It’s safe to say that the holidays are upon us—which means Christmas trees are making their way into homes all across the country. Believe it or not, Christmas trees have been a part of American holiday celebrations since the 1850s. And—no surprise here—tree-trimming has become one of the most anticipated holiday traditions in many households.
And this year, with holiday celebrations during COVID making the season look quite different, people are turning to their Christmas trees to give their homes an extra sense of joy and cheer! (P.S. Our holiday decor lookbook is full of some beautiful living room design ideas and fun holiday mantel decor for every style if you need help with holiday decorating beyond your tree!)
However, while real, chopped-down-by-hand Christmas trees are emblematic of the holidays, they’re not the only options out there. From Noble Firs to tinsel trees, you can find the perfect tree for your home and interior design style, since Christmas trees now come in all different shapes, sizes and styles. What kind of tree you prefer is up to you, but we’re here to help make it easier to decide. Keep reading for our guide to the different types of Christmas trees!
Want to try your tree before you trim it? Start your project today and get expert design plans laid out in a 3D version of your exact room. It’s practically magic. Get some holiday decor ideas for the rest of your home and read up on our favorite iconic Christmas trees from history!
Get to know the five most common Christmas tree types and learn the pros and cons of each!
Live Christmas Trees
Do you love the smell of fresh pine and revel in the holiday tradition of picking out a tree every year? Then a live tree is the option for you. But be prepared—whether you’re cutting down a tree or simply picking one out at a Christmas tree lot, there are a lot of different varieties of evergreens to choose from! We’ll break down some of the more popular Christmas tree varieties below.
But first, it’s worth noting that live trees require a bit more hands-on care than an artificial tree. To begin with, you have to keep it watered throughout the holiday season and check it regularly for dryness, as letting your tree get too dry can become a fire hazard. And then there’s the inevitable clean-up necessary as needles drop, both during set-up and throughout the time you have your tree up. But for many people, this extra work is well worth the joy of having a live tree in your home for the holidays!
The Fraser Tree
Live Fraser trees have become a classic American staple. In fact, they’re the most popular type of Christmas trees in the US—so you could even say they’re the best Christmas tree option out there! Similar to Douglas Firs, Frasers tend to be more slender and have blue-green needles with silvery undersides. This gives them an extra lush look and a nice glimmer when strung with lights.
- Great for Lots of Ornaments: Frasier trees have upturned and stiff branches that make them perfect for hanging ornaments by the handful.
- Stays Fresh and Lush: The needles retain their color for a long time, so your tree will stay fresh through the end of the year. This makes Frasers perfect if you like keeping your tree for a while.
- No-Shed Needles: Worried about needle retention? Fraser trees don’t shed needles as quickly as other varieties, even if you forget to water them once or twice throughout the holiday season.
- Beautifully Fragrant: These trees have a strong, fresh scent!
- Fits Anywhere: They’re compact, so Frasers can tuck nicely into corners and also work in smaller spaces.
- High Price Tag: Fraser trees grow slower, which makes them a more expensive option.
The Noble Fir
Slender, tall, and narrow, Noble Firs—with their signature triangular shape—are a leaner variety among the different Christmas tree types.
Just as lush in color as their Fraser counterparts, Noble Firs also have deeper grey-green needles. Their strong branches grow horizontally in different bunches with larger amounts of space in between, which provides lots of room for ornaments to hang. They’re also lightly scented if you’re looking for just a touch of fragrance in the air.
- Sturdy Branches: Noble Firs are the tallest of the different types of Christmas tree and have the strongest branches. This makes them a good choice if you’re looking to hang large and heavy ornaments. (Think: gingerbread houses, silver bells, mini angel figurines.)
- No-Shed Needles: Boasting great needle retention, Noble Firs hardly shed their needles. This means they’ll last longer than most other Christmas tree types.
- Skinny Looks: Noble Firs have a less full look than most other types of Christmas trees. So if you’re looking for a more robust tree that’s decked out with lights, ribbons, and lots and lots of ornaments, this might not be the right option for you.
The White Fir (or Concolor Fir)
White Firs, also known as the Colorado White Fir tree, are lush evergreens native to the mountains of the western United States. Their branches grow in a spiral shape and have long, lush needles, resulting in a tree that’s dense from top to bottom! And their needles are also less poky than other long-needled evergreens!
- Full Foliage: If you’re looking for a tree that’s big, fluffy, and perfectly shaped, the White Fir is a great option.
- A Sweet Citrusy Smell: Many people love White Firs because they have a unique citrus scent that ushers in the holiday spirit. But if you prefer the smell of fresh pine, maybe consider another of the Christmas tree types instead.
- Colors Fade: The needles on this tree variety don’t hold their color as well. While they start off as a bluish-green, they eventually fade to a duller green hue as the tree ages.
- Medium-Weight Branches: Smaller ornaments are best on White Firs as the branches are only moderate in strength and won’t be able to hold heavy trinkets like other trees.
Artificial Christmas Trees
If you prefer the ease of simply bringing your tree up from the basement, then artificial is the way to go. (Bonus: you don’t have to worry about watering an artificial tree!) If you’re looking to purchase your first artificial tree, don’t skimp on price—cheap artificial trees look, well, cheap. If it’s in your budget, look for something a little higher-end, which will tend to look more like a real tree and will last longer. Really high-quality trees can easily last a decade. Miss the real tree smell? Hang some scentsicles on your tree, or stock up on your favorite pine-scented candles!
Read on for more info on the two most popular Christmas tree styles among artificial trees!
The Pre-Lit Tree
While fresh Christmas trees are lovey, they do require a good amount of work. Think hassling with the tree stand, watering daily, and dealing with a floor full of fallen needles.
Fake trees can save you from all that hassle, and they’re just as beautiful, like a pre-lit faux Frasier tree, which has glittering frost-speckled needles molded from natural cuttings.
- Easy to Maintain: Set up is a breeze! You assemble the different parts of the tree, plug it into the wall, and it’s ready to go.
- Built-in Sparkle: You can find artificial trees with snow-dusted branches to give your space a glimmering, wintry look that never fades. Even real trees can’t compete with that.
- Zero Pickup: There are no fallen needles to clean-up. Simple as that.
- Less Personal: You can’t change the color of the lights that come with pre-lit trees and many people find they have to use specific ornaments to compliment the shape or style of the tree.
- Not Fragrant at All: Needless to say, unlike real trees this fake version doesn’t give off that signature sweet, fresh-chopped Christmas tree scent.
- Surprisingly Pricey: Many pre-lit trees come with a hefty price tag. But if you don’t plan on re-purchasing a real tree yearly, this could be a worthy investment.
The Tinsel Tree
Christmas trees don’t come any sparklier than Silver Tinsel trees, which have a retro look that’s reminiscent of 1950s aluminum trees. (Charlie Brown Christmas, anyone?) Because they’re all silver, light reflects beautifully from the branches and brings a cozy and magical ambiance to any room.
- Choose Your Color: You’ll find tinsel trees in a range of color options, so you can be be sure this type of tree will bring a unique look to your space.
- Minimal Decoration Required: Tinsel trees often look better with minimal decor, so it’s perfect if you prefer a simple tree with a low-maintenance look.
- Expensive Upfront Cost: These trees are built for convenience over quality (meaning they might not hold up as long as some other faux tree varieties). Nonetheless, tinsel trees can still sport a hefty price tag and can be more expensive than a regular living tree.
- No “Real Tree” Resemblance: If you’re looking for a fake tree that still looks like a real one, then a tinsel tree is not for you.
A Note About the Environmental Impact of Christmas Trees…
Contrary to popular belief, opting for a real Christmas tree is actually the more environmentally friendly option. According to The Nature Conservancy, live trees require a fraction of the carbon emissions that it takes to produce and ship artificial trees (since most artificial trees are made in and shipped from China). Not just that, but Christmas tree farms provide clean air and wildlife habitats (while also supporting a local economy). The National Christmas Tree Association reports that, for every tree purchased, farmers plant 1-3 seedlings in its place. These new trees (and the ones that weren’t cut down) produce oxygen, provide wildlife habitats, and support healthy soil. Plus, trees are biodegradable, so they can be composted or recycled for mulch or other purposes within local communities. (Whereas most artificial trees end up in landfills.)
But that’s not to say that artificial trees are evil. But it is worth looking into where your tree was produced. Buying US-made trees means fewer carbon emissions to ship them. And investing in a high-quality tree that will last for more than five years (rather than a tree that you’ll toss after, say, two years) further reduces the environmental impact of buying an artificial tree.
If you’re worried about the environmental impact, you could also consider a used artificial tree from your local thrift store. Many people donate old artificial trees when they move or downsize. This is a great way to lower your waste—and save some money!