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How to Pick the Best Type of Christmas Tree for Your Family

If picking out a fresh Christmas tree is a yearly tradition for your family, make sure you get the right one! Here’s how to pick the BEST type of Christmas tree.

How to Choose a Christmas Tree

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 from someone else’s. Size, shape, branch density, needle length, color, and fragrance are some 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. But if you’re looking for the name of your favourite tree or want to experiment this year, here are some of the best types of Christmas trees to consider.

In this article, we will cover:

kiddo picking out Christmas trees

How to Pick the Best Type of Christmas Tree

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.

When choosing the best type of Christmas tree for your family, you can keep a lookout for a few things:

  1. Fresh trees should not be losing many needles. You can test this by tapping the tree on the ground and seeing how many needles fall off. Alternatively, your can pull along a branch. Only a few needles should come loose.
  2. Sickness or decay. The tree should not smell musty or have any kind of spots. This could indicate that the tree was cut while sick or cut too long ago.
  3. Height and width. Measure your Christmas tree to ensure that it will fit inside your home.

The Different Types of Christmas Trees

There are many different types of trees that are commonly sold as Christmas trees. Here are a few of the best Christmas trees and what you need to know about each.

Fraser Fir

This is the most popular fresh Christmas tree in North America. They’re extremely hardy and Canadian tree farmers ship them all over the world. 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

The 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 colour and blue-green underside.

Douglas Fir

Don’t let the name fool you! A Douglas fir is actually a type of pine tree. 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. They’re easy to decorate but may not hold heavy ornaments well. The scent of the crushed needles is very pleasant, lasting throughout the holiday season. It’s one of the most popular options in Canada, being the top Christmas tree in Quebec and New Brunswick’s official tree.

Grand Fir

This type of tree is darker green with flat needles. It’s softer to the touch than other trees so it’s pleasant to decorate!

Nordman Fir

Nordman fir has longer needles than the noble or Fraser firs, giving it a softer look. The needles are deep, glossy green and have needle retention similar to that of both the noble and Fraser firs.

List of Popular Christmas Trees and Their Pros and Cons

Colorado Blue Spruce

This popular option 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

Scotch pine is the most heavily planted fresh Christmas tree variety. Its needles are 1-3 inches long and medium green, perfect for holding onto ornaments. Needle retention is excellent, even when it dries out.

Eastern White Pine

This tree 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

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.

Magical Miniature Gardens Evergreens and Trees

Frequently Asked Questions About Christmas Trees

What Kind of Tree is a Christmas Tree?

Just about any evergreen tree can work as a Christmas tree. The tradition of the Christmas tree came from Pagans as they brought boughs of evergreens inside the home during the winter solstice to remind them of the green plants that would return in the spring. The first Christmas trees appeared in Germany in the 16th century where Martin Luther brought a fir tree into his home to decorate.

The most popular types of Christmas trees are fir trees since they tend to shed fewer needles when they dry, all while maintaining scent and colour. In the US, the best-selling Christmas trees are Fraser fir, noble fir, Douglas fir, balsam fir, and scotch pine.

What is the Best Smelling Christmas Tree?

One of the best features of purchasing a real Christmas tree instead of a fake one is the scent. A balsam fir will give you the most scent, but they do tend to dry out more quickly than other trees. If this will be a concern for you, a Douglas fir or Fraser fir also has a scent and will last longer.

Which Christmas Tree Lasts the Longest?

Fraser fir will last you the longest, at about 5 weeks. If you like to buy your tree early, this one should still be looking good by Christmas time. A Douglas fir will also last quite a while at 4 weeks. Scotch pine also lasts for 3 weeks.

Yes, some varieties do better than others, but there’s more to it. When it comes down to a long-lasting Christmas tree, the results will mostly come from proper care. Learn more about Christmas tree care tips here!

wood slice Christmas ornaments

What are the Main Differences Between a Douglas Fir vs Fraser Fir?

Both the Douglas fir and Fraser fir can last a long time in the home and are some of the best Christmas trees. Fraser firs tend to be a slender and work well in small rooms as their branches turn slightly upward. A Douglas fir will appear slightly bushier and wider.

Due to their soft needles, both trees can withstand the heat of being inside a home. Fraser fir has slightly shorter needles measuring ½ to 1 inch long while Douglas fir’s needles measure 1-1.5 inches. They have a similar dark green colour, though Douglas firs tend to have worse needle retention. Their lower price point reflects that.

What are the Main Differences Between a Grand Fir vs Douglas Fir?

Grand firs tend to be one of the most fragrant Christmas trees out there, evoking a citrus like scent. Douglas firs are also scented but bring the more classic Christmas tree scent you’re probably familiar with. Both trees have the classic cone shape, though grand firs are a little fuller.

The branches of a grand fir tend to be lighter and Douglas fir branches will hold heavier ornaments better. The needles of a Douglas fir are dark green, radiating in all directions. Grand fir needles come in a glossy green colour with a slight curve of the boughs.

Douglas firs tend to be more common due to their popularity, so you may have greater difficulty finding a grand fir. Douglas firs will last around 4 weeks while grand firs are only good for about 2 weeks before they begin dropping their needles.

Stephanie and kiddo

The most important thing to keep in mind while shopping for the best type of 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.

More Christmas Tree Inspiration


  1. I love these photos of you and your child. Absolutely beautiful! A mother’s love brings tears to my eyes today, joyful tears. I have never had the honor of being a mother (except for my fur babies — my cats) so I cannot know what it feels like to love one’s child or to be loved by one’s child at Christmas time and always. But I see the love there between you and your precious child — I see that your child is wrapped in love in every way! And because you have wrapped your child in love, YOU are wrapped in love as well. This is especially poignant to me today because my darling 88 year old mother is in the nursing home now, and tonight she is in isolation because she has just been diagnosed with Covid. Oh yes, I am scared. But she is wrapped in my love in every way. It would be easy to take love for granted until something like this happens, and then LOVE becomes the most important thing in the world, and of course, it IS the most important thing, always. May you and your little darling have a wonderful, love-filled Christmas.

    • Thank you so much, Debbie. I hope that your mother recovers quickly. Wishing you a warm and loving holiday season. Hugs.


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