Does shopping for a tree leave you confused? We’ve got our tried and true tips for picking the perfect tree whether it’s artificial or real.
Artificial vs. Real Trees? Which is better?
It’s really up to you, there is no one option that is “better” than the other. This is really a question of your personal aesthetics. Modern artificial trees are pretty convincing in look and feel, yet there is also something magical about the smell and look of a real tree.
If you still can’t decide, consider your home’s storage space:
- If you have space to store it, an artificial tree is typically less maintenance because it doesn’t have to be watered.
- If you are short on space, a real tree is great because you get rid of it at the end of the holiday season. Note: real trees are more maintenance because they need regular watering to stay green and not turn into a fire hazard.
Think of a real tree as a giant bouquet of flowers,
no water = no longevity.
Start with the basics, know your numbers:
- How tall are the ceilings in the space where the Christmas tree will be displayed? Ideally, your tree should have at least a foot or two of space over the top of it. No one wants a smooshed angel.
- How wide is the area?
- Bring a tape measure with you to verify your selection. Don’t end up like the Griswold’s. 😅
- Trees on the lot are usually LARGER than you think. Trees bought online or in a box are often SMALLER than you think. (We’ll get into why below.)
How to choose an artificial tree:
- If shopping online, or by an unopened box, trees are often smaller than we think. They are measured from the tallest point on the tree, which is usually a long stick to hold the tree topper. I bought a 3′ tree online, and it seems much smaller than that in person, but when I measured it, it is exactly 3′ to the tip top, and that top stick is about 7″ on it’s own.
- Pre-lit trees are beautiful, but don’t count on it lasting forever. The lights on these go out as often as a string of lights would. However, they do make it much easier to concentrate on the fun parts of decorating, rather than untangling strings of lights. Just know at some point, you will probably need to supplement pre-lit trees with string lights.
- You can extend the life of the tree and lights by storing the tree in a cooler place like a closet, rather than a garage or attic.
- Keep the box. Follow breakdown and set up instructions for optimal performance.
- Look for tree options with LED lights, as they often have a longer shelf life and cost less to operate.
How to choose a real tree:
- Shop at a tree lot, where the trees have been sustainably harvested – ideally from a Christmas tree farm. Trees that are harvested properly, shaped, and cared for often last longer.
- Look for green needles. A healthy tree will have springy needles on somewhat flexible branches. If the needles immediately fall off and the branches are brittle, the tree is too dry.
- Be cautious with festive “colorful” trees: sometimes the vibrantly colored trees can be hiding imperfections or a withering tree.
- Remember: trees on the lot or farm will always LOOK smaller than they actually are because there is so much open space above and around them. Be sure to measure.
- Timing is everything: The trees are usually freshest and most maintained at the start of the holiday season. The longer trees are sitting on the lot (especially in the Florida heat) the more dried out they become.
Live tree care is pretty simple:
- If the x-mas tree lot has the service or if you are confident doing it yourself, cut an inch or so off of the trunk to assure the tree is drawing enough fresh water to sustain itself.
- Top off the water often, we do it daily – you’d be surprised how much water a tree drinks!
The best kind of stands for live trees:
After trying every kind of stand on the market, the ones that are a wide solid base are the best. (Like these options found on Amazon, shown above.) The water stays inside, the stands don’t tip, there’s no assembly required, and the screws make it possible to hold varying sizes of tree trunks. (Even uneven trunks.)
If you’re choosing between trees that have already been wrapped up:
Sometimes big box stores like Walmart sell trees that are already wrapped up. These are a little trickier to choose from, but:
- Inspect the top of the tree area to ensure it is full all they way up to the tallest point.
- Look for an even body of the package. If it sinks in on one side, that side is less full.
- Look at the trunk where it is cut, it should look fresh and light brown.
- Again, look for green needles. A healthy tree will have springy needles on somewhat flexible branches. If the needles immediately fall off and the branches are brittle, the tree is too dry.
- If there are ones sitting in water, and ones laying out on a fence – start with the ones in the water. They have been kept hydrated.
- When you unbundle your tree, don’t panic if it looks smooshed. It takes a little while for the branches to fall into place.
- Set the tree in it’s stand with water, unwrap and gently train the branches.
- Leave the tree to hydrate in the stand for an hour or longer before decorating. The tree should be settled by then.