Every year, I look forward to picking out the Christmas tree with my husband and daughters. He does the shaking and twirling, while we do the “Turn it this way, Dad!” and “Well, maybe if that spot goes in the back, it’ll be okay” part.
In years past when we lived in New York City (and had to carry the tree home to our apartment), we generally went to the closest tree stand in the neighborhood and picked from what was there. The tree species never mattered much.
Now that we have a car, there are more choices, and more things to consider. There are so many Christmas tree types—firs, pines, spruces and more. What’s the difference? Here’s a quick primer on a few of the major species sold in the US.
The Douglas Fir is one of the most common Christmas tree types sold in the US, especially out West. It has soft, shiny needles that grow on all sides of its branches. The tree grows very symmetrically and is particularly full. But if the branches have been sheared, it can become too full (and difficult to decorate). For the sweet aroma alone, this evergreen is worth considering.
The Balsam Fir has two-toned needles that are dark green on top, silver underneath. Its symmetrical shape and evergreen smell make it a wonderful Christmas tree. Be aware, however, that Balsam Fir trees have flexible branches—not the best choice for heavier ornaments. But the needles will last long, so if you like to put your tree up the day after Thanksgiving, this could be your best best.
The Frasier Fir is known for its scent. It also has a delightful shape and holds its needles well, even after cutting (assuming it’s well-watered). The needles are a silvery-green color, about 1″ long, and softer than many other evergreens. Its sturdy branches are able to hold heavier ornaments.
The Scotch Pine is well-known for holding its needles, even after becoming dry. Those needles are sharp, though, so beware while decorating! If the tree has been sheared for shaping, the branches may be very close together, making it even more difficult to decorate. The dark green needles of the Scotch Pine are from 1″ to 3″ in length, and its branches are sturdy and suitable for ornaments of all weights and sizes.
The Colorado Blue Spruce is so named for the bluish color of its needles. Often sold as a living tree, it can be planted outside after the holidays. When cut, the needles fall off relatively quickly. Still, the Blue Spruce has a nice pyramid shape with strong branches that can hold heavy ornaments.
Whatever evergreen variety you choose for your Christmas tree, make sure to give it a fresh cut at its base (at least 1″) before placing in a stand. Give it water immediately, and water it regularly. With any luck, you’ll still be enjoying your tree as you ring in the New Year. Happy decorating!
For more on holiday decorating, consider: