Which Christmas Tree is Right for Me?
More and more people are talking about how picking a real Christmas tree is better for the environment, and some scientists are now arguing that they're even better for your health! Are you looking to get a real tree for the first time and wondering which is best? Are you a veteran live tree buyer curious about whether you're picking the best kind for you? Take a look at our list of eight of the top-selling Christmas tree species to learn more about how different all these gorgeous green options really are.
First off, we'll do a crash course on differentiating between firs, pines, and spruces. This knowledge can help you all year long, not just at Christmas time, and it's not as tricky as you might think. Pines always carry their needles in little bundles called fascicles. They will also typically have longer needles than spruces and firs, especially the kinds we see around here.
Spruces have stiff, squared, sharp needles. Firs have flat, soft needles with rounded tips. One helpful trick I learned was "spruces are sharp, firs are friendly". The differences don't stop there! If you want to get down to the nitty gritty details, check out this helpful video. Now on to the trees!
FIR CHRISTMAS TREES
Balsam Fir has a great smell and good needle retention. The needles are a deep, dark green and are usually about 3/4" to 1" long. It is almost identical to the Fraser Fir.
Fraser Fir has soft, dark green needles with great fragrance and retention. Some experts think Balsam and Fraser firs are actually two different groups of the same species. Fraser Firs grow further south in the Appalachians, and Balsam Firs grow further north.
Noble Firs have a silvery coating on the undersides of the needles. The 1" long needles curve upwards to show off the contrasting color underneath. They have good needle retention, and the strong branches can hold heavy ornaments.
Douglas Firs are not technically firs. They have now been placed in their own separate genus with a handful of other similar trees. They still have the soft needles though. The needles are longer than the other firs, and they don't stay on the tree quite as long.
SPRUCE CHRISTMAS TREES
COLORADO BLUE SPRUCE
Colorado Blue Spruces are used as landscape trees more often than as Christmas trees, but some growers cut them to sell as Christmas trees. Some people also buy smaller Colorado Blue Spruces with the roots and soil still attached and plant them at the end of the season. People love them for the gorgeous blue needles.
Our second spruce option is White Spruce. They are more popular in the Northeast where they grow naturally, but you can find them here sometimes too. Like the Colorado Blue Spruce, they have attractive pale needles. The needles tend to shed quickly, making them a messier option.
PINE CHRISTMAS TREES
Scots Pine has the longest, thickest needles of any on this list. Each bundle carries two needles, and they have a neat kind of twisted shape that adds fun visual texture. Scots Pines are one of the best picks for long-lasting scent and needle retention, but some people find them a bit too prickly.
White Pine is the only one on this list that grows as a native tree in Indiana, but its mature shape is nothing like the cone shape we love for Christmas trees. They can be tamed a bit more when they're young. White Pines have long, soft needles in bundles of five. The branches are a little too weak for heavy ornaments, but it's a good option for people with allergies who want to avoid strong scents.