Finding the perfect Christmas tree doesn’t have to be a daunting task. We’ll help guide you through choosing the species you want and what to look for in an evergreen you’re bringing home.
Learn what to look for and what to avoid so you can enjoy the beauty and fresh smell of your Christmas tree all holiday season!
Types of Christmas Trees and Their Advantages
There are three main kinds of evergreens used as Christmas trees: fir, pine, and spruce. Pines tend toward thick-growing, heavily needled branches and straight trunks. Firs usually grow softer, feathery needles and upward-pointing cones while spruces often feature unique, vibrant colors and a defined pyramid shape. All make excellent Yuletide decorations! But the best type of Christmas tree is, of course, one you and your family love!
The different types of Christmas trees all have their advantages and disadvantages and, unfortunately, not every kind of tree is available in every state.
Here are the pros and cons of 10 of the most popular species across the US:
- Scotch pine. The Scotch, or Scots, pine features long, brilliant, bright green needles. Its resiliency makes it the most popular Christmas tree species in the US! A Scotch pine drops very few needles, even when dry, and you may even be able to grow another pine for your yard from a branch cutting. Their long-lasting pine scent brings an air of festive cheer but watch out for crooked trunks; they’re common in the species.
- Eastern white pine. This is one of the largest Christmas tree species (great for double-height ceilings) and often has beautifully dense branches with very long needles. Their scent is extremely subtle: less ideal if you want to fill your home with piney fragrance, but easy on those with allergies! However, their branches are very flexible and likely to bend when adorned with heavier ornaments. They’re also prone to wilting if under-watered.
- White spruce. With an interesting gray-green needle color, the white spruce offers a slightly more subtle Christmas cheer that lets your ornaments really stand out. Needles are short and stiff, and the sturdy branches can stand up to heavier decorations. They have high needle retention when properly watered, though they tend to drop needles quickly when dry. Needles may also smell bad when crushed; some people describe it as the scent of skunk or cat pee.
- Norway spruce. The Norway spruce is a clear winner for beauty contests with gorgeous forest-green needles and a strong, pleasant scent. Their branches are strong and slant upwards, making them ideal for heavy ornaments. However, they lose their short, sharp needles easily and are short-lived on display. We recommend cutting them very close to Christmas.
- Colorado blue spruce. Looking for a unique flair? The Colorado blue spruce provides it, with beautiful gray-blue to silvery blue needles. Strong branches hold up under heavy ornaments of all kinds. These trees are frequently symmetrical, avoiding the bald spots that many other trees suffer from, and retain needles extremely well. However, the needles are very sharp and not ideal for young children. They may also smell bad when crushed.
- Balsam fir. This is THE classic Christmas tree! Renowned for its pleasing, lasting aroma, this is the perfect Christmas Tree for filling your home with a spicy fresh scent that lasts the season. They retain needles well and tend to grow in a classic, full pyramid shape. On the downside, flexible branches mean balsam firs are usually only able to support light ornaments. They’re also narrower than other trees: great for limited space, but less ideal for filling a large room.
- Douglas fir. Almost every Christmas tree farm or lot will have a selection of Douglas firs; they’re popular, easy to find, and are frequently exported to warmer states. A Douglas fir’s needles are shiny and soft with a strong, sweet scent and are usually light to medium green in color. The branches grow dense, full-looking foliage but may have trouble supporting heavier ornaments. When well-watered, Douglas firs may have good needle retention, but results are inconsistent.
- Noble fir. Popular on the US west coast, the Noble fir tends to stand beautifully upright and symmetrical. They’re eye-catching, with needles that are a mixture of silver, blue, and green. Even if you don’t have lots of ornaments to hang, they’re a great holiday decoration. With good needle retention, sturdy branches, and a classic Christmas scent, the noble fir is a gorgeous addition to your home. However, they tend to be more expensive, due to how slowly they grow.
- Fraser fir. Known for their durability, Fraser firs are easy to transport, even long distances. Their rich blue-green color and strong fragrance make them an asset to your Christmas decorating, especially since they come with extremely sturdy branches. Their excellent needle retention means you won’t be dealing with a sparse-looking tree come Christmas. Some decorators don’t like the dense, compact look of the Fraser fir, however.
- Canaan fir. The Canaan fir is a newer species for Christmas tree hunters, but it’s one of the best! It has sturdy branches and good needle retention, with a beautiful, hearty green color. If you’re sensitive to scents, the subtle smell will help avoid headaches! And the strong branches and soft needles mean the Canaan fir can hold all kinds of ornaments (and be kind to little decorating hands).
Tree Characteristics to Look for (and Avoid)
First, narrow down what species you want by branch weight, longevity, smell, and other needs. Then, when selecting your tree, look at your finalists from all sides to find bald spots or yellowing branches. Try to avoid crooked or split trunks, as this usually makes your tree harder to fit in a tree stand and more likely to fall over or lean.
Gently run your hands over the needles from the base of the branch near the trunk out towards the tip. You want a tree that doesn’t lose many needles.
Importantly, you need to know what size tree you can fit! Before you head out for your tree, measure your maximum height (dictated by your ceiling) and ideal width. Many trees open wider in the warm air indoors, so give yourself a little wiggle room.
Related Content: Why Does My Evergreen Look Sick?
How to Take Care of a Real Christmas Tree
Of course, now that you’ve taken your tree home, you need to keep it alive through the holiday. Here’s how to keep your tree green until December 25th.
How to Water a Christmas Tree
Measure the diameter of the cut end of your Christmas tree; a healthy tree drinks about a quart of water for every inch of diameter. Make sure your tree stand is large enough to hold lots of water (or resign yourself to refilling it frequently throughout the day). Don’t add anything to the water. Your tree doesn’t need anything but plain tap water. Even hard tap water is fine for trees! Check the water levels at least once a day to make sure the water level stays above the trunk.
If your Christmas tree’s not drinking water, first, give it time. Trees can take up to 48 hours to start drinking water after being cut and put in your stand. If your tree still isn’t drinking, try adding warm or hot (but not boiling) water to break up any hardened sap that’s blocking water intake.
How Long Does a Fresh-cut Christmas Tree Last?
Some species can last a month or more after being cut (like a Fraser or Douglas fir), and some lose their needles in about two weeks (Norway spruce).
No matter the species, to make your tree last longer:
- Make a fresh cut on the trunk (taking off half an inch to an inch) before putting it in your tree stand.
- Water your tree regularly with plain, fresh water.
- Cut your Christmas tree as close as you can to the holiday. The less time your tree needs to last out of the ground, the better.
- Set up your tree away from heat sources like vents or fireplaces.
If you want a truly lasting tree, you can buy or rent a potted Christmas tree and plant it in your yard (or leave it to the farm to plant after the holiday) when you’re done. You can even decorate the growing evergreens in your yard. Our friends at Color World Painting can help you hang lights on your outdoor trees without harming them.
Take Care of the Evergreens in Your Yard, Too!
It’s not just the tree inside your home that needs care. We offer tree care for the evergreens in your yard, so you can enjoy thriving pines, spruces, and firs all year round!
From regular plant care to yearly trims, we provide the services that help your trees flourish. Request an estimate for evergreen care online or give us a call at (888) 744-0155 to discuss your trees.