Christmas Tree Buying 101

Dani Caruso
By Dani Caruso

Decorating a real tree this year? Before you head out and tie a conifer to your car’s roof, you might want to do a little research to make sure you pick the right type of Christmas tree for your display. There are several species and sizes of trees to choose from, with varying scents and branch strength (think of the heavy ornaments!), so take a look at our Christmas tree buying guide before heading to the lot.


Our Picks


Blue Spruce

Shape: Perfectly symmetrical, this tree looks full with few gaps.
Needles: Short blue needles are 1 inch to 1½ inches long with an extremely sharp point at the end.
Scent: Mild aroma, but if you crush the needles, they produce a resiny smell.
Trimmings: Holds most ornaments; prickly needles make inner-limb decorating a challenge.


White Pine

Shape: Elegantly conical; needles are grouped in clusters, so you’ll see more trunk.
Needles: Long, flexible needles (2½ to 5 inches long) are gentle enough for delicate skin.
Scent: Minimal fragrance makes it a good choice for sensitive noses.
Trimmings: More of a tinsel-and-lights tree; soft needles can cause ornaments to slip.


Scotch Pine

Shape: The most popular tree in the U.S., this pine is symmetrical and dense-looking, thanks to full branches.
Needles: Bright green needles grow up to 3 inches long; resists shedding, even if you forget to water it.
Scent: It has a lasting, pleasant piney aroma.
Trimmings: The branches are sturdy, so bring on the heavy decorations.


Balsam Fir

Shape: A thin, spire-like top (perfect for a star or an angel) sets this pyramid-shaped tree apart.
Needles: Short, long-lasting dark green needles are ¾ inch to 1½ inches long and tend to be flat or blunt at the tip.
Scent: Its strong evergreen scent can easily fill a room.
Trimmings: Dense limbs can hold weighty ornaments and larger globe or C-bulb lights.


Fraser Fir

Shape: The branches turn slightly upward, giving it a full, compact appearance.
Needles: Short dark green needles have a silvery underside and are ½ to 1 inch long; resists shedding.
Scent: Its fresh, mild fragrance is subtler than the balsam’s.
Trimmings: Thick branches will hold most decorations; it’s easy to reach interior branches, so cords are less visible.


(This article originally appeared on Author // Paul Hope. Photos // Wildlife GMBH/Alamy; Nature Photographers LTD./Alamy; DDCoral/Shutterstock; Niel Fletcher and Matthew Ward/Getty Images;Bruce Coleman Inc./Alamy.)

Dani Caruso
By Dani Caruso
Dani is House One’s assistant editor. As a Norwalk, CT native, Dani graduated from UConn with a BA in Digital Media and Design. This millennial longs for the days of All That, Tamagotchis, and Dunkaroos. When she’s not working, she’s hanging outdoors, playing with her dogs, or watching makeup tutorials on YouTube.

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