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Choosing a Christmas Tree

Whether you want a fresh-cut or artificial Christmas tree (or trees), make the choice fun and uncomplicated.

Christmas Trees.

Live or Artificial?

Real fresh-cut trees have the distinctive, pleasant evergreen smell and feel. Picking out each year's tree is a treasured holiday custom for many families. Live trees require some preparation and care, but traditionalists feel this is a valuable part of the holidays.  

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, hence the arrival of the artificial Christmas tree. Easy to set up and store, artificial trees don't shed needles and are hypoallergenic. If you like the look of a live tree, there is an incredibly realistic tree just for you. Artificial trees also offer some unique styles and colors that don’t occur in nature -- perfect for holiday whimsy.  


Good to Know

Before you go shopping for any Christmas tree, measure the area where the tree will be displayed. Pay special attention to the ceiling height and the available space needed to accommodate the width of the tree. Remember to add the size of the tree stand into your height calculation.


Artificial Christmas Trees

Artificial Christmas trees.

There are several things to keep in mind when shopping for an artificial Christmas tree.


Full-size artificial trees range in height from 6 1/2 feet to 12 feet to accommodate practically any ceiling height. Also keep tree width in mind. There are slim trees and full girth trees to choose from. Whether the tree is the main feature in the home or a less formal room or corner, make sure to measure your space before buying. 


Artificial tree needles are created using extruded Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or molded Poly-Ethylene (PE) or a combination of both. Either material expertly replicates the look of pine, fir or other evergreens. Colors vary from a mix of greens, to blue/green to blue. Some trees also have cones.


Most artificial trees are pre-lit - lights already installed. Lights may be Incandescent or LED bulbs in multi-color or clear, color changing or random shimmering lights. Some other features to reduce holiday stress are on/off foot pedals and constant-on or stay-lit lights - meaning if a bulb comes loose the rest of the set stays lit.

Flocked trees are treated to make the tree look snow-covered.

Self-shaping trees have wire in the branches to make the tree expand to its original shape when removed from the box.
The tip count number provides an idea of how full the tree looks. Don’t rely on this number only as tip sizes may vary. Also some varieties of trees (pine, for example) naturally have a less dense look than others, such as firs. Let the tree's overall appearance be your guide.

Take a fresh look at artificial Christmas trees with our Interactive Guide.

Fresh-Cut Christmas Tree Varieties

The most popular fresh-cut Christmas trees come from the pine or fir species. Choosing the right type depends on personal taste and regional availability.

Pine Trees — Pine trees have long, slender needles 1 inch to 6 inches long attached in clusters to branches. These trees vary in shades of yellow-green and blue-green. Most types have strong branches and retain their needles well. Scotch pine is one of the best Christmas pines.

Fir Trees — Fir trees have flat and waxy needles up to 1 1/2 inches long attached directly to branches in long, dense rows. Color varies from yellow-green to dark green, and some species have touches of reddish-brown on the buds. Firs have a very noticeable fragrance. Firs also have more flexible branches than pines or spruces and will shed some needles. The best varieties are Grand, Fraser, Noble, Balsam and Douglas.

Buying and Caring for a Fresh-Cut Christmas Tree

Make sure to get the best tree for your home and take care of it properly.

  • When shopping, test the tree by giving it a slight shake. A few falling brown needles are not uncommon, but falling green needles mean the tree is dry.
  • Look for a full, symmetrical shape. You can sacrifice a bit of perfection if the tree will be displayed in a corner. Be wary of branches near the ground that may have to be removed to fit into a tree stand.
  • Feel the tree. The needles should be flexible but snap when bent sharply. Trees with stiff needles that are losing their color should be avoided. Also avoid a tree with needles that pull off very easily.
  • Be certain your vehicle can safely transport the tree you purchase to your home. Bring rope or bungee cords to secure the load adequately. Take care to protect your vehicle because tree branches and resin can mar the finish.
  • When you get the tree home, cut a 1/2-inch-thick disk from the base. (or Lowe's can make the cut for you.) This slice is critical; when trees are cut in the field, they produce a layer of sap that seals the cut. This layer prevents water from rising up the trunk. The cut opens the vascular system for water intake. Ideally, after making the cut, place the tree in a bucket of water and let it absorb fresh water for several hours before placing it in the tree stand.

Once the holiday season has passed, dispose of the Christmas tree in a safe and appropriate manner. Your city probably has guidelines for disposal.


Good to Know

A dry tree is unsightly and a fire hazard. Fresh-cut trees need a constant supply of water (more than a quart a day for most species). Make sure the water level never goes below the base of the tree.

Insects on Live Christmas Trees

Being grown outdoors, live trees are exposed to nature, which includes insects. Warmer autumns may extend the lives of bugs. The insects you'd commonly find are aphids (they look like ticks but they aren't), spider mites or praying mantises. If they happen to be there, they'll most likely stay on the tree.  Here are some things to remember:


  • Shake the tree at time you buy it and when you get it home (BEFORE bringing it into the house). If you can, set it in your garage for a day or two.
  • Vacuum them up (without a beater bar).


  • Fumigate or use aerosol spray insecticide. It isn't needed and can increase fire danger.
  • Crush bugs on your floor or furniture, they could leave a stain.