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A Useful Guide to Pick the Right Christmas Tree

Shalu Bhatti Dec 19, 2018
The much-awaited time of the year-Christmas has almost arrived, and with days like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday coming to an end, it is high time to get started with getting the perfect tree. Here're some useful guidelines to pick the Right Christmas tree.

Fake Vs. Real

It's different to opt for artificial trees because you "think" you're saving forests. However, buying real trees helps support the local farmers who grow them as a crop. These trees can be recycled and used as mulch or firewood, later on.
The first question to ponder upon is whether you'd like to buy a fake Christmas tree or a real one? Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. While fake trees tend to be less of a "botheration" when it comes to the cutting, pruning, watering, and disposal, they wouldn't give the house the aroma of a fresh Christmas tree each season.
With real trees, you can experiment with different types each season, and yes, they are extremely low-priced when compared to the fake ones. Christmas is also known as the season of giving. If you are among those who want to benefit the farmers, as well as conserve the environment, real trees are the ones for you, we've already told you why.
Nonetheless, what you choose is your individual choice. With artificial trees you wouldn't have to deal with problems related to shedding of the branches, watering the tree, and post-season disposal.
You can store it in the packaged box and use it every year, without having to go through tree farms to get a new one. Whatever your choice be, the following sections will guide you on how to go about buying both these types of trees.

Real Christmas Trees: Popular Varieties

There are far too many varieties of Christmas trees, mainly consisting of species of fir, pine, spruce, cedar, and cypress trees.
Each tree has a unique feature, not only in terms of its aesthetic value, but also longevity, needle retention, and olfactory properties. Listed here are some common type of Christmas trees and their respective features.

Pine Varieties

Scotch, White, and Virginia pine trees are the most popular varieties in this category. 
Scotch pine is bright green in color, and survives during the holiday season. Its needles don't shed easily, even when dry, therefore, it is ideal for hanging heavy decorations. However, the needles are prickly, and the tree has no aroma.
On the other hand, White pine has needles that are bluish-green or silver-green in color, great aesthetically, but not quite suitable for heavy decorations. Its slight aroma and pleasing color makes it a popular choice for Christmas.
Virginia pine is preferred for its dense foliage and comparatively short length. Its sharp needles grow in clusters, and remain for as long as 3 to 4 years. This tree is very popular in the southern US, and has a pleasant smell.

Fir Varieties

We have quite a bit of varieties in this category―Fraser, Balsam, Canaan, Douglas, Noble, Grand, and White.
These are a tad bit costlier than pine trees, but are known for their better needle retention. Beginning with Fraser fir, it happens to be the most popular and the most expensive species of Christmas tree. Its needles are dark-blue in color with silver undersides.
It has a pleasant aroma and excellent needle retention. Its sleek nature makes it ideal for shipping. The dark-green Balsam fir is known for its highly-aesthetic look. It has a pyramid-shaped crown that consists of a spiry-ish tip. The needles are long-lasting and have a classic Christmas-y aroma.
The species Canaan is very similar to both Fraser and Balsam firs, except for the fact, that unlike Balsam fir, it has cone scales extending from the bracts.
Douglas fir shares most characteristics of the Fraser fir, except that it has dark-green or blue-green needles and is comparatively wider. The needles radiate in all directions, and have a sweet fragrance when crushed. 
Noble fir is a good alternative, not only because of its artistic shape, but also because it can last healthily all throughout the season. It has stiff branches, and ideal for hanging heavy ornaments.
Grand fir is known for its beautiful thick foliage, lustrous needles that expand in two distinct rows, and a pleasant strong citrus-y scent. The needles are soft and can withstand only light ornaments.
The tree however, has a good durability, except for the fact that it is sensitive to fire. Last, but not the least, White fir, also known as Concolor fir, is another popular choice for its excellent shape, dense foliage, and color that varies from bluish-green when young, and dull-green when old. It has a slight citrus-y scent, and good branch strength.

Spruce Varieties

Varieties such as, Colorado Blue, Norway, and White spruce are popular Christmas trees.
The bluish-gray color of the Colorado Blue spruce, along with its rounded pyramid-like shape with strong branches and needle retention, makes it a popular choice. However, the needles are sharp and emit an unpleasant odor when crushed.
Norway spruce is ideal for its visual appeal and strong scent, but not for needle retention, unless, as suggested by experts, it is cut fresh and watered properly. The needles are also sharp; not a good choice in case of small children and pets in the house.
White spruce, on the other hand, has short and stiff needles with blunt tips, with needle retention fairly better than any other spruce tree. However, when the needles are crushed, they release a bad aroma. Visually, it has an excellent conical shape and can be green or bluish-green in color.

Cypress and Cedar Varieties

The Arizona and Leyland cypress are a popular choice for Christmas trees. Starting with the Arizona cypress, its color varies from pale-green to gray-green, and it is steeple-shaped with dense branches. It has a pleasant minty fragrance and soft needles.
However, in the absence of proper watering, it has poor durability. On the other hand, Leyland cypress offers excellent durability, has a nice conical shape, soft needles, and light fragrance. The color varies from gray-green to dark-green. However, the branch strength is not very strong.
Among the cedar trees, what makes the Eastern Redcedar an ideal Christmas tree is its shiny dark-green color, appealing conical shape, compact branches, and a cedar aroma. However, it has poor durability, prickly needles, and is not suitable for hanging heavy decorations.

Points to Consider before Picking a Christmas Tree

After understanding the options you have in the market, it would become easier for you to narrow down your search in terms of the type of tree you want. There are many other factors that you must take into consideration before going out for Christmas tree shopping. These are listed as under.

Height and Width of the Room

You will find a variety of nice and healthy trees in various dimension; however, the last thing you would want is to chop off the beautiful crown of the tree so that it fits the room.
An essential thing to do, is to take a measuring tape and jot down the dimensions of the length and width of the spot where you'd like to place the tree. Do not forget to subtract the height of the tree topper, and the tree stand, to get the exact numbers.

Shape, Size, Scent, and Strength of the Tree

Some trees are rounder and short, while others are narrow and tall. Depending upon the measurements you have, go for a tree that suits your corner in the best way, both in terms of utility and aesthetics.
If you are allergic to strong-scented trees, going for the ones with no, or minimal scent would be ideal. If you plan to decorate the tree heavily, make sure the branches have enough strength to bear with the weight.

Size of the Trunk

Another crucial point is the size of the trunk. If you already have a tree stand at home, make sure you take proper measurements of the trunk to ensure that it fits perfectly in the stand.
Most people end up trimming the diameter of the trunk, which also cuts away the cambium layer, which is responsible for absorbing water, and making the tree flourish longer. Trimming also makes the tree look uneven and not as upright as it should be.

Choosing a Real Christmas Tree

Each year, post Thanksgiving, the one most anticipated activity is to go along with the whole family to a tree farm, and stroll through the various lush green trees to pick the perfect one among them.
For most families, going together to a tree farm is an essential traditional activity every holiday season, and why shouldn't it be! While having a good time at a local tree farm, the following points must be noted so that you pick a healthy tree to adorn your house with, this Christmas.

Where to Buy

While you have the option to buy it online as well, we recommend buying it from a local tree farm. Don't know the exact location? Don't worry. The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) has a Retail Locator Tool.
All you need to do, is to enter your location and it will enlist the names, addresses, and contact information of the tree farms located nearby. Experts suggest to go shopping only at daylight so that you can evaluate the features and test the tree efficaciously. To avoid a crowd, go on a weekday.

What to Look For

You can either go for a pre-cut tree, or cut it yourself, freshly, after thorough scrutiny. A young and fresh tree would have a vibrant color. It is common for the inner branches of the tree to have some brown needles. However, the outer part should be fresh and vibrant.
Experts suggest that if you arrive at a tree farm, and find cut trees that are lying out, packed in nets, then you must move ahead to another farm. Trees that are kept out like this for hours, without any water supply, tend to dry up pretty soon, with high chances of not lasting throughout the season.

How to Test

Testing the freshness of the tree is a fairly simple affair. Just hold a branch of needles between your thumb and forefinger, and gently pull towards yourself. If your fingers have quite a bit of needles, then the tree is not fresh enough.
Another way to test this is by bouncing the tree from a few inches above the ground. If the exterior needles or branches fall off, the tree is not worth considering. The scent of the tree also plays an important role in choosing the right tree. Crush the needles and check if the scent appeals to you.

Cutting and Transportation

Once you have found that perfect tree, it's time to take it home. The first step would be to cut the trunk straight using a hand saw. Ensure that you water it as soon as you reach home. Most people place the tree on the roof of the car.
Experts suggest that this dries out the tree pretty quickly, hence, the tree must be transported inside the car and not otherwise. However, in case of no other alternative, cover the tree in a tarp, and then place it on/in the car.

Important Points for Aftercare

The process doesn't end here. The chosen tree needs ample amount of watering so that it could replenish itself from the drying winds it faced while commuting. If you're not going to put it up right away, keep it indoors, perhaps in your garage in a bucket of warm water.
The quantity of the water would depend upon the girth of the trunk. The essential aftercare steps are mentioned here.


No matter what kind of Christmas tree you choose, mind you that it is extremely sensitive to fire. It is advisable to store the tree away from fire, and electrical appliances such as a room heater. The ideal place for storing is an unheated garage, or at a spot where it is safe from cold winds and fire.
Although, before you take the tree within the house premises, ensure to give it a good shake to separate possible insects and pollen that might have taken shelter in it while it was at the farm.


Experts suggest to slice off about half-an-inch to one-inch of the base of the trunk, so that it absorbs maximum water. For every inch of trunk diameter, there should be 1 quarter of water.
For example, if the thickness of the trunk is 4-inches, there should be at least one gallon water. Trees soak up water speedily in the first few days. So check the water level constantly, and never let it drop below the base. Most people suggest adding extra ingredients in water, such as vodka, aspirin, and plant food; what works best is plain, clear water.
If selected and cared for effectively, your Christmas tree will spread its liveliness and aroma all throughout the holiday season. It is simply magical to see its branches opening up as it flourishes, as if it is welcoming us into its bushy arms.
The vibrant natural colors when decked up with magnificent lights and Christmas decorations, emit coziness and warmth in the snowy season. The aroma of the tree makes you feel one with nature, celebrating the birth of Jesus, together.

Buying Artificial Trees

For those of us who neither have the time, nor the capability of going through the somewhat arduous task of getting a real tree every Christmas, opting for a fake tree is but convenient.
One doesn't need to worry about going to a tree farm, cutting the trunk correctly, getting it home, watering it, and then disposing it off once the season is over. Picking up a fake one could be as simple as ordering online and getting it shipped. Listed here are the points you must consider before buying an artificial tree.

Where to Buy

The options are endless. You can either buy it online, or from a local retail shop. Retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, Home Depot, and Target not only have discounted prices, but free shipping (when ordered over a certain value) and free store pickup. This makes your shopping absolutely hassle free.

What to Look for

Most of the parameters are quite similar to that of real trees―height, width, shape, fullness, color. However, you might want to pay attention to the material it is made from. You get trees made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), PE (polyethylene), or a mixture of both.
While PVC trees do not catch fire easily, PE trees look more real, like natural trees. If the tree size is small, then a plastic stand would do. However, for bigger trees, always ensure that the stand is sturdy and is made from metal.

Pre-lit Trees

The option of pre-lit trees have made life easier for many. However, you must ensure that the lights are UL (Underwriters Laboratories) approved. Also, check if the lights are 'continuous-on lights', which means if one bulb fuses, or burns out, the rest of the bulbs in the string will work fine.
Go for those trees that come with LED lights and replacement bulbs. The best thing about fake trees is the convenient storage post use. They come in custom-made packages, with either detachable branches, or foldable ones.
All you need to do is disassemble the parts and pack them until the next Christmas season arrives. Also, check for the warranty, which would vary from 2 to 10 years, depending upon the quality of the tree.
Your choice would depend upon your preference and convenience. No matter what Christmas tree you choose, make sure that it not only beautifies your house, but also induces the ambiance of festivity. Let the tree studded with shimmering lights, display warmth and coziness of this festive season. Merry Christmas!