About 24 to 24.5 million real Christmas trees are expected to be purchased this year -- up from 23.4 million trees last year, according to a poll conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide/Harris Interactive for the National Christmas Tree Association
Joannie Smith said she's definitely noticed that trend this year.
"Christmas tree sales are stronger than ever before," noted the co-owner of River Ridge Christmas Tree Farm near Commerce. "I have never seen tree sales this strong this early."
Smith, who's owned the business with her husband, Jerry, for 20 years, said generally the weekend after Thanksgiving and the first weekend of December are the highest selling times for real Christmas trees.
"I cannot imagine topping last weekend's sales. It was totally steady all day long," Smith said.
Shirley McCall, co-owner of Garden Lane Nursery in Sikeston, said real tree sales have also been booming.
"The only thing that slowed us down a bit is the rain didn't stop completely Thanksgiving weekend. So far this year, sales seem about the same," said McCall who runs the nursery with her husband, Jim.
Garden Lane, which is a member of the National Christmas Tree Association, purchases trees out of North Carolina and sells Fraser firs, Douglas-firs and Balsam firs.
River Ridge sells Fraser firs, Balsam firs and white pines, but she Fraser firs are River Ridge's best-seller because they're the most durable of the trees, Smith said.
"What I have been selling more of, proportionally, are trees taller than 8 feet. I don't know if it's because people are building houses that have the high ceilings or what. But I've really been selling the taller trees and right now I have more in the shorter ones."
Smith gets her trees from a man she personally knows in Wisconsin, but she grew her own Christmas trees for 17 years before switching to another source.
"I used to grow Scotch pines, but they're not as pretty (in Missouri) and they seemed to hardly ever have a straight trunk," Smith said.
When selecting a tree, feeling the branches to ensure the needles don't fall off is a good way to determine if the tree is healthy, McCall said, adding the needles fall off, then the tree is already dry.
Once a tree is purchased, there are proper ways of caring for the tree to make sure the tree lasts until Christmas.
Most retailers will cut the bottoms of the tree off for their customers or they will let the customers do it themselves, if they're going to wait to put the tree up. The National Christmas Tree Association recommends cutting only half an inch off the bottoms just before entering in water.
Don't allow more than 30 minutes before putting a tree in water once it's cut. And just use plain water; don't put preservatives in them, Smith said.
"If you're not planning on putting the tree up right away, then take it home and set it in a bucket of water because if you don't, in just a matter of time, the sap will seal over," McCall advised.
Check the water everyday and frequently during the first couple of days when the tree drinks the most water, McCall suggested.
Generally, a tree can use up to one quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Therefore, a stand that will hold a four-inch trunk should hold at least one gallon of water with the tree in the stand.
Finally, it's time to enjoy the tree. And for many families, the tree's fragrance is a common reason for wanting to put up a real Christmas tree, both Smith and McCall said. "A lot of people are going back to natural look," Smith said. "Trees today are bred for longevity, and many can be put up before Thanksgiving and taken down after New Year's." McCall said she thinks the increase of real Christmas tree sales can be attributed to family tradition.
"I think it's reminiscent of Christmas at grandma's," McCall said. "Maybe this is a good year to start a tradition for your own family."