Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a Christmas Tree

published Nov 29, 2017
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(Image credit: Kath Nash)

For anyone who’s ever excitedly bought a tree that turned out to be a serious needle dropper/too heavy to carry up the stairs/completely devoid of any festive scents — this buying guide is for you. Aesthetics are one thing, but there is so, so much more to consider.

You know the deal: you walk onto a Christmas tree lot, find a tree that seems like it’ll fit in your home for the right price and boom, you’re done. But then the limbs drop and it’s twice as wide as you thought (true personal story), or a week in—even after relentless watering—and 75% of the needles have fallen off, leaving you with something even Charlie Brown would have trouble loving. Or even worse, you pick out the tree you like, pay for it, have someone load it onto your car’s roof only to find out it weighs nearly as much as you do and you have no one help you carry it up four flights of stairs (another true story).

All of these sad, sad situations can be avoided if you learn a little about all the most common tree varieties before going tree shopping. Check out our handy dandy illustrated guide below, and scroll through to ensure you make the best choice for your home this holiday season.

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Balsam Fir

  • Great for pet owners as it sheds far less than other varieties (pine needles + pets = bad news).
  • Incredibly fragrant, so if you want your home to smell like a Christmas tree farm, this is the tree for you.
  • If you desire the look of a super traditional tree, this has the most classic shape and fullness most people seek.

Frasier Fir

  • The Frasier fir has sturdy branches, so it’s perfect for someone with a ton of ornaments.
  • Want some variety in your tree color? The underside of each needle has a pretty silvery hue.
  • Don’t have a ton of space? Frasiers tend to be more narrow in shape so they are good choices for compact homes.

Noble Fir

  • Another great option for the ornament overboarder. This tree has incredibly sturdy limbs and boughs that turn upward to prevent sagging, so give it all the ornaments!
  • Should you be willing to pay top dollar for the best needle retention in the most common evergreen varieties, this is the tree for you.
  • The Noble Fir usually is a bit gappy, but in a really regal way.

Douglas Fir

  • Lighter in weight than other varieties, so consider the Douglas fir if you live in a walk-up or can’t maneuver a super heavy tree.
  • Not that into a strong pine scent? The Douglas fir has a lighter, citrus-y scent.
  • Don’t like getting pricked by needles constantly while decorating? This tree’s needles and branches are pretty soft.
  • Soft needles and branches mean this tree is best for less baubles/minimal decoration.

Scotch Pine

  • For those who hate seeing the trunk of the tree, this variety has super dense foliage
  • Great budget option, though doesn’t have a strong pine scent

Norway Spruce

  • Always wanted to experience a classic English Christmas? This is the traditional British tree.
  • Has a strong pine scent
  • The Norway Spruce tends to drop really quickly, so it’s not for anyone who puts their tree up on Dec. 1 (or pet owners).
  • If you’d rather keep their money for gift giving rather than tree buying, this is a great budget option.

Blue Spruce

  • Looking for the perfect classic, conical shape? You’ll want to hunt down a Blue Spruce.
  • Strong branches mean it can handle a good amount of decoration.
  • A beautiful variety if you prefer a sliver-blue color to a dark or yellowish green.