When it comes to holiday décor, the tree is the star attraction. Consequently, there’s a lot of pressure to find the best tree and keep it in festive shape.
It’s not easy. From live trees to artificial ones, there is a staggering array of shapes and sizes. These steps will help you find the perfect specimen.
STEP 1 – MEASURE YOUR SPACE
Both real and artificial trees can take up significant real estate in your home. Reach for your ruler and scope out the space.
- Avoid areas with a heating vent or radiator, which will dry out a live tree.
- Determine the height as well as the width of the intended section.
- Measure the tree stand and any tree topper. Add these measurements to the height of the prospective tree to be sure nothing scrapes the ceiling.
STEP 2 – CONSIDER THE PROS AND CONS OF REAL AND FAUX TREES
Depending on where you live or any allergies, you may need an artificial tree. But if you’re waffling, here are pluses and minuses of each.
REAL TREE ADVANTAGES
- The experience. The hunt for a live tree is the classic Christmas outing.
- The scent. “Fresh cut trees will make your home smell amazing for weeks,” said Shelby DeVore, a former agriculture teacher and the founder of the educational website Farminence.
- Sustainability. Most tree farms are family-owned and eco-friendly, DeVore says. Growing trees pull harmful greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
REAL TREE DRAWBACKS
- A large carbon footprint. Live trees purchased in parking lots are often shipped in from outside the area. “The environmental benefit is often negated,” maintains David Cusick, chief strategy officer for House Method, a website that provides expert guides, reviews, and resources to homeowners.
- The maintenance. Neglect the tree, and you’ll wind up with a carpet of needles and ornaments dangling from bare branches.
ARTIFICIAL TREE ADVANTAGES
- They’re reusable. An artificial tree is an investment that, on average, lasts up to five years. “It’s worth spending more for something that can last 10-plus years,” notes Harman.
- The variety. Artificial trees come in a variety of shapes for difficult spaces. “There are narrow models for slim rooms and trees designed to stand against a wall,” Harman says.
- Affixed lighting. Putting up a tree is a piece of cake when the lights are already on it. Harman recommends LED lights with color-changing options.
ARTIFICIAL TREE DRAWBACKS
- They’re artificial. Faux trees have come a long way, but they may still look fake if they’re not a high-quality product.
- No scent.
- Landfill longevity. An artificial tree has staying power in the dump.
STEP 4 – CHOOSE WISELY
If you’re buying a real tree, look for the following:
- A scent that appeals to the entire family. Crush a few needles between your fingers and take a whiff.
- Sturdy branches. “Figurines and heavy ornaments can pull the branches down on some trees,” DeVore notes.
- Fresh needles. “Pull the branches toward you and see if the needles stay intact,” Cusick suggests. Make sure their color is bright and healthy.
If you’re going faux, find these features:
- A realistic look. “We can all identify a cheap, fake fir,” Cusick maintains. If possible, view the tree in person.
- Molded branches and color variations. In the past, artificial trees had fake branches or plastic. Those on Balsam Hill’s Fraser Fir boast needles with silvery undersides.
- Lots of lights. “A quality artificial tree should have at least 100 lights per foot,” Harman says. Buyers who like many lights may prefer a light-free tree so they can string to their heart’s content. (A bonus: Light-free trees are usually less expensive.)
STEP 5 – CARE FOR YOUR TREE
If you choose a live tree, begin caring for it immediately.
- Cut off any netting and let the limbs settle down overnight.
- To make room for presents, trim away dead or live limbs up to an inch from the bottom.
- Place the tree in a stand with water.
- Keep a pitcher handy to fill the stand with water quickly. “Check the level once a day and top it off as needed,” DeVore says.
When the holidays are over, carefully pack your artificial tree for next year. Have a live tree? Use it for compost or mulch. Or, see if a local organization can use it to help stop shore erosion.
Real trees provide habitat for wildlife in the woods or shelter for fish in a pond or lake. DeVore says, “It’s the responsible, environmentally friendly, and sustainable choice.”