Buying the perfect Christmas tree: Tips and tricks to help you choose the right one

Last Updated: October 21, 2023

The task of selecting the perfect Christmas tree can often seem daunting, especially with so many options available. From the different species to the varying heights and sizes, finding the right tree for your home can be a challenge.

But fear not, this guide is designed to help navigate this festive decision and ensure that you choose the tree that best suits your preferences and the specific needs of your home.

Why Choose a Real Christmas Tree over an Artificial One

The classic debate among Christmas enthusiasts: real or artificial trees? While artificial trees have their advantages, there’s something special about selecting and decorating a real Christmas tree. Here’s why you might want to consider going the traditional route this year:

The Aesthetic Appeal

The natural beauty of a real Christmas tree is unrivaled. Each tree is unique, with its own shape, color, and texture. This uniqueness adds a personal touch to your home decor that an artificial tree simply can’t replicate. It also means that your tree is unique to that individual year, whereas an artificial one will look the same year in year out.

The piney scent that fills your home when you bring in a live tree puts you in the holiday spirit in a way that an artificial one just can’t.

Environmental Benefits

Real Christmas trees are a renewable resource. Farmers plant new trees to replace each one that’s cut down and they are solely grown for this purpose. This means that without buying real Christmas Trees, these trees wouldn’t exist in the first place. Furthermore, they contribute to air quality during their growth as they absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen.

On the other hand, artificial trees are made from non-renewable materials such as plastic and metal, and their production often involves harmful chemicals.

Supporting Local Economy

Buying a real Christmas tree supports local farmers, contributing to the economy of your community or region. Many tree farms also employ local people, providing jobs and supporting families.


Real trees are recyclable and biodegradable so once the holiday season is over, your tree can be converted into mulch, used for erosion control, or even serve as a habitat for wildlife. Artificial trees, however, can take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill.

Types of Real Christmas Trees to Consider

When it comes to selecting the perfect real Christmas tree, there’s more than one type to consider. Each variety has unique qualities that make it special. Knowing these differences can help you make an informed decision about which tree is right for your household.

Fir Trees

Fir trees are a popular choice for Christmas. They are known for their pleasant scent, excellent needle retention, and branches strong enough to hold heavy ornaments.

  • Balsam Fir: This tree has a classic shape, dark-green color, and a long-lasting, pleasant fragrance.
  • Fraser Fir: It’s admired for its strong branches, pyramid shape, and great needle retention. Plus, it has a lovely scent.
  • Noble Fir: Known for its beauty, this tree has dense branches, a unique shape, and excellent needle durability.

Pine Trees

Pine trees have longer needles which give them a fuller appearance. They are also known for their strong pine scent and good needle retention.

  • Scots Pine: This tree is loved for its bright green color, excellent needle retention, and the strong, pleasant pine aroma it emits.
  • White Pine: With soft, blue-green needles, the White Pine is the largest pine in the U.S. It doesn’t have a strong fragrance, which can be a plus for people with allergies.

Spruce Trees

Spruce trees have stiff branches ideal for hanging heavy ornaments and short, sharp needles. They have a distinctive fragrance, but their needle retention is poorer compared to firs and pines.

  • Norway Spruce: It has a beautiful shape, strong branches, and a lovely dark green color. However, it tends to drop its needles fairly quickly.
  • Blue Spruce: This tree has a unique blue-green color and good needle retention, making it a popular choice.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Christmas Tree

1. Size

The size of the tree is one of the most crucial aspects to consider. You want to make sure the tree fits comfortably in your home. Start by measuring the height and width of the space where you plan to place the tree. Remember to account for the tree stand and the tree topper when considering the height.

Then bring a tape measure with you when you are choosing your tree. Trees look so much smaller outside than they feel in your home so it can be easy to buy one that’s much too big by accident.

2. Type of Tree

There are various types of Christmas trees, each with its unique characteristics. The most common include the Fraser Fir, Noble Fir, Douglas Fir, and Balsam Fir. Each type differs in terms of needle retention, fragrance, color, and branch strength. Consider these attributes when choosing your tree (more about that above).

3. Freshness

A tree’s freshness is a vital consideration. A fresh tree will retain its needles longer and is less of a fire hazard. To test a tree’s freshness, lightly pull a branch towards you. If the tree is fresh, only a few needles should come off in your hand.

4. Shape and Branch Density

When choosing a tree, look for one with a symmetrical shape and dense branches. Avoid trees with noticeable bare spots or misshapen sides. Remember, a well-shaped tree with thick branches will hold ornaments better and look fuller.

5. Cost

Lastly, keep your budget in mind. The cost of a Christmas tree varies depending on its size, type, and where you purchase it. Make sure to do some research and find a tree that fits your budget while still meeting your aesthetic and size requirements.

How to Select the Perfect Christmas Tree Height and Width

Selecting the perfect Christmas tree involves careful consideration of both its height and width. The right size depends on the scale of the space where you plan on setting up your tree. If you are unsure about how to choose the perfect height and width for your Christmas tree, read on for some helpful tips…

Considerations for Height

When thinking about the height of your Christmas tree, your room’s ceiling height is the most important factor. A good rule of thumb is to select a tree that is at least six inches lower than your ceiling. This allows room for a tree topper and prevents the tree from touching the ceiling, which can damage both your tree and your ceiling.

  • For rooms with standard 8-foot ceilings, opt for a tree that is around 7 to 7.5 feet tall.
  • For rooms with higher ceilings, you can consider taller trees. A 9 to 10-foot tree is suitable for rooms with 10-foot ceilings.

Considerations for Width

The width, or diameter, of your Christmas tree should be proportionate to its height. But it’s also crucial to consider the available floor space.

  • If you’re short on space, look for a slim or pencil tree. These trees are tall and thin, taking up less floor space.
  • If you have more room to spare, a full or round tree could be a good choice. These trees have a wider diameter and can fill out a larger room nicely.

Remember, it’s important to measure your space before you go tree shopping to ensure your new Christmas tree fits perfectly in your home.

Tips for Choosing a Christmas Tree with the Perfect Branches

When choosing your Christmas tree, the quality of the branches is a significant factor to consider. The branches should be full and lush, with a uniform color and strong enough to hold your ornaments.

1. Check for Fullness

When selecting a Christmas tree, full branches make a world of difference. A tree with sparse branches might not look as festive, and it may not support your decorations well.

2. Evaluate the Color

The color of the branches can tell you a lot about the tree’s health. A vibrant green indicates a healthy tree, while a dull color or brown patches might suggest that the tree is not in its prime condition. Make sure to pick a tree with uniform color throughout its branches.

3. Assess Branch Strength

Assess the strength of the branches by gently hanging a few heavier ornaments on them. If they can bear the weight without bending, the branches are likely strong enough to hold your decorations. However, if the branches droop under the weight, consider choosing another tree.

4. Consider the Shape

The tree’s shape should be well-rounded and symmetrical. This is largely dependent on how well the branches are distributed around the tree. Remember, a tree that is too lopsided might not stand straight, even with a sturdy stand.

How to Choose a Christmas Tree with the Right Needle Retention

Needle retention is another important factor when choosing the perfect Christmas tree. It simply refers to how well the tree holds onto its needles. A tree with good needle retention will not shed as quickly, ensuring that it looks full and vibrant throughout the holiday season.

To test a tree’s needle retention before purchasing, run a few branches through your hand. If the tree is fresh and has good needle retention, very few needles should fall off. Additionally, the needles should feel pliable, not brittle.

  • Firs: Firs, including Douglas, Fraser, and Balsam firs, are known for their excellent needle retention. They tend to hold onto their needles well, even after being cut.
  • Spruces: Spruces, such as the Blue Spruce or Norway Spruce, have moderate needle retention. They may drop needles more readily than firs, particularly if they become dry.
  • Pines: Pines, including Scots and Eastern White pines, have varying needle retention. Scots pines are known for excellent retention, while Eastern White pines may shed a little more.

It’s important to note that needle retention can be influenced by how the tree is cared for after it is brought home. To maximize needle retention:

  1. Keep your tree well-watered. A dry tree will drop needles more quickly.
  2. Avoid placing your tree near heat sources, such as radiators or fireplaces, which can dry out the tree.
  3. Consider using LED lights, which produce less heat than traditional incandescent lights and thus are less likely to dry out the tree.

How to Transport and Set Up Your Christmas Tree

Transporting Your Christmas Tree

Once you have selected your Christmas tree, the next step involves transporting it to your home. This task may seem daunting, but with a few tips, you can do it efficiently and safely.

  1. Wrap the tree: Most tree farms will offer netting for your tree. This not only protects the tree during transport but also makes it easier to handle. If netting is not available, try to wrap it in a tarp or blanket with the branches facing upwards while you wrap it.
  2. Position correctly: Always position the tree with the base facing the front of your vehicle if you are using an open truck or tying it to the top of your vehicle. This reduces wind damage to the branches and needles.
  3. Secure the tree: It is essential to secure the tree properly using ropes, bungee cords, or sturdy twine. The tree should not move at all, even at high speeds or in strong winds.
  4. Drive slowly: Finally, remember to drive slowly and avoid highways if possible. The high winds caused by fast driving could damage your tree.

Setting Up Your Christmas Tree

Follow these simple steps to ensure a stable and fresh tree throughout the holiday season.

  1. Prepare the base: Trim a few inches off the base of the tree. This helps the tree to absorb water better, keeping it fresher longer.
  2. Check the stand: Make sure your stand is sturdy enough to hold your tree. Remember, the tree will be heavier once decorated.
  3. Position the tree: Place your tree away from fireplaces, heaters, and other heat sources. These can dry out your tree quickly and even pose a fire risk. You want to do this before you decorate as it can become tricky to move it once it’s unwrapped.

How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh and Healthy Throughout the Holidays

Ensuring your Christmas tree stays fresh and healthy throughout the holiday season involves a few key steps. A well-cared-for tree not only looks better, but it also poses less of a fire risk, making it a crucial part of holiday home safety.

Tree Selection

When choosing your Christmas tree, look for one that is green and vibrant, with needles that are difficult to pull from branches. The trunk should be sticky to the touch – a sign that the tree is fresh.

Tree Placement

Secondly, the placement of your tree can significantly influence its lifespan. Position your tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, heaters, and even direct sunlight, as these can speed up the drying process.

Water Regularly

One of the most important steps in keeping your tree fresh is to water it regularly. A good rule of thumb is that a tree requires one quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter. Make sure the water level never goes below the tree base.

Monitor Temperature

It’s also crucial to monitor the temperature in the room where your tree is placed. The cooler the room, the longer the tree will last. Consider lowering your thermostat to help slow the drying process.

Trim The Base

Lastly, consider trimming the base of the tree before installing it in a stand. Cutting off a half inch to an inch of the trunk can help the tree absorb water better, keeping it healthier for longer.

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