Christmas Tree Buying Guide: The Different Types Of Christmas Trees

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Bringing home a fresh, green Christmas tree is one of the best delights of the holiday season. The smell of a fresh-cut tree fills the room with an outdoorsy, natural scent that can't be replicated by a can or bottle.

Most likely, your Christmas tree will be the centerpiece of your holiday decorating, so you'll want to pick the best tree possible for your home.

Types Of Christmas Trees

There are several varieties of trees commonly sold for Christmas. The trees you find in your local tree lot may have been shipped from across the country, but some varieties are more popular in the regions of the country where they are grown.

  • Fraser Fir - Native to the south, this fir has dark needles that resist shedding, and have a strong aroma.
  • Douglas Fir - One of the most popular Christmas trees, the Douglas fir has a natural cone shape, and is fragrant.
  • Colorado Blue Spruce - Often sold as a "living Christmas tree" in a pot for replanting outdoors after the holidays. This is the tree on the White House lawn that is decorated each year.
  • Scotch Pine - Excellent needle retention even when dry. The stiff branches hold heavy ornaments well, and the pine scent is strong.
  • Eastern Red Cedar - Popular in the south, this is not a true cedar, but a member of the juniper family. Sharp needles are shiny green and very fragrant.
  • Noble Fir - Long lasting when cut, the noble fir has strong branches and short needles that display heavy ornaments very well.
Ready for Planting Finished Product

Where To Buy Your Tree

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, approximately 2/3 of tree buyers purchase their Christmas tree from a tree lot, 1/3 cut their tree at a tree farm.

  • If you plan on purchasing your tree at a retail lot, choose a lot that is well lit so you can see the trees clearly, and has shade to protect stored trees.
  • Ask the retailer when the trees arrived at the lot. You want the freshest tree possible.
  • If you are cutting your own tree at a tree farm, wear old clothing and bring heavy gloves.
  • Cutting down a tree is easiest with two people. One holds the tree upright while the other cuts.
  • Whether you purchase from a retail lot or a tree farm, have the tree wrapped in netting for transport home. This makes it much easier to handle the tree, and keeps it from losing needles on the trip home.
  • Bring old sheets or blankets to protect your car from scratches or sap. Rope or bungee cords will be necessary if you are tying the tree to the top of your car.

Picking The Best Tree

  • Know the height of the ceiling and the size of the area where you will be displaying your tree before heading to the tree lot. Trees look smaller on the lot than they do in your living room.
  • Look for a tree with a straight trunk, and even distribution of branches.
  • Check the needles for freshness. A fir tree's needles will snap neatly when fresh, but a pine tree's needles will bend without breaking.
  • Shake the tree gently to check for excessive needle drop.
  • The needles should be green and somewhat shiny. The tree bark should look fresh, with no withering at the tips of the branches.
  • Evaluate your tree from all sides. It should have a pleasing, symmetrical shape with no large gaps or bends.
  • While a spider or two is hard to avoid, make sure there are no colonies of insect pests in your chosen tree.

Caring For Your Tree

  • As soon as you have your tree unloaded from the car, cut 1 inch off the base, and place the tree in its stand, making sure to fasten the screws tightly to prevent the tree from falling or tilting.
  • Your tree stand should be large enough to fit the tree without carving down the trunk, or stripping away bark.
  • Use a handsaw or garden lopper to remove any branches that hang too low or spoil the shape of the tree.
  • Fill the tree stand with fresh water. Check daily and replace water to keep the tree base continually submerged. Allowing the tree to dry out will cause the needles to drop and turn your tree into a fire hazard.
  • Use plain tap water. There is no need for additives or heating the water.
  • Display your tree away from the fireplace, heaters, vents or direct sun.
  • Decorate the tree with small lights that do not produce much heat.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Take down your tree after New Years, or when the tree has become excessively dry.
  • Tree bags make it easy to carry the tree out of your house without too much mess when the holidays are over.
  • Follow your community's guidelines for disposing of your Christmas tree.

Your Christmas tree will be the focus of attention Christmas morning, and should be a beautiful symbol of the holidays through the entire season. Pick the best tree for your home, and then keep it fresh with adequate water to avoid a prematurely dried out tree.

Last Updated: December 19, 2011
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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