For many, the yearly adventure of trudging into the wilderness, bundled in hats and scarves, to pick the perfect Christmas tree has long been a family tradition not to be missed. There are several advantages to selecting a real Christmas tree, beyond their fragrant appeal. First and foremost, evergreens are 100 percent biodegradable and once the season is over, can be recycled for a variety of purposes benefiting wildlife and nature in general. Second, they contain no chemical residue while fake, plastic trees are made of PVC, a dangerous chemical. And lastly, purchasing a fresh-cut Christmas tree supports a local tree farmer (most artificial trees are made overseas and shipped to North America). Keep reading for some of the best Christmas trees to pick this holiday season!
Types of Trees
Although region plays a large part in what types of evergreens are available, common varieties are balsam fir, Douglas fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, and eastern white pine mainly because of how easy they are to grow. However, across the United States, there are more than 35 different species of evergreens grown for their Christmas appeal.
Here is our roundup of some of the most common evergreens available:
Boasting a pyramidal shape and blue to dark green needles, Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is a dependable, long-lived cut tree. It flourishes in mild, humid climates with dry summers. This tree is perfect for places with warmer climates during the holiday season.
A regal, richly fragrant native tree, Abies fraseri has bicolor needles—deep green on top, silvery white below. Its generally slender profile suits small rooms. Grow it only in cold-winter, cool-summer climates.
With its cool blue-green, well-spaced branches and densely set, upwardly curved needles, Abies procera is aptly named. It's soft, dense needles aren't as prickly as some of its cousins. It's most often a cut tree, since it grows happily only in its Pacific Northwest home.
A classic conical shape and excellent needle retention make Pinus sylvestris the most popular cut tree of the holidays. It's also easy to grow because it's adapted to a wide range of climates and soils. This low-maintenance, hardy pine is a great Christmas tree because of its bright evergreen needles, adding life to your space.
Eastern White Pine
Soft green color, long needles, and rich fragrance make Pinus strobus worthy of yuletide focus. Adaptable, fast growing, and moisture loving, this pine produces long, decorative cones. It's long, thin needles make for a more texturized Christmas tree.
One of the few evergreens to tolerate warm winter temps, Pinus virginiana is a first pick among Christmas trees for Southerners. It's also a good cut tree because, like all pines, it holds its needles well. It's bright yellow-green needles spice up the living space with charm.
With bicolor needles—deep green on top, white-striped underneath—Abies grandis makes a rich foil for ornaments. It grows well where winters are long, summers are cool, and the air is humid and pristine. The Midwest is a prime lover of the grand fir, especially for its dense needles that are soft to the touch!
Eastern Red Cedar
Native to the eastern half of North America, Juniperus virginiana makes a great cut or living tree with homespun appeal and pungent fragrance. In the landscape, it tolerates drought, wind, and cold. This tree has a very distinctive look, with extra texturized needles that are just as soft as they look.
How to Set Up Your Fresh-Cut Christmas Tree
There are no secrets to keeping your tree healthy longer, other than sufficient watering. However the most important tip to remember is to not let the cut surface of the trunk be exposed to air for more than 3-6 hours. Follow these steps to getting your tree up and ready for ornaments!
Remove Bottom Branches
Remove branches that keep the trunk from sliding into its stand. Prune ragged or protruding branch tips. Scrub the stand and rinse with a diluted bleach solution.
Cut Off Trunk
Using a sharp saw, cut an inch off the trunk base to remove the sappy seal that formed over the previous cut. A fresh cut is crucial to your tree's water uptake and longevity.
Insert Tree in Stand
Place the tree into the stand, straighten, and secure. Fill the reservoir with warm water. Trees drink heavily at first. Replenish as needed, keeping the water level high.
Planting Your Tree Outside
What Type of Tree to Buy
If you want a Christmas tree that can live in your yard, buy a balled-and-burlapped or container tree. You can keep it indoors for seven to 10 days if you give it a cool spot near a window. Choose a manageable size; root balls are heavy.
Dig Your Hole Early
In cold-weather climates, dig the planting hole in late fall, before the ground freezes. Make it twice as wide as the root ball will be. Then, fill the hole with mulch and protect the excavated soil with a tarp. When you buy the tree, place it in a garage or a shed for a few days to adjust to the warmer air. Display it in a watertight tub and place ice cubes on top of the root ball as needed to keep roots barely moist and cool.
Protecting Your Tree from Harm
After Christmas, acclimate the tree to cooler air by placing it back in the garage or shed for a few days. On a mild day, place the tree into the hole. Remove the burlap. Backfill with excavated soil and tamp gently. Water deeply, then mulch heavily. In harsh climates, evergreens are vulnerable to wind damage during their first winter.