Any Christmas tree can be beautiful with the right care, but there’s more to that verdant, aromatic evergreen that meets the eye. There’s variation in color, shape, needle size and sharpness, branch strength, aroma, and keeping quality. Before you go hunting for this year’s tree, it’s a good idea to get acquainted with your options—and know how to care for your tree once you get it home.
Be sure to measure the size of the space in which you’ll display it so you know the right size to buy. If possible, avoid placing your tree in a spot near a heater, as warm temperatures can cause your tree to dry out sooner.
Avoid Christmas trees that look dry or are dropping needles. If your tree doesn’t come with a stand, buy one that can hold at least one gallon of water in which your tree will fit without any whittling or shaping.
Once you’ve got your tree home, set it up as soon as you can so that it can begin taking up water, which will help keep it fresh and long-lasting. If you can’t put it up right away, keep the tree in a cool place, like a garage or backyard.
After decorating, check the tree daily and water as needed. With proper care, your Christmas tree can look fresh and smell great for up to four weeks. Here’s everything you need to know to choose the right variety for your home.
With soft and shiny green needles that radiate from its branches, the Douglas fir is a much-loved variety of Christmas tree (and one of the easier types to find). This fragrant species also grows in an attractive pyramid shape. If you’re a fan of large ornaments, take care to examine the branches: if the tree has been trimmed into a streamlined shape, they may grow too close together to hang your favorite bigger baubles.
This Appalachian native is the most popular species of Christmas tree in America. Its branches are quite compact, which means it can be a challenge to use larger ornaments despite its sturdy limbs. Like their relatives, Fraser firs keep their needles and hang on to that festive evergreen aroma well with proper care.
A favorite species for Christmas trees, the noble fir features long needles in a deep blue-green shade. Because the noble’s needles grow upward from particularly stiff branches, they keep everything from ornaments to candy canes to handfuls of tinsel from slipping off. That’s a must for households with larger, heavier decorations.
Want to avoid awkward gaps in your tree’s branches? For that perfect pyramid shape, look to the balsam fir—a variety known for its symmetrical growth habit. The trade-off is that their branches are less sturdy than other varieties, so stick with lighter decorations. With proper care, balsam firs can keep their needles and fresh scent for up to a month, so it’s also a go-to option for folks who make tree trimming a Black Friday tradition.
This is another variety that’s not the best for heavier decorations but works well for lighter ones. Instead, think garlands, tinsel, and light, hollow ornaments like small baubles or homemade construction-paper crafts. It’s got a full growth habit, soft needles, and a particularly heady aroma—so seek out a grand fir if that heady Christmas tree scent is your favorite part of the holiday season.
If you tend to forget about tree maintenance with all the seasonal hustle and bustle, the Scotch pine might be a great option for you. It’s an excellent keeper, and if you do forget to water yours, even a dry Scotch pine will hold onto its vivid green needles. With sturdy branches, it can handle even your heaviest ornaments.
If you like a softer, fuller look to your Christmas tree branches, look for a concolor fir, also known as white fir. This species has longer-than-usual needles with an attractive blue cast, making them a good alternative to blue spruce. Concolor firs also bring another benefit—their refreshing, citrusy aroma—and keep their needles well, too.
True to its name, this evergreen is known for the silvery-blue coloring of its needles. In fact, this tree is beautiful to look at for other reasons, too: it’s got a lovely symmetrical shape and keeps its needles well in proper conditions. However, blue spruce needles can be sharp, so this tree type might not be best for homes with small children. It’s also not very aromatic, even smelling somewhat unpleasant when its needles are broken.
For a beautiful deep green color and classic triangle shape, you can’t go wrong with Norway spruce. This variety has a mild but pleasant scent that won’t overpower—a plus if you or anyone in your household are sensitive to strong smells. However, the needles are on the sharper side, and these trees tend to drop needles more quickly than other types if they’re not freshly cut and given plenty of water.