Know Your Tree! How to Choose the Right Fresh Christmas Tree for Your Family
What makes the “best” Christmas tree? Having sold fresh cut Christmas trees for many years, I can attest to the old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In truth, your best fresh Christmas tree may look vastly different than someone else’s. Size, shape, branch density, needle length, color and fragrance are some of the personal preferences that will play into the final decision. For many of us, there is a specific tree species that just “smells like Christmas,” because we grew up with that type.
Popular Types of Christmas Trees
Each tree species has certain characteristics that have made it popular. Whether it’s the rigidity of the branch tips, how well it retains its needles or a striking fragrance, each variety has something special to offer. Within a single species, the pruning affects overall shape and branch density: natural growth tends to be more open, frequent shearing leads to dense branches.
- Fraser fir is the most popular fresh Christmas tree in North America. Its needles are ½ to 1 inch long, dark green above and blue-green beneath. Needle retention is excellent and the scent is pleasantly sweet and slightly pungent.
- Noble fir, with its rigid branches, is a fantastic choice for heavy ornaments. Its branches grow in whorls around the trunk, giving it a “tiered” effect. The upturned needles show both the medium-green surface color and blue-green underside.
- Douglas fir is grown and shipped all over North America. The 1-1.5 inch dark green, soft needles radiate in all directions from the stem, giving it a full appearance. The needle retention is less than other trees but it is also usually a less costly tree.
- Balsam fir needles are dark green, ¾ to 1.5 inches long and last a long time. The scent of the crushed needles is very pleasant, lasting throughout the holiday season.
- Grand fir is darker green with flat needles. It’s softer to the touch than other trees so it’s pleasant to decorate!
- Nordman fir has longer needles than the Noble or Fraser firs giving it a softer look. The needles are deep, glossy green and have a needle retention similar to that of both the Noble and Fraser firs.
- Colorado blue spruce is a great choice for a living Christmas tree. In addition to the unique blue-green or gray-green foliage, it features a good shape and dense branches when young.
- Scotch pine is the most heavily planted fresh Christmas tree variety. Its needles are 1-3 inches long, medium green. Needle retention is excellent, even when it dries out.
- Eastern white pine has some of the longest needles in this listing, giving it a soft appearance. Needle retention is good. Because of its faint scent, this is a good choice for anyone sensitive to heavy fragrances.
Living Christmas trees, or potted trees, have become very popular because they can be planted in the landscape after serving their ornamental purpose indoors. Go for the type that fits your garden style.
The most important thing to keep in mind while shopping for the best fresh Christmas tree is that all natural trees have slight physical imperfections. Some even contain bird nests or praying mantis egg sacks. Let these things serve as a reminder not to take decorating too seriously or obsess over minutia. Allow the natural beauty of the tree to take center stage for your holiday decor.