With so many artificial Christmas trees on the market, choosing one can be an overwhelming task—so we decided to put them to the test. Our testing team tackled assembling and decorating today’s top artificial trees, noting how easy the trees were to set up and take down and analyzing each tree’s stability, degree of realism, attractiveness, and value versus cost.
We researched a total of 47 artificial trees and then tested our top 27 choices. Four of those trees did not meet our specifications, and another 10 were good but not great. This prelit tree from Balsam Hill and this full downswept tree from National Tree Company ranked as our team favorites, and both come in several sizes to suit any setting.
We also reached out to Lewis Puleo, vice president at Puleo International, a multigenerational family-owned manufacturer of high-quality artificial Christmas trees to find out about this year’s trends. “Upgraded multifunction lights with more intricate ‘movements’ and color options are the most recent trends gaining traction,” Puleo said.
This guide breaks down what to look for when shopping for the best tree and details the pros and cons of every tree we tested. Don’t pick a living Christmas tree before finding out more about the artificial ones that earned a spot in our lineup—and see how the ones we tested look in real-home setups.
- BEST OVERALL: Balsam Hill Prelit Classic Blue Spruce Christmas Tree
- RUNNER-UP: National Tree Company Full Downswept Christmas Tree
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Best Choice Products Spruce w/ Berries, Pine Cones
- BEST UNLIT: National Tree Company Dunhill Fir Christmas Tree
- BEST ASPEN FIR: Puleo International Prelit Aspen Fir Christmas Tree
- BEST SLIM: Puleo International Prelit Slim Balsam Fir Tree
- BEST PENCIL: Puleo International Prelit Flocked Pencil Pine Tree
- BEST SMALL: National Tree Company Slim Hickory Christmas Tree
- BEST WITH PINE CONES: Martha Stewart Pine Cone and Berry Prelit Tree
- BEST FLOCKED: Best Choice Products Snow Flocked Christmas Tree
- BEST WHITE TREE: National Tree Company Prelit White Christmas Tree
- EASIEST TO ASSEMBLE: Balsam Hill Fraser Fir Flip Tree
- BEST HALF TREE: The Holiday Aisle Chapel Pine Christmas Tree
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
How We Tested the Best Artificial Christmas Trees
In curating the list of trees to test, we considered brand to an extent—manufacturers such as National Tree Company, Puleo International, and Balsam Hill have earned reputations for producing a variety of high-quality trees. Still, we didn’t automatically eliminate artificial trees from lesser-known or niche companies if they were made from quality materials and rated highly by consumers. We finally narrowed down our list of 40+ trees to the top performers in various categories to test in our own homes.
Our testing started with an inspection of the trees, noting whether they came with easy-to-understand assembly instructions, and then we set them up. As we went through the steps, we checked to see that the tree stand (if included) was made from substantial materials and whether it was a simple process to insert the bottom trunk of the tree and secure it. We set up each tree step by step, connected light strands if the tree came prelit, and then fluffed the branches and branch tips to give the tree a natural, filled-out look.
Aesthetics were also a top consideration in rating the trees—after all, buyers are looking for a beautiful tree in various styles and sizes that looks like a real tree.
Throughout the testing process, we used a rubric and awarded points based on how well we felt the tree came together, how well the branches supported the ornaments, and how the tree looked when it was fully assembled. The better a tree performed on a specific test or stood out for a certain feature, the higher the points it received. When testing was complete—and the trees were decorated—we totaled the points and used them to help determine the categories and awards for each tree. For more information on selecting the right artificial tree—and additional expert advice from Lewis Puleo—check out the “What to Consider When Choosing an Artificial Christmas Tree” section below our list of this year’s top picks.
Products Tested: 27
Hours Spent Testing: 50.87
Tests Performed: 5
Individual Testers: 8
Our Top Picks
Now it’s time to start shopping. The following trees earned a spot in our lineup thanks to quality construction, realistic appearance, and good value. Each of these trees was tested and rated by a Bob Vila holiday team member. The following trees run the gamut in terms of size, style, and cost, and one is sure to be a standout in your home this holiday.
Our Ratings: Setup: 5/5, Realism: 4/5, Stability: 5/5, Lighting: 5/5, Disassembly and Storage: 5/5
- Height: 4.5, 5.5, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 9, 10, 12 or 15 feet
- Tree type: Blue spruce
- Lighting: Prelit
- Its stability when bumped makes it great for busy households
- Sturdy branches easily hold heavy ornaments without drooping
- Well-proportioned branches give the tree a more natural look
- Plenty of well-placed LED lights so there’s no need to add more
- Flat needles don’t have the lifelike look of molded needles
We tested the 7-foot version of this tree from Balsam Hill, which is expertly crafted to look like a blue spruce, featuring 2,366 branch tips for a full and abundant look. Its 850 warm-toned lights are controllable with a foot pedal, and the tree stand features scratchproof rubber feet to protect floors. It comes with a storage bag and fluffing gloves to keep hands scratch-free during setup and disassembly.
We were impressed by this tree from start to finish. Even with the lights, setup was straightforward and took about 1¾ hours. The tree was also plumb right away—no adjustments required. Its branches were sturdy yet flexible and full, and their proportions mimicked a natural tree, with just enough wispy, longer branch tips for a more organic look. While the flat needles lacked realism, the rest of the aesthetics more than made up for it. The included LEDs added to the beauty of this tree, evenly and abundantly illuminating it.
In our testing, this tree was quite sturdy. We bumped into it more than a dozen times, pretended to grab gifts from underneath like excited children, and pushed on the trunk. The ornaments jingled and the top wobbled, but the base held firm every time. The sturdy branches easily supported both heavy ornaments and the topper.
The foot pedal for the lights and the storage bag were nice add-ons. We liked not having to bend over to unplug the lights or turn off a floor switch. And the included storage bag was certainly better than a cardboard box and was sizable enough to easily fit the tree and other included items.
Get the Balsam Hill blue spruce tree (various sizes) starting at $249 at Amazon or Balsam Hill.
Our Ratings: Setup: 4/5, Realism: 4/5, Stability: 5/5, Lighting: n/a, Disassembly and Storage: 4/5
- Height: 4, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 9, 10, or 12 feet
- Tree type: Downswept Douglas fir
- Lighting: Prelit
- The 7.5-foot size has 750 independently operating lights, which means the entire string is not affected if one or more bulbs go out
- One of the most realistic-looking trees available; branches and overall shape are quite lifelike
- Light color easily switches from white to multicolor and changes via a foot switch
- Basic assembly is quick and easy, but plan to spend extra time fluffing the branches to create the tree’s full look
- Heavy at nearly 50 pounds; may require more than one person to get the tree in and out of storage
The National Tree Company makes some of the most realistic-looking artificial trees on the market, and this Douglas fir model is no exception. It comes in a variety of sizes, and the 7.5-foot version we tested has a 59-inch-base diameter and 1,183 branch tips for a full, lush look. That same size includes 750 lights that can switch from white to multicolor using a foot switch, which also offers several options for lighting actions.
This tree comes in three separate pieces, plus the base. It features hinged branches, which makes setup a breeze. The most time-consuming part of setting up the tree was fluffing each branch. The branches feature crush-resistant tips that are strong and sturdy, and we were able to hang our heaviest ornaments with no issue and no worry of sagging. Once fluffed, this tree has a beautiful shape and looks real.
Get the National Tree Company downswept tree (various sizes) starting at $149 at Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or National Tree Company.
Our Ratings: Setup: 2.5/5, Realism: 4/5, Stability: 4/5, Lighting: 5/5, Disassembly and Storage: 2.5/5
- Height: 6, 7.5, 9, or 12 feet
- Tree type: Spruce
- Lighting: Prelit
- Stands very straight and stable
- Lights are evenly dispersed
- Berries and pine cones add a nice touch
- A sturdy ladder is needed to assemble and decorate the 12-foot version, which slows down assembly
- Red berries and pine cones are pretty, but they might limit decorating styles
All trees, especially if they’re slender, come with some added challenges because even a slight tilt to one side can make the tree look as though it’s about to topple. We were pleasantly surprised by this tree from Best Choice Products, which features a well-made four-point stand extending to the top section’s uppermost branch that keeps the tree pencil-straight and sturdy.
Assembly of the 12-foot version of this tree took about 45 minutes, with most of that time spent fluffing the individual branches to give the tree a realistic look. The tall tree comes in five sections, and we needed a ladder for assembly, fluffing, and decorating the tree’s upper portion.
This spruce tree is partially flocked, with the outer tips of the branches coated with white flocking to impart a delicate, snowy look without being overwhelming. It has 700 uniformly distributed warm white lights, which is more than enough to illuminate the tree. It also comes with clusters of red berries and pine cones, and we chose a red-and-white theme to expand on the natural colors of the tree.
Overall, this is a lovely tree, and its slender proportions allow it to be displayed in small nooks with high ceilings.
Get the Best Choice Products spruce tree (various sizes) starting at $99.99 at Amazon, The Home Depot, Best Choice Products, or Walmart.
Our Ratings: Setup: 4/5, Realism: 4/5, Stability: 3.5/5, Lighting: n/a, Disassembly and Storage: 5/5
- Height: 4, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 9, 10, 12, or 14 feet
- Tree type: Dunhill fir
- Lighting: Unlit
- Unlit tree allows the freedom to change lighting style from year to year
- Hinged branches automatically fold out into the proper position
- 7.5-foot version has 2,514 crush-resistant branch tips, which provide ample space for lights and ornaments
- Sturdy fold-flat base; sets up in seconds
- Assembly was time-consuming at 2.25 hours, most of which was spent positioning each branch tip
- PVC needles appear less realistic than PE needles
The National Tree Company unlit Dunhill fir makes an ideal palette for displaying your personal holiday style. The 7.5-foot version we tested offers 2,514 durable PVC branch tips to showcase your lights and ornaments year after year.
When this tree arrived for testing, it was packed in three sections along with its folding steel base. The hinged branches fell perfectly into place from their anchor point on the trunk, and we separated each branch and positioned all the tips. Assembly was easy but time-consuming, taking a little more than 2 hours at a rate of about 20 branch tips per minute. We really liked the full silhouette and the not-perfectly-manicured branch tip lengths.
The base on the 7.5-foot Dunhill fir measures 59 inches in diameter, and its outline from base to tip creates a natural appearance with a blend of longer and shorter branches to accommodate lights and ornaments of different sizes. The branch tips have a flat profile that very much resembles balsam or fir tips, although not as perfectly as polyethylene (PE) artificial tree foliage. The unlit Dunhill fir is sturdy, looks good, and has plenty of branch tips to decorate. We couldn’t ask for more.
Get the National Tree Company Dunhill fir tree (various sizes) starting at $56.56 at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or Michaels.
Our Ratings: Setup: 3/5, Realism: 4/5, Stability: 5/5, Lighting: 5/5, Disassembly and Storage: 5/5
- Height: 4.5, 6.5, or 7.5 feet
- Tree type: Aspen fir
- Lighting: Prelit
- Tree is prelit, so no strings of lights to deal with
- Tree comes in 3 sections for easy assembly
- Hinged design for easy assembly and easy storage
- Pokey “trunk” was hard to hold without getting splinters
- It’s necessary to connect each section of lights as the tree is assembled to keep track of where each section needs to plug in
- Tree’s trunk was rather stick-like and showed through the branches
- No dedicated top branch to support a topper
Those who prefer a realistic-looking tree will appreciate the Puleo International aspen fir’s natural appearance; the 7.5-foot tree we tested has sparse branches to give the tree an appealing, slightly imperfect look. Hinged branches make the tree very easy to put together, and once the tree’s three sections are assembled, it requires only a little fluffing and bending to enhance its appearance. The trunk is somewhat visible through the branches and looks like real wood, adding to the tree’s charm. However, we found the trunk material quite rough on our hands, so we would suggest having a pair of work gloves handy during setup and take down.
The branches are sturdy and will support heavy decorations or an abundance of ornaments for those who like to go all out. Although the lights on this tree are steady (no twinkling), there’s a foot pedal for easy access to turn them on and off. We think this tree could be improved with the inclusion of a strong central top branch, as we had to gather a handful of branches and bend them around our lightweight fabric topper to keep it in place. Even still, the topper wasn’t particularly steady, and we had to adjust it several times and wrap more branches around it to get a secure hold.
All in all, we were very pleased with this tree for its easy assembly and natural appearance. Disassembly is straightforward, and the tree fits back into the box with just a little maneuvering.
Get the Puleo International aspen fir tree (various sizes) starting at $105.90 at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Walmart, or Bed Bath & Beyond.
Our Ratings: Setup: 5/5, Realism: 4/5, Stability: 4/5, Lighting: 5/5, Disassembly and Storage: 5/5
- Height: 4.5, 6.5, 7.5, or 9 feet
- Tree type: Balsam fir
- Lighting: Prelit
- Tree was easy to assemble; didn’t need to refer to the instructions
- Realistic-looking branches and slim profile make the tree an elegant addition to a living room
- If a light burns out, the others stay lit
- Took a lot of manipulating to get a topper securely placed
- Lights don’t twinkle
- Not a full tree, so the fact that the “trunk” shows through the branches may be a turn-off to some
The Puleo International slim balsam fir tree is an elegant addition to a home’s holiday decor with its attractive slim profile and ample white lighting. The 9-foot tree we tested comes in four sections, and assembly was easy, even for someone who hadn’t assembled a tree before. The process took only a few minutes, and fluffing the branches and arranging them only added another 15 minutes. Once the branches were fluffed and the lights plugged in (the tree comes prelit with 800 clear lights), the tree was lovely on its own, even without decorations, and given the tree’s delicate appearance, we found that just a handful of lightweight glass ball ornaments was all it needed. However, the branches are sturdy enough to support heavier ornaments if desired.
We were a little disappointed to find that the lights didn’t twinkle, but the lights are plentiful, and the tree has a foot pedal to make it easy to turn the lights on and off. Adding a tree topper was tricky since there was no dedicated sturdy top branch for this purpose, and we had to wrap several branches around the topper to get it to stay in place without flopping over. Aside from this small inconvenience, we found the branches to be sturdy and natural-looking.
Taking the tree down and putting it back in its box was also a breeze. We removed the decorations and then disassembled it in only 15 minutes, and it was not difficult to fold the branches and fit the four sections neatly back into the box. We liked this tree for its tidy, narrow appearance, and we liked that it didn’t take up a lot of floor space like some of the larger trees we tested.
Get the Puleo International slim tree (various sizes) starting at $149 at Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Walmart, or Bed Bath & Beyond.
Our Ratings: Setup: 5/5, Realism: 4/5, Stability: 3.5/5, Lighting: 4/5, Disassembly and Storage: 5/5
- Height: 4.5, 6.5, 7.5, or 9 feet
- Tree type: Portland pine
- Lighting: Prelit
- Full, dense branches and varying types of needles provide a naturally pleasing appearance
- Ample flocking ensures a festive snowy white look for many holidays to come
- Sturdy build and solid base can withstand the flurry of busy households
- Warm white lights add a soothing glow similar to a fire
- Available in 4 sizes and white and multicolor lighting options to suit a variety of homes
- Incandescent bulbs won’t last quite as long as LED options
- Some users may find the release of excess flocking irritating to sinuses
This Puleo Portland pine pencil tree can make any space a festive winter wonderland, thanks to its ample, snowy white flocking. This extra-slender prelit tree easily fits into most cozy rooms with a narrow diameter of 16 to 32 inches and a weight of just 15 to 26 pounds, depending on height.
Because of the reasonable 6.5-foot size of our tester tree, it was extremely easy to put up and take down. Setup took 20 minutes, and taking it down took just 10 minutes. The only downside was the amount of flocking that flurried about during both processes. Once the tree was up, however, we appreciated its full, billowy branches—and even the festive flocking—which looked prettier in the warm white lights.
Better still, we were impressed at how sturdy this skinny little tree was, as it heartily withstood us shaking it and bumping into it. The Puleo Portland pine pencil tree is a solid tree for the price. It’s a great option for anyone looking to add a touch of Christmas cheer to a space with little room to spare.
Get the Puleo International pencil tree (various sizes) starting at $64.98 at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Walmart, Target, or Bed Bath & Beyond.
Our Ratings: Setup: 3/5, Realism: 3/5, Stability: 4/5, Lighting: 2/5, Disassembly and Storage: 4/5
- Height: 3, 4, or 5 feet
- Tree type: Hickory cedar
- Lighting: Prelit
- Slim in diameter but provides ample space and support for decorations
- String of lights remains lit even if some bulbs burn out
- Hinged branches make for easy setup and storage
- Branches are sharp, making for unpleasant fluffing; gloves may be beneficial
- Lighting isn’t evenly dispersed, leaving some spots bare
The size and shape of this tree were a pleasant surprise. While “slim” often means “small” for an artificial tree, the 5-foot version we tested fit into a tight space while offering plenty of surface area for decorations.
This tree came in three separate sections—plus a stand—packed inside a 3-foot-long box. Putting together the tree was quick, taking us just about 11 minutes to get the sections and stand out of the box and together. Shaping the tree, unfortunately, was a different story. While there isn’t as much to fluff on this tree as there is for larger options, the sharp PVC needles made the branches difficult to hold.
The prelit tree comes with 50 white LED lights, which we liked from certain angles, but from other angles, the tree looked bare and the lighting was uneven. The tree also lacks cable management, leaving a potentially tangled mess of power cords to snake through the branches instead of through the trunk.
The fully assembled tree definitely provided a slim form—maxing out at 24 inches in diameter—with a look that might not be for everyone. The branches look great individually, but they leave a lot of the small brown trunk exposed. Despite their slender appearance, the branches did hold their shape under the weight of large decorations.
Get the National Tree Company small tree (various sizes) starting at $29.66 at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Walmart, Target, Michaels, or National Tree Company.
Our Ratings: Setup: 5/5, Realism: 4/5, Stability: 5/5, Lighting: 4/5, Disassembly and Storage: 5/5
- Height: 5 or 6.5 feet
- Tree type: Pine
- Lighting: Prelit
- Assembles in under 15 minutes with minimal fluffing required
- Very full branches with hardly any center pole visible
- Real pine cones enhance the lifelike look
- White gloves for protecting hands during assembly are included
- Pine cones come loose with storage and may need reattachment
- Basic on/off switch for lighting
Martha has done it again: The TV personality known for her hostess and decorating skills has designed a lifelike artificial tree that looks good, even without any baubles or garland. We’re so pleased by the fullness of the Martha Stewart tree that we’re tempted to let the real pine cones, shiny red berries, and warm white lights do the heavy lifting this season.
The slim, prelit pine tree comes in two heights—5 feet and 6.5 feet—with a modest 200 or 450 incandescent lights nestled in the fluffed branches. While there are not as many lights as some other trees we tested, the multi-style tips on lush branches hide that fact well. Were we not directly comparing it to other prelit trees, we’d have never thought it had too few lights.
The best part about this tree? You can assemble, fluff, and light the tree in under 15 minutes. It’s a true time-saver for anyone with a busy holiday season because it requires next to no branch adjustment (although we appreciate that it comes with white gloves to protect your hands if you do have some extra fluffing to do after storing it a full year—thanks, Martha!).
All of the power runs through the pole of this evergreen, eliminating dangling power cords. Simply open the stand and click each of the three segments into one another, following the symbols on the pole. Then plug it into the nearest wall outlet and tap the on-off switch with your foot. The only thing that could take this to the next level would be a setting to make the lights twinkle.
Get the Martha Stewart tree (various sizes) starting at $198.14 at Amazon.
Our Ratings: Setup: 3/5, Realism: 5/5, Stability: 5/5, Lighting: n/a, Disassembly and Storage: 3/5
- Height: 4.5, 6, 7.5, or 9 feet
- Tree type: Pine
- Lighting: Unlit
- Even more stunningly beautiful in real life than in photos; one of the prettiest artificial trees we’ve ever seen
- Has a natural, snow-covered appearance that’s great for a wintry look
- Branches are strong and stable enough for heavy ornaments and decorations
- Heavy at over 50 pounds; may require 2 people to safely move
- Flocking makes a mess and may be irritating to the respiratory system
This stunning white-tipped tree from Best Choice Products comes in multiple sizes, and we tested the tallest version—a 9-foot tree that weighed almost 50 pounds. The tree came in three sections, plus a stand to hold it. The stand looked a little on the wimpy side, but once the tree was set up, the stand held it securely.
Assembling and fluffing the tree took nearly 2 hours, although we took a short eggnog break. The 9-foot version has over 2,000 branch tips, so it took a while to get it completely fluffed and looking good. We then added lights and put ornaments on. We even stuck a real birdhouse in the branches, and the branches and branch tips didn’t sag a bit.
The finished look of the Best Choice Products flocked tree is stunning—it was even more beautiful in our room than in the online photo. The branch shapes and configuration made it look natural, and the snow-like flocking added the perfect finishing touch. Still, it wasn’t an entirely positive experience because after we’d finished fluffing the tree, our clothing, hair, and skin were flocked as well, and we were coughing from inhaling flocking dust. Would we set this tree up again? Absolutely! We’ll just be wearing caps and dust masks. This truly is one of the prettiest artificial trees we’ve ever seen.
Get Best Choice Products flocked tree (various sizes) starting at $39.99 at Amazon, Walmart, Target, or Best Choice Products.
Our Ratings: Setup: 4/5, Realism: n/a, Stability: 2.5/5, Lighting: 2.5/5, Disassembly and Storage: 4/5
- Height: 6, 7, or 7.5 feet
- Tree type: White pine
- Lighting: Prelit
- Color and shape create a striking and unique holiday look
- Easy to set up, requiring less fluffing than other options we tested
- Includes a stand and has enough space underneath to stack plenty of presents
- Fluffing the branches leaves silver glitter everywhere
- Doesn’t support ornaments weighing more than about half a pound
Designed to resemble a pine tree in shape, this all-white tree is a statement-making alternative to traditional green holiday trees. The 7.5-foot model we set up has a 60-inch diameter at the base, 1,198 branch tips, and 500 LED lights. It came in three sections that we found easy to assemble. We followed standard assembly protocol—installing the lowest section first, then the middle, and finally the top. We fluffed as we went, starting at the bottom to ensure all the branch tips looked evenly dispersed.
One caveat: While this tree is pure white, the tips are covered in silver glitter that gets all over floors, clothing, and faces during the setup process. We learned, too late, that putting an old tarp or blanket down might have saved on vacuuming later.
The branch tips on this tree are relatively stable; we found they would support most lightweight ornaments, but they sagged a bit when we tried to hang ornaments heavier than 8 to 10 ounces. In addition, we’ve never had a prelit tree before, but we discovered the lights aren’t installed on the branches as we thought they would be. Instead, they’re just LED lights on cords wound around the branches. Knowing this, we would probably purchase an unlit tree next time and wind our own lights around the branches.
Still, this is a striking tree that commands attention in any room. We suggest putting it in a prominent spot where it can serve as a focal point for additional decorations.
Get the National Tree Company white tree (various sizes) starting at $185.99 at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or Walmart.
Our Ratings: Setup: 5/5, Realism: 5/5, Stability: 4/5, Lighting: 5/5, Disassembly and Storage: 4/5
- Height: 6.5, 7.5, 9, or 10 feet
- Tree type: Fraser fir
- Lighting: Prelit
- Proprietary flip technology makes for quick and easy setup in mere minutes
- 900 LED lights and a remote control; lighting is ample, even, and easy
- Offers a stunningly realistic look ideal for those who prefer a real tree
- Includes several helpful extras: gloves for tree fluffing, remote for lights, and storage bags
- Wheeled base makes it easy to move from room to room
- Very heavy at 74 pounds; best stored in the off-season near where it will be displayed
- Only the bottom-most branches are strong enough for weighty ornaments
Made for those who cherish the beauty of a real tree, this Balsam Hill Fraser fir offers a natural-looking aesthetic with molded polyethylene (PE) needles. Its abundance of LED lights accentuates the tree’s striking realism, and a remote control provides easy light adjustment. To top it off, Balsam Hill’s proprietary flip technology makes setup and takedown a breeze.
The ease of setup advertised for this tree was not just marketing hype: We were able to set up the tree in less than 10 minutes. Of course, fluffing (with the included gloves) added to the setup time, but once we had finished, we found this tree quite impressive. The 900 clear candlelight LEDs on our 7.5-foot test tree illuminated the tree’s ample foliage and pristinely lifelike needles with a perfect glow. (Note that the number of lights varies based on height and lighting type chosen.)
Thanks to its weighty “trunk,” this tree was also quite stable, standing up to all of our exaggerated pushes and bumps during decoration. While the tallest branch tip held a topper firmly in place, most of the branches were less stable at holding heavy ornaments, often sagging under the weight. Weighty ornaments fit best at the bottom of this tree, where longer, thicker branches add support.
Taking down this tree and putting the base and top in the included canvas storage bags took just 10 minutes. However, we found it best to store this tree on the same floor on which it will be displayed since moving this heavy tree up and down stairs is a cumbersome, two-person job.
Despite its minor downsides, this splurge-worthy tree truly offers a stunningly realistic look and a unique, time-saving setup.
Read our full review: Balsam Hill Fraser Fir Flip Tree
Get the Balsam Hill Fraser fir tree starting at $1,099 at Balsam Hill.
Our Ratings: Setup: 5/5, Realism: 4/5, Stability: 4/5, Lighting: 4/5, Disassembly and Storage: 5/5
- Height: 5.5, 7.5, or 9 feet
- Tree type: Pine
- Lighting: Prelit
- Other than miniature trees, this tree had the quickest setup of all the trees we tested
- Quality of design gives an at-a-glance appearance of a full tree
- Enables those with smaller spaces to have the look and feel of a more standard-size tree
- A few more branch tips would be nice to have to avoid needing to cover bare spots with decorations
We weren’t sure we’d like a half tree, but after setting up this 5.5-foot version from The Holiday Aisle, we were sold. This is one of the smallest trees we tested, but it turned out to be one of our favorites because it doesn’t look like only half a tree. It measures just 37 inches from side to side at its branch base and extends just 19 inches from the wall to the outer edge. Additionally, the tree has 250 warm yellow lights on cords prewound around its branches.
It took just 20 minutes to set up and fluff this alternative take on a Christmas tree. We positioned it on a small table and pushed it back toward the wall. The tree stood straight against the wall—it didn’t lean outward or sag to one side. One slight downside was that it could have come with more branch tips. Despite some creative fluffing, we still had a few areas that seemed sparse. We were able to camouflage these spots with decorations, however.
The nicest aspect is that this half-tree looks like an entire tree at a glance; it doesn’t look awkward or out of place. This half-tree could be just the ticket for those who like the look of a full tree but don’t have the space.
Get The Holiday Aisle Chapel pine tree starting at $199.99 at Wayfair.
Photo: Beth Cranston for Bob Vila
What to Consider When Choosing an Artificial Christmas Tree
When shopping for a Christmas tree, it’s easy to assume they all offer similar performance, but a number of factors affect their functionality. Keep reading to learn about several of the most important features to consider when choosing the most realistic artificial tree for your home.
Size and Shape
Artificial trees come in a wide range of sizes, from tiny tabletop models to towering options for homes with high ceilings. Measure the space before purchasing a tree to establish the right size for your home. Because the standard ceiling height in the United States is 8 feet, the most popular tree size is 7.5 feet. Artificial trees also vary in shape. Tall, thin trees typically work best for small spaces, while fuller trees often have a more realistic appearance.
Puleo says that “Consumers should first decide on the style tree that they are looking for, whether that’s realistic-looking versus extra fullness versus a designer look [with different colors, glitter and so on],” and goes on to say that the next decision should pertain to the tree’s height and diameter, such as a slim tree versus a wide tree.
Style and Material
Seemingly endless options are available with regard to style and shape. Most trees are designed to replicate the look of certain types of Christmas trees, such as a real evergreen tree like a blue spruce, balsam fir, Douglas fir, or Fraser fir. Material is the main consideration when manufacturers are constructing a convincing-looking artificial tree.
The two primary materials used to create faux needles are polyethylene (PE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). For both quality and realism, PE is the better choice, but trees made primarily with PE typically have a higher price point. Even in higher-end trees, PVC is often used to craft the inner branches that aren’t as visible. According to Puleo, artificial trees with a combination of soft PVC and molded PE branches are very realistic and now represent about 50 percent of the artificial tree market.
One of the primary advantages of artificial trees is that some of them come prelit, saving the installation of a string of lights. Most of the best Christmas lights use energy-efficient LED bulbs, which last for months or years before needing to be replaced. Puleo notes that “multifunction LED lights with color-changing different ‘movement’ options [twinkling, chasing] were introduced approximately 12 to 15 years ago and are now growing in popularity,”
For the best lighting effect, look for a tree that has at least 100 lights per foot of height and review how to put lights on a Christmas tree if adding your own. Some trees have white lights, while others feature vintage-style multicolored lights. Still others have the ability to change colors or introduce flashing lighting patterns with the push of a button.
Ease of Assembly and Disassembly
The larger the tree, the more challenging it can be to assemble, due primarily to the added weight of the sections and the height. Use a sturdy step stool or step ladder when necessary to assemble the upper sections of the tree.
Most of today’s trees come in manageable sections and feature a metal base designed to support the tree’s weight without tilting. Often, the manufacturer will label the sections, making it easier to assemble them in the correct order. If the sections aren’t labeled, fold out the bottom ring of branches and measure the diameter—the section with the largest diameter will go on the bottom, and so on. Adjusting the tightening bolts in the stand may be necessary to get the tree perfectly vertical, especially if you’re using one of the best rotating Christmas tree stands. It’s usually a good idea to get the lower section straight and vertical before adding another section.
Prelit trees will have plugs at the bottom and top of each connecting section where the strings of lights connect to one another. Plug these in when installing each section before adding the best Christmas decorations to the tree.
The next step is fluffing, which is vital to make the tree look its best. See how to fluff a tree in the FAQ section below.
Disassembling an artificial Christmas tree requires a simple reversal of the setup process. After removing all decorations, unplug light strands between sections and then remove the sections one at a time, starting at the top. It may be necessary for two people to do this job: one to hold the lower part of the tree in place while the other pulls the upper section out.
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila
While you now know more about your options, there may be a few lingering questions about how to use them. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Q. Do artificial Christmas trees come preassembled?
While some small trees come preassembled, most are shipped in multiple segments for easier storage.
Q. How do I fluff my artificial tree?
The most effective way is to fluff the branches at the same time you assemble the tree. Start at the inside of the lowest branches (those nearest the trunk) and fold the branch tips outward in a uniform manner. Fluff each layer of branches completely before moving on to the next layer of branches. After the tree is completely assembled and fluffed, step back and examine it. If you notice any bare spots, adjust the nearby branch tips to fill them in.
Q. How do I clean my artificial tree?
Working from top to bottom, use a soft-bristled brush or microfiber cloth to dust the branches.
Q. How do I store my artificial tree?
Lewis Puleo suggests investing in a Christmas tree storage bag and then stowing the tree in a dry place if possible.
Q. How do I make my artificial tree look more realistic?
When your artificial tree first comes out of the box, it might look a lot like a fake tree. Take time to fluff up the branches to make the tree appear fuller. More decorations tend to make a tree look more realistic, so feel free to go all out with baubles and ornaments.
Q. Are fake Christmas trees bad for the environment?
Not necessarily. According to PopSci, real trees come with their own issues. “Like any commodity, Christmas trees rack up an environmental toll, and not just because we use gas-guzzling helicopters and trucks to give them a lift. Fertilizer and pesticide use are the main culprits.” If you choose an artificial tree, focus on a tree that will last 6 or more years to avoid additional waste around the holidays. On the upside, choosing an artificial tree keeps a real tree from being harvested.
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