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Buying a Christmas Tree

Buying a Christmas Tree

Buying a Christmas tree, sounds easy enough right? Not so easy. This post will cover some things to think about before you run out and purchase that fresh tree, or order online. When buying a Christmas tree, there are basically two types of trees - fresh and artificial. We've used both throughout the years. We tended to go with fresh trees when Carrie was young and then we opted for artificial for convenience and every few years, maybe went back to a fresh one again. So, what you do for this year, doesn't necessarily mean you have to use the same tree or do the same thing each year. Your tastes will change in trees, just like your decorating theme. Here's some pros and cons for fresh and artificial or faux trees.

Fresh Trees

  • Fresh trees can be a fire hazard. So be cautious and use some common sense. We will give you more tips on choosing a fresh tree in the post.
  • They smell so good. You don't get that with artificial. Sprays are just not the same.
  • Fresh trees are biodegradable. You can turn them into mulch, or throw in a lake (your own personal lake) for the fish to have breeding places.
  • Cutting your own fresh tree is a memorable experience for you and your kids or grandchildren.
  • Fresh trees have a fairly short lifespan, but if kept well watered, will last about four weeks.
  • Buying a fresh tree from a service club, or small family business is good for the community
  • Fresh trees are a bit limited in variety based on your location. Some species don't grow well in the south etc.
  • Flocked fresh trees can be expensive. Dryness will not be as noticeable with a flocked tree, so take care and keep it watered.
  • Trees can be "free" depending if you own property or know someone who will let you cut a fresh tree off theirs. Never assume it's okay to cut and never without permission.
  • Trees can be messy as they shed their needles
  • Fresh trees are not always perfectly shaped. Not saying this is a con! But sometimes there may not be sturdy branches where you want to hang a heavy ornament.

Artificial Trees

  • Artificial trees come in an abundance of styles, sizes, colors and materials.
  • Artificial trees have a price range from cheap to very expensive.
  • Artificial trees can be used year after year, saving on expense.
  • Artificial trees can stay up longer.
  • Artificial trees live forever...once you discard them. They are not really good candidates for recycling.
  • Artificial trees can be of the flocked style and newer techniques really make that flocking adhere so much better than years past.
  • Artificial trees may be better for persons with allergies.
  • Artificial trees are made out of PVC or PE. PVC trees (polyvinyl chloride) used to be the standard in the business. But now the more realistic tree is made of PE (Polyethylene). PE uses actual tree branches for molds. Many trees are a combination of both PVC and PE. But the more PE in the tree, the more realistic look it will have. Sometimes inner branches will be PVC and outer branches that show more will be PE. Yes, we learned this at the Allstate showroom in Atlanta. A 30 minute dissertation from a very knowledgeable salesman))) All from a simple question of what's the difference between PVC and PE? Live and learn.

Tree Shapes

Basically artificial trees come in three shapes: full, slim and pencil or sometimes called spiral or narrow. It's safer to look at the specifications of the tree i.e. diameter, than just the wording on the description. Another shape gaining in popularity is the flat back or wall tree. These trees are your typical Christmas shape, but a half tree. They take up much less space and fewer decorations. When buying a Christmas tree, you can even find the corner styled tree and let's not forget the upside down tree. Well, just between you and me, lets do forget the upside down tree! I've just never been able to get into that shape, though I'm sure some people love it. It's just not for me so I'm not really knocking it)) It may be a little more difficult to find a real tree in the shape you need. Trees from choose and cut farms are pruned and shaped. If you visit early enough, or shop with the same seller each year, they might trim you up a slimmer tree if that's what you are looking for. To look at Christmas tree shapes, we will use a 7' tree as an example.

Full or Traditional Shape

A full or traditional shaped Christmas tree has a gradual slope.
full shape christmas tree, traditional christmas tree Full Shape 7' Ht 56" Diameter (image Home Depot)


A slim tree has a more narrow slope.
christmas tree, fir tree, spruce tree Slim Shape 7" Ht 44" Diameter (image Home Depot)

Pencil, Narrow or Spiral

A pencil tree, sometimes called narrow, spiral or skinny, is just that. Very slender and takes up less floor space. They are available in several heights.
pencil tree, spiral christmas tree, narrow christmas tree, slim tree Pencil Tree 7' Ht 29" Diameter (image Home Depot)

What Size Christmas Tree Should I Buy?

The size and style of the tree you purchase depends on your available space whether you're buying a fresh or artificial Christmas tree. Think about places in your home you may want to have a tree and determine if you have enough space by measuring. Typically you need at least 6" to 12" clearance from top of the tree to the ceiling. Remember to take in account a tree topper if you use one and the sort of stand. 8' Ceilings - 7' - 7.5' will give you a minimum of 6" to 12" clearance. 9' Ceilings - 7.5' tree works well and will give you more room for a topper. You should have a clearance of about 12" to 1.5' 10' Ceilings - A 9' tree will give you about 12" clearance. The 9' tree works well with 10' and 11' ceilings. 12' - 14' Ceilings - Choose a tree from 10' to 12' Remember the taller the tree, the larger the base width. Large homes with tall foyers or commercial spaces can accommodate larger trees of course. This post is written with the homeowner in mind.

Tips to Keep In Mind

Once you have your tree in position, you need about 3" clearance from the wall and 6" to 12" around the tree to accommodate a tree skirt. You need space to walk around the tree without having pets or people swipe by the tree when passing. When buying a Christmas tree in a showroom for instance, trees may look "like they would fit" in your home. This is not necessarily the case. For example, Carrie purchased this 10" full size tree (image below) from a showroom and thought it was perfect for the curved staircase in her foyer. Once the tree was in the house and limbs let down, it covered the complete width of the foyer! 10 ft christmas tree The base of the tree measured about 7' Needless to say, we had not measured or looked at the dimensions in the showroom, and just gauged the fit by the height. Wrong! Now we know to measure, measure, measure. She moved the tree into the corner of the living area and moved furniture out of the way. You can't tell it in the photo, but a side door was blocked off completely during the holidays. Remember when purchasing a really tall tree, you have to have a ladder to decorate. flocked christmas tree

How Big is a Fresh Tree?

Well, that's a good question! Trees don't necessarily grow to be perfect sizes, but they are trimmed and shaped to fit in most homes. If you're buying a Christmas tree at a choose and cut farm, or from a fresh Christmas tree stand, take a tape measure! Some varieties of evergreens grow slim and are suitable for Christmas trees. You may find this type of evergreen at a nursery. Norfolk pine is an example of a nursery tree that lends itself to a few decorations. Sometimes the trees are bound with roping so it may not be possible to measure, but the owner can probably give you an idea. Remember too, that once you remove the binding on a tree, the limbs will spread out more as they adjust to room temperature. On average, some of your typical fresh trees for a home will fit in this category: 6-7' tree may be 3-4' wide 8' - 9' may be 4-5' wide Again, the taller the tree, the larger the base and the larger the stump. It's a good idea to take your tree stand with you when you pick out the tree.

How to Pick Out a Fresh Tree

fresh christmas tree


Look for fresh needles. Shake the tree. Expect a few needles to fall out, but if there is a lot of shedding, pass on the tree. You can also put your hand in the tree and pull gently toward you on the branches. Needles should not come off. If you have small children in the home, you might want to choose a pine or fir tree since they have softer needles.


Color of the tree can be an indicator of freshness. A fresh tree should be deep, rich green, whereas a not so fresh tree may be dull looking. Also remember that many fresh trees are sprayed with green color and that would mask the freshness by looking at color alone. We discarded a fresh tree one time and for the life of me.....that tree laid out in the woods behind our house and was green until spring! That was before I knew that some farms spray their trees ask.


The tree stump should be a little sticky from sap. No matter how fresh the tree looks, it's always a good idea to have at least 1/2' inch trimmed off the trunk before you put it in the stand. A freshly trimmed trunk will allow the tree to soak up more water. Keep water in the stand! Don't let your tree dry out. For the first few days, you may need to add water more than one or two time to the stand. Again, take you stand with you or purchase one from the tree farm as you buy your tree. Most workers will be happy to trim the trunk for you and secure it in the stand. Be careful when mounting on your car or truck with a stand on. If the tree could be delivered to your home....take advantage of that. Keep your tree fresh as possible by positioning away from a heat source.

Flocked or Not

flocked christmas tree Flocking on a tree is a matter of preference. Personally, it's my favorite. Flocked trees have a fresh, cool feel to them and here in the south where we have so little snow, it's fun to have make believe snow for Christmas. Flocked trees are messier whether they be fresh or artificial. Fresh flocked trees can be purchased on tree lots and farms where the flocking is usually done on site. But if you want a flocked tree, you may need to order it ahead of time. Flocked trees usually are more expensive too. The flocking material is safe. It's made of a paper pulp, moistened and has other ingredients like fire retardant, sparkle etc. It's sprayed on with a professional machine. You can buy flocking kits and DIY, but that's a project best left to the professionals. A flocked fresh tree still has to have water! Artificial flocked trees are beautiful as well. When choosing an artificial flocked tree, test the branches. Pull gently on the branch toward you. If the flocking comes off in handfuls, pass on it. All flocked trees will shed some, but test them. There is a great amount of difference in trees.


Hope this post has helped answer some questions you might how when buying a Christmas tree. You may now be asking more questions! How many lights does my tree need? How much garland for my tree? How may decorations for my tree? How do I store my tree? Well we're going to cover that! Stay tuned for the next blog post. While we're researching the next post, browse through some of the decorated Christmas trees for ideas and inspirations from our blog. Here's some links: Buffalo Check Cozy Cabin Decor Black and White Christmas Decorations Peppermint and Gingerbread Tree Candyland Christmas Tree Faith Based Christmas Tree * Disclosure: (Jeannie Pence) The Trendy Tree blog and social media post may generate some income (Jeannie Pence) through affiliate links, sponsored post or general advertising. Trendy Tree only works with companies we trust and personally use. An affiliate link to a company or product may result in a small commission based on a click through or referral fee that is paid by the seller. The amount is not added to your expense. It is a form of advertising.
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