The Best Christmas Tree Varieties

By Wednesday, March 2, 2022 0
decorated Christmas tree in living room

Christmas trees have been a festive tradition around the world since the 1400s[i], and we’ve used many different species of evergreens over the years. For example, here in the UK, our traditionally used Christmas tree is the Norway Spruce after it was imported by Prince Albert in 1840[ii]. Since then, we’ve used many different real Christmas tree varieties to celebrate the festive season. To help you choose from all these types of Christmas trees, here are our picks for the best real Christmas tree varieties and why they may be just what you’re looking for.

Nordmann Fir (Abies Nordmanniana)

a nordmann fir tree, one of the real Christmas tree varieties

Child/Pet Friendly: 5/5

Needle Retention: 5/5

Overall Rating: 5/5

The Nordmann Fir is a tough, triangular-shaped tree that holds onto its needles extremely well, which is partly why it has become the most popular real Christmas tree variety in the UK[iii]. The Nordmann is an excellent choice for families, providing a broad base with room enough for plenty of presents. Its thick needles are soft rather than sharp and have that coveted evergreen colour that will last all through the festive season due to this fir’s needle retention. Because of this, a Nordmann fir can be positioned closer to heat sources, such as radiators and open fires, without the risk of falling needles catching flame.

 However, although the Nordmann may sometimes give off a fresh, citrus smell, the fragrance is not as strong as other real Christmas tree varieties and may go undetected. As well as this, its slower growth rate makes it more expensive than different types of Christmas trees.  

Pros:

  1. Soft needles
  2. Good needle retention
  3. Wide base

Cons:

  1. More expensive
  2. Little to no fragrance

Norway Spruce (Picea Abies)

a norway spruce tree, one of the real Christmas tree varieties

Child/Pet Friendly: 3/5

Needle Retention: 2/5

Overall Rating: 3/5

The Norway Spruce is the traditional Victorian Christmas tree that has remained a staple in many British households for years and now stands as the Nordmann Fir’s biggest competition. Also, it is a tradition for Oslo to send a Norway Spruce to the UK every year as thanks for our country helping to defend Norway in the Second World War[iv], which always stands in Trafalgar Square. With a distinctive pyramid shape, thin green needles, and a broad base, this traditional Christmas tree is ideal for holding all your decorations as well as your presents. It is also the tree you most likely think of when discussing the Christmas tree smell. Its fresh pine fragrance, often with a hint of citrus, is rich, distinctive and powerful enough to fill a room quickly.

Furthermore, Norway Spruces are versatile enough to be grown in various conditions, meaning they are more readily available throughout Europe than other Christmas tree varieties. But, once it has been cut, the Norway Spruce is particularly susceptible to heat. Because of this, you must keep it far away from heat sources; otherwise, it will lose needles and dry out quickly. Also, the traditional Christmas tree’s needle retention isn’t as good as other varieties, and its needles are spiky enough to hurt young children and pets.

Pros:

  1. Affordable
  2. Fragrant smell
  3. Bushy shape ideal for decorating

Cons:

  1. Doesn’t live well in warm environments
  2. Low needle retention
  3. Spiky needles

Balsam Fir (Abies Balsamea Miller)

a balsam fir tree, one of the real Christmas tree varieties

Child/Pet Friendly: 4/5

Needle Retention: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4/5

A slightly unusual variety, the Balsam Fir is native to Canada and a somewhat rare tree in the UK; you can only get it at a selection of Christmas tree farms around Essex and Leicestershire. However, its long-lasting needles, festive scent and dense pyramid shape definitely make it worthy of consideration. The Balsam Fir is one of America’s favourite Christmas tree varieties because its tightly packed branches, rich green needles and long spire-like top make it an attractive tree with or without decorations. Also, it is available in a range of sizes that can fit comfortably into any home. 

These trees are slow-growing, reaching a maximum of 7 feet in about 10 years. [v] Although this makes them a little more expensive than some of their fast-growing counterparts, it also means that the cut tree will last longer if properly maintained. To maintain a Balsam Fir tree, ensure that you buy the freshest one you can and keep it in water in a cool spot away from heat sources.  

A young Balsam Fir tree usually has sticky resin on the bark, providing the sweet, rich fragrance you’ll want in your house throughout the festive period. However, older trees have very little fragrance, so every tree doesn’t guarantee the scent. Also, the Balsam Fir is durable with good needle retention, making it a strong contender for child and pet-friendly Christmas tree varieties.

Pros:

  1. Soft needles
  2. Good needle retention
  3. Durable

Cons:

  1. Expensive
  2. Harder to get
  3. Not as strong fragrance in comparison to other varieties

Fraser Fir (Abies Fraseri)

a fraser fir tree, one of the real Christmas tree varieties

Child/Pet Friendly: 5/5

Needle Retention: 5/5

Overall Rating: 5/5

Just ahead of its relative, the Balsam Fir, the Fraser Fir currently stands as the best-selling Christmas tree in America[vi]. However, the Fraser Fir is a little easier to get hold of in the UK than the Balsam, with more farms across the country growing it annually. The Fraser’s sturdy limbs and dark green needles are perfect for providing the traditional homely Christmas card image and look stunning as a backdrop for twinkling Christmas lights and tinsel. Also, this fir tree is perfect for family households, with soft, durable needles that won’t fall off easily.

One of the most coveted features of the Fraser is its fragrant scent. The Fraser has one of the strongest festive fragrances of all the real Christmas tree varieties, emitting a lovely pine scent. But, to maintain the scent for longer, it’s essential to keep the Fraser Fir in water that is topped up regularly. This will stop it from drying out, which can make it lose its scent and drop its needles. There are plenty of ways to keep a real Christmas tree alive for longer, and, if properly cared for, a Fraser Fir can last six weeks or longer[vii], making it one of the longest-lasting real Christmas tree varieties.

However, the main downfall of a Fraser Fir for many is its compactness. Usually, the branches are packed too close together to allow large decorations to hang well, and the tree itself is often quite short in height. Although this makes it a good tree for smaller homes, those with larger families may be looking for something larger than they are able to decorate properly.

Pros:

  1. Strong fragrance
  2. Durable
  3. Long-lasting

Cons:

  1. Compacted branches
  2. Costly

Serbian Spruce (Picea Omorika)

a serbian spruce tree, one of the real Christmas tree varieties

Child/Pet Friendly: 5/5

Needle Retention: 3/5

Overall Rating: 4/5

The Serbian Spruce is a favourite among smaller home owners or those looking to decorate porches and patios because of its slender shape and slightly drooping branches. Its needles are similar to the Norway Spruce, but are flatter and softer, with white undersides that almost lead to the illusion of snow. Also, its needle retention is okay for a weaker tree, with branches well-spaced out to allow plenty of room for decoration. However, this Spruce’s needle retention rate can differ depending on the age, so its best to get one of these trees in mid to late December. This will reduce the amount of needle drop before Christmas and ensure that your tree will look its best for the big day. Furthermore, a Serbian Spruce is a very fragrant tree, with a pine scent to rival the Fraser Fir, albeit not as strong.

Unfortunately, Serbian Spruces are more delicate than other trees, so they can’t hold large decorations well. Also, depending on where you buy, a Serbian Spruce can be expensive. They are slow-growing trees and aren’t grown as extensively as other varieties, so make sure to shop around and find the best deal.

Pros:

  1. Fit in small spaces
  2. Well-spaced branches
  3. Fragrant

Cons:

  1. Weaker needle retention
  2. Weaker branches
  3. Can be expensive

Artificial Christmas Trees

an artificial Christmas tree

Real Christmas trees can last up to four or five weeks[viii], though this depends on the type of tree, how well it is cared for, where it is kept and its health when cut. To decrease long term costs, reduce maintenance needs and keep children and pets out of harm’s way through the festive season, consider investing in an artificial Christmas tree. With an appearance deceptive enough to trick all your visitors and longevity guaranteed for several years, artificial Christmas trees look as real as freshly cut trees with fullness and sturdiness that they will not lose over the season. Also, you can reuse an artificial Christmas tree each year. Artificial Christmas trees usually last an average of 10 years[ix], making them a worthy investment that will quickly become part of a new family Christmas tradition that everyone will look forward to.

Choosing Your Christmas Tree

All types of Christmas trees have their pros and cons, so you should consider what is important to you and your family when buying. Once you’ve examined all the factors, you can bring in a festive centrepiece you know everyone will love this year.

What are your favourite types of Christmas tree? Let us know!  

Sources


  [i] https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/trees.shtml

[ii] https://www.historytoday.com/archive/history-matters/first-christmas-tree

[iii] https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/christmas/christmas-countdown/g24520658/real-christmas-tree/

[iv] https://www.visitnorway.com/typically-norwegian/christmas/the-trafalgar-square-christmas-tree/

[v] https://sendmeachristmastree.co.uk/blog/balsam-fir-tree-guide/

[vi] https://www.melindamyers.com/audio-video/melindas-garden-moment-audio-tips/houseplants-holiday-plants-cut-flowers/fraser-fir-the-number-one-selling-christmas-tree

[vii] https://www.realhomes.com/advice/how-long-does-a-real-christmas-tree-last

[viii] https://www.skh.com/thedirt/how-to-make-a-christmas-tree-last/

[ix] https://www.nbcnews.com/select/shopping/best-artificial-christmas-trees-ncna1284016 

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