Choosing a Christmas Tree
Your Christmas tree can complement your holiday decorating style. But how do you sort through all the types on the tree lot to figure out which Christmas tree is the best for your home?
Use this easy guide to the most common Christmas tree types to pinpoint your most beautiful tree yet -- we help you distinguish each tree's differences in shape, needle color, and style, plus give you easy decorating tips for each one.
Common Christmas Tree Varieties: Fir
Tree Type: Douglas Fir
Needle Color: Blue to dark green
What You Need to Know: Dependable and long-lived as a cut tree, Douglas firs have both depth and structure. If spotlighting individual ornaments is less important to you in deciding which Christmas tree is right for you, then the close branches of the douglas fir may be a good choice.
Decorating Tip: Douglas firs provide lots of space to nestle in garlands and lights, so look for brightly colored, one-of-a-kind garlands, or mix and match colors and sizes of lights.
Tree Type: Fraser Fir
Shape: Slender cone
Needle Color: Deep green on top, silvery white on bottom
What You Need to Know: Regal and richly fragrant, fraser firs are great for smaller spaces -- apartments, kitchens, and bedrooms -- because of their compact size. Their branches are very upright and structured, yet offer plenty of space between rows for displaying decorations.
Decorating Tip: Fraser firs work well either packed tightly with ornaments, lights, and garland, or pared down to display only heirloom or special ornaments. Create coherency with same-style decorations and miniature lights.
Tree Type: Grand Fir
Needle Color: Deep green on top, white stripe on bottom
What You Need to Know: If providing a rich backdrop to ornaments is important in deciding which Christmas tree is right for you, then the short and structured needles of the grand fir may be a good choice. The grand fir is a neat and tidy tree with a good balance of individual branches and a compact shape.
Decorating Tip: Grand fir is an extremely good choice if you want the focus to be less on the tree and more on the ornaments. The tree's tight structure looks great wrapped in ribbon, strung with lots of small lights, or hung with handmade ornaments and garland.
Tree Type: Noble Fir
Shape: Loose cone
Needle Color: Cool blue-green
What You Need to Know: If choosing a unique Christmas tree is imporant to you, then the noble fir's upwardly curved needles and unusual branch structure -- well-spaced apart and densely set -- may be just the distinctive look you're after. It's a great specimen tree with lots of stand-alone branches.
Decorating Tip: Noble firs are perfect for displaying treasured ornaments -- you'll want to reduce the number of decorations and instead focus on very interesting pieces that deserve attention.
Christmas Tree Varieties: Pine & Cedar
Tree Type: Eastern White Pine
Shape: Long, decorative cone
Needle Color: Soft green
What You Need to Know: With long needles and a rich fragrance, the eastern white pine is a softer-looking tree. Its less formal appearance works well with less traditional decorating styles. Since the eastern white pine is bushier, it is less suited to small rooms or homes.
Decorating Tip: With less structure, eastern white pines won't stand out as a solo, mostly unadorned tree. Try for oversized ornaments or big multicolored lights that retain focus, as well as natural or cottage-theme decorating schemes.
Tree Type: Scotch Pine
Needle Color: Pretty green, often with a blue undertone
What You Need to Know: The most popular cut of Christmas tree, the scotch pine also has excellent needle retention and is a classic addition to a variety of holiday decorating types. Like the douglas fir, ornaments won't stand out as much, but the tree's generous branches offer a full, rich texture as a decorating backdrop.
Decorating Tip: Scotch pines are great for creating an overall focal point, so try ornaments that are less focused on individuality and more on an overall holiday decorating vibe -- large colored balls, for example, or lots of same-colored lights.
Tree Type: Virginia Pine
Shape: Loose and unstructured cone
Needle Color: Medium to dark green
What You Need to Know: The Virginia pine holds its needles well, and is probably more familiar to Southern homeowners since it grows well in that part of the country. As with the Eastern white pine, it is less structured in appearance, although it retains its shape a bit better.
Decorating Tip: The Virginia pine doesn't shine as a backdrop for heirloom ornaments. Instead, repeat a theme -- such as icicles or crystals -- in your ornament choice, and use same-colored garland to create decorating coherency.
Tree Type: Eastern Red Cedar
Shape: Very slender cone
Needle Color: Medium green
What You Need to Know: If old-fashioned appeal is important to you in deciding which Christmas tree is best, you may want to take a look at the eastern red cedar. It offers great fragrance and a casual look.
Decorating Tip: The easy-going form of the eastern red cedar works really well with folksy, country, or natural-inspired decorations -- think pinecones, woodland creatures, or beaded garlands.
Frequently Asked Questions: Christmas Tree Selection and Care
When deciding which Christmas tree to get, consider the answers to these common questions about Christmas tree selection and care.
Q: Should I get a real or fake Christmas tree?
A: At holiday time, many people ask not which Christmas tree they should get, but whether a real or fake pine is the best tree for their home.
Advantages of Real Christmas Trees:
- No chemical residue
- Support local tree farmers
Advantages of Fake Christmas Trees:
- Available in a variety of colors and styles (easier to match existing decor in your home)
- Easy to set up
- Require little to no maintenance (and no needle cleanup once the holidays are over!)
- Last year after year
It's up to you which Christmas tree type -- real or artifical -- is the best for you and your decorating style.
Q: How should I store my live Christmas tree?
A: Live Christmas trees can be found in one of three ways: cut, balled-and-burlapped, or container grown. If you want to plant a live tree after the holidays, the last two are your best options. When choosing your Christmas tree, remember that live Christmas trees are best used inside only for seven to 10 days. If you live in a cold-weather climate and have a spot picked out for your live tree, make sure to dig the hole (twice as wide as the root ball) before the ground freezes.
After you've purchased your tree, place it in a garage or shed for a few days to give it time to acclimate to warmer air. When you move it inside, pick a cool spot near a window, and display in a watertight tub. Place ice cubes on top of the root ball as needed so the roots will stay barely moist and cool.
After Christmas, you'll have to acclimate the tree again to cooler outside air; place it back in the garage or shed for a few days. Plant the tree on a mild day. Remove the burlap or container and backfill with excavated soil. Tamp gently, water deeply, and mulch heavily.
Q: How can I keep my cut Christmas tree healthy?
No matter which Christmas tree you choose, there are several easy-to-follow tips to keep it as healthy as possible during the holiday season.
- Scrub the stand and rinse with a diluted bleach solution.
- Remove the bottom branches so the tree fits in its stand; prune any ragged tips.
- Cut an inch off the trunk base; that fresh cut enables your tree to take water well and live longer.
- Once the tree is secure in its stand, fill with water and replenish as needed. Never let the tree stand dry out.