branches smoothly tapering upwards onto narrow top shoots. For balanced weight distribution, taller Christmas trees are also wider. Ideally, the diameter at the widest area of the base should be ⅔ of the tree’s height [1].

It is impractical for farmers to measure the height of every single tree harvested for distribution. For this reason, Christmas trees for sale are categorized in height ranges with 1 foot (30 cm) intervals [2]. Instead of relying on the labeled tags, you may carry your own measuring tape when shopping for a tree.

Table-top Christmas trees can be 1-3 feet in height. Families with small children or pets can opt for adorable miniature trees which are easy to decorate and are not much of a safety hazard.

7 feet is the standard height of Christmas trees for homes and offices [3]. These trees are big enough to light up a room without the hassle of having to rearrange too many pieces of furniture. Trees taller than 7 feet will usually require a step-ladder for decorating.

A 14-foot Christmas tree can hold enough greenery and ornamentation for those who are looking to set up an impressive display in wide public spaces.

Common Christmas Tree Species

The most common types of Christmas Trees sold in North America are Pines, Firs, Spruces, Cedars, and Cypresses. In general, Firs, followed by Pines, are the most popular because they have excellent post-harvest quality, full foliage, and good height.

Listed below are the most common species of Christmas trees with their size descriptions, categorized according to classification [4-8].

Pinaceae (Firs, Spruces, Pines, Cedars)

Pinaceae is a family of conifer trees, ranging between 220-250 species mostly found in temperate climates.

Firs

Fir is a genus counting 56 species of evergreen trees.

Silver Fir: It grows 40- 50 m (130- 160 ft) tall. It has a symmetrical triangle shape. It’s similar to but has denser foliage than Caucasian Fir. It has a strong fragrance and it maintains its health long after being cut.

Balsam Fir: It grows 14- 20 m (46- 66 ft) tall. It has a spire-like tip and a pyramidal shape. It has dense limbs that can hold heavy ornaments. It is strongly aromatic and has excellent needle retention.

Fraser Fir: It grows 10- 15 m (30- 50 ft) tall. It is a narrow tree with dense foliage. Its branches are thick and turning slightly upward, making them suitable for ornaments. It is similar in needle retention but has a milder fragrance than Balsam Fir.

Nordmann/ Caucasian Fir: It grows 55- 61 m (180- 200 ft) tall. It has few but sturdy branches with a layered appearance. It is closely related to Turkish Fir. It has a wide base that can accommodate a lot of presents.

Noble/ Blue Fir: It grows 40- 70 m (130- 230 ft) tall. Its branches are stiff, turning upward, with wide intervals between them, making them good for heavy ornaments. It’s closely related to Red Fir.

Concolor/ White Fir: It grows 25- 60 m (80- 195 ft) tall. It has a symmetrical shape and a strong citrus-like scent.

Subalpine Fir/ Corkbark Fir: It grows 20- 50 m (66- 160 ft) tall. It has a compact, pyramidal form.

Canaan/ West Virginia Balsam Fir: It grows 12- 17 m (40- 55 ft) tall. It has dense branches and a conical shape. It is similar to Balsam Fir but has the needle retention of Fraser Fir. Its needles curve upward.

Korean Fir: It grows 10- 18 m (33- 59 ft) tall. It has a bottlebrush-like appearance. It is native to Asia and has a unique form and texture.

Douglas Fir (not a true Fir): It grows 20- 100 m (70- 330 ft) tall. When crushed, its needles emit a sweet fragrance. It has soft branches that bend downwards under the weight of heavy ornaments.

Spruces

Spruce is a species of trees under the genus Picea.

Norway Spruce: It grows 35- 55 m (115- 180 ft) tall. It has a pyramidal shape, dense foliage, and rich festive scent. It has a wide base that can accommodate a lot of presents.

Black Hills/ White Spruce: It grows 15- 40 m (50- 130 ft) tall. It has an unpleasant aroma when needles are crushed. Its needles are shorter and softer than Colorado Blue Spruce. Its branches are stiff, holding up ornaments well. It has a compact form which makes it excellent as a table-top tree.

Serbian Spruce: It grows 20- 40 m (66- 131 ft) tall. It has dense foliage and a slender, pyramidal shape.

Colorado/ Blue Spruce: It grows 15-35 m (49- 115 ft) tall. It has a symmetrical, pyramidal shape. Branches are stiff and hold ornaments well. It has a pleasing odor and dense foliage. However, its needles are extremely sharp.

Sitka Spruce: It grows 55- 100 m (180- 330 ft) tall. It has a cylindrical shape. Needles are very sharp.

Pines

Pine is a genus covering at least 126 unique species.

Eastern White Pine: It grows 45- 63 m (148- 207 ft) tall. It has soft, flexible needles that can cause ornaments to slip off. It gives off very little aroma. It has a conical shape with noticeable spaces between branches.

Stone Pine: It is usually sold as a table-top tree. It grows 12- 25 m (40- 80 ft) tall. It has a cylindrical shape.

Scots/ Scotch Pine: It grows 35- 45 m (115- 148 ft) tall. It has dense foliage and stiff branches that hold up ornaments well. It survives well when replanted. It has a pleasant aroma and excellent needle retention.

Virginia Pine: It grows 9- 18 m (18- 59ft) tall. Branches are stout and woody. Foliage can be very dense and produces a lot of sticky resin.

Sand Pine: It grows 5- 21 m (16- 69 ft) tall. It’s similar to Virginia Pine. Its needles are slender and stiff with a bushy appearance.

Austrian/ Black Pine: It grows 20- 55 m (66- 180 ft) tall. It has stout branches and a rounded conical form.

Ponderosa/ Bull/ Blackjack/ Western Yellow/ Filipinus Pine: It grows 18- 30 m (60- 100 ft) tall. It has a cylindrical shape and a sweet aroma. It looks similar to Austrian Pine but needles are longer and lighter in color.

Cedars

Cedar is a genus of coniferous trees.

Deodar/ Himalayan Cedar: It grows 40- 60 m (131- 197 ft) tall. It has a conical shape and branches that droop downwards.

Cupressaceae (Cypresses, Junipers, Sequoias)

Cupressaceae is a family of conifer trees with up to 250 species. They are the largest in terms of geographical range.

Cypresses

Cypress is a common term for trees that belong to the Cupressaceae family.

Leyland Cypress: It grows 15- 25 m (49- 82 ft) tall. It is similar to Red Cedar, but its needles are softer and more scale-like. It has very little aroma. Recommended for people who have allergies, this tree does not produce pollen.

Arizona Cypress: It grows 10- 25 m (33- 82 ft) tall. Similar to Red Cedar and Leyland Cypress, it has a conical crown and dense foliage. It has soft needles and a lemony mint aroma.

Junipers

Juniper is a species of trees under the genus Juniperus.

Eastern Red Cedar: It grows 5- 20 m (16- 66 ft) tall. Needles are extremely short, sharp, and scale-like. Its odor can be strong. Twigs are thin, flexible, and may not hold ornaments well.

Sequoias

Sequoia is a genus of redwood conifer trees. It includes the tallest and heaviest trees in the world.

Giant Sequoia: It grows 50- 85 m (164- 279 ft) tall. Needles are long, scale-like, and arranged spirally. It has dense foliage and a sour smell.

How to Choose a Real Christmas Tree

Takeaways

  1. Ceiling height, floor space, accessibility, room coordination, and distance to a power source must be considered before choosing the size of your Christmas tree.
  2. A Christmas tree which is too tall for your house can be resized by removing bottom branches, cutting off the bottom trunk, trimming the leading shoot, and pruning uneven branches.
  3. The base of a tree should be ⅔ as wide as the total height of the tree.
  4. Christmas tree species vary in size, shape, and flexibility which can affect how well they hold up ornaments and remain firm while displayed indoors.

Sources

[1] https://extension.unh.edu/resource/pruning-and-shearing-christmas-trees-fact-sheet

[2] https://www.jacksonsnurseries.co.uk/christmas-tree-size-guide.html

[3] https://www.christmastreeworld.co.uk/blog/how-to-choose-the-right-christmas-tree-size/

[4] https://studylib.net/doc/12948418/selection-andamp%3B-care-of-christmas-trees-for-the-home

[5] https://realchristmastrees.org/all-about-trees/tree-characteristics/

[6] https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/choosing_the_right_christmas_tree#korean

[7] https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1857&context=extensionhist

[8] https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/selecting-a-christmas-tree/

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