12 Best Types of Christmas Trees

Christmas Trees

The Spruce

To some families, Christmas just isn't complete without a freshly-cut live tree, and there are plenty of varieties to choose from. Maybe you're a big fan of the Douglas fir, or you're attracted to the silver-tinged needles of the blue spruce. Scotch pine trees may be easily harvested by permit from your surrounding woods. Or, white fir may be the pick of your local tree lot.

All of these evergreens—fir (Abies), pine (Pinus), and spruce (Picea)—lend different characteristics suitable for holiday decoration. You just need to know what you're looking for. To help, we break down the features of some of the most popular Christmas tree picks so you can choose the variety that best suits your seasonal decor.

Here are 12 types of Christmas trees to welcome into your living room:

Warning

Fir, pine, and spruce needles contain a mildly toxic substance that can cause a reaction when ingested.

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Watch Now: Tips for Selecting the Best Christmas Tree

  • 01 of 12

    Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri)

    Fraser fir green foliage or Abies fraseri
    ANGHI / Getty Images

    The Fraser fir is considered the perfect holiday tree by many. It boasts attractive 1-inch needles that are bright green and soft to the touch, making it the ideal varietal for families with pets or young children. The firm, hearty branches of the Fraser fir are perfectly spaced, allowing all your favorite ornaments to hang independently and catch the eye.

    Selecting the perfect Fraser fir tree is easy, as this varietal tends to grow in near-perfect triangles and is stunning from any angle. When watered daily, Fraser firs will retain their scent and needles throughout the holiday season

    • Native Area: Southeastern North America
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 7
    • Height: 60 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • 02 of 12

    Noble Fir (Abies procera)

    New young shoots of Abies procera or Noble fir
    Meindert van der Haven / Getty Images

    Noble firs, another beloved holiday species, feature deep blue-green needles and cones that showcase their trademarked spikey bracts. In nature, noble firs are the largest varietals (sometimes reaching 260 feet tall), making them a great option for those looking for a tall tree to place in an office building or in a living room with a cathedral ceiling. The boughs of the noble fir are often made into fresh wreaths, due to the tree's sturdy, but flexible, branches.

    • Native Area: Northwestern United States
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 6
    • Height: up to 260 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun or part shade
  • 03 of 12

    Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)

    Branches of the Colorado blue spruce
    rootstocks / Getty Images

    The Colorado blue spruce tree (the state tree of Colorado) is characterized by its pyramidal shape and strong limbs, which allow it to hold heavy ornaments. The blue spruce is known for its signature blue foliage (that also appears silvery in certain lights) and thin, pointy needles. Be warned—the needles of the Colorado blue spruce are sharp, so if you have grand plans to decorate your tree, wear gloves while doing so.

    • Native Area: Rocky Mountains of North America
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 7
    • Height: up to 70 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 04 of 12

    Grand Fir (Abies grandis)

    Grand Fir Close-up
    Gerardo Martinez Cons / Getty Images

    The Grand fir tree has a glossy dark green color with needles that are 1 to 2 inches long. Its needles and branches are soft to the touch, making this tree more decorative on its own, rather than draped with heavy ornaments. Grand fir trees are also known for their delicious fragrance—a combination of the traditional "Christmas tree" scent and a citrus smell. In fact, Native Americans utilized Grand fir for its aromatic properties, often bringing boughs inside their homes to use as an air freshener or to ward off illness. Today, many families enjoy the scent of the Grand fir in their homes throughout their holidays.

    • Native Area: Northwestern United States
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 6
    • Height: Up to 200 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full sun
    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

    A close-up of a Balsam fir
    GeoStock/Getty Images

    The balsam fir is another top pick. Characterized by its soft dark green needles, this tree is native to the northernmost part of the United States, but is often trucked in from farms in Canada to sell during Christmas time. The balsam fir bears flat needles and branches, which makes it a common inclusion in wreaths and holiday garlands. Make sure to keep your balsam fir (and other varieties) away from your radiator or other home heating source, as its branches will dry out prematurely.

    • Native Area: Northwestern United States and Canada
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 5
    • Height: 50 to 60 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 06 of 12

    White Fir (Abies concolor)

    Foliage of White fir Abies concolor. Abies concolor is a fir with long, silvery needles. They are soft to touch.
    Meindert van der Haven / Getty Images

    Known for its white or sometimes blue-green needles, the white fir tree (also called the concolor fir tree) is among the hardiest varietals of holiday trees. Its inch-long needles curve upward on the branch, giving the tree a distinct cone shape. White fir trees are pleasantly scented, emitting a lemon smell when their branches or needles are crushed. White fir can withstand more neglect than other Christmas tree options, so it's a great choice for families who may be traveling during the holiday season, and therefore, unable to water their tree on a regular schedule.

    • Native Area: Western North America
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
    • Height: 30 to 50 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 07 of 12

    Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

    A close-up of an eastern white pine
    S. Rae/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The Eastern white pine tree is most unique, with long, thin needles that grow in bunches and can reach up to five inches in length. Branches from the Eastern white pine are often used in garlands, wreaths, and centerpieces, due to their long, feathery appearance. The branches of the Eastern white pine are not as sturdy as those of its other Christmas tree counterparts. So, use lightweight garlands, paper chains, or felt ornaments if you choose this beautiful tree as your holiday decoration.

    • Native Area: Northeastern United States and Canada
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Height: 20 to 40 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 08 of 12

    Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

    Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga Menziesii)
    dentdelion / Getty Images

    The Douglas fir is another quintessential Christmas tree with soft, shiny green needles. It's one of the densest of the bunch, so be careful in your selection, as some trees may be too tight to decorate properly. Still, the "Doug fir" is a popular varietal for holiday revelers, especially due to its widespread availability and budget-friendly price point. Douglas fir trees don't last as long as other types of Christmas trees, so choose a freshly cut tree and plan on displaying it for only two weeks, max.

    • Native Area: Western North America
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 6
    • Height: Up to 250 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Norway Spruce (Picea abies)

    New foliage on Picea abies spruce tree
    HHelene / Getty Images

    The Norway spruce tree has earned itself the nickname "The Holiday Spruce," as its Christmas roots date back to 16th century Germany. It is also often the varietal chosen for display at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. This widely available Christmas tree boasts firm branches with bright green needles, yet it's very difficult to keep alive and should only be purchased the week before Christmas. Once cut, the Norway spruce should be watered consistently—at least daily—in order to keep it fresh.

    • Native Area: Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 7
    • Height: 40 to 60 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 10 of 12

    Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

    Scots pine tree
    BPHOTO / Getty Images

    Also known as "Scots fir," this Christmas tree varietal initially gained popularity in Great Britain. This distinct pine tree boasts bright green needles which grow around a central branch, and a signature red bark, making it an eye-catching pick for your holiday decor. Definitely wear gloves when cutting down and decorating your Scotch pine tree—its needles are as sharp as pins. Still, the Scotch pine is hearty and rarely drops its needles, allowing the tree to tolerate shipping to your local tree stand.

    • Native Area: Northern Europe and Asia
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 9
    • Height: Up to 60 feet tall in the wild
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 11 of 12

    Leyland Cypress (Cupressus × leylandii)

    Leyland Cypress Branches
    CC BY-2.0/Flickr/latteda

    Leyland cypress is a very popular choice for the southeastern U.S. The grayish-green needles are soft, with very little scent, no sap, and the tree does not produce pollen. These features make it a good choice for people with allergies. Few needles are dropped until long after the holiday season.

    • Native Area: Cultivated hybrid; parents are North American natives
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • 12 of 12

    White Spruce (Picea glauca)

    White spruce branch
    varbenov / Getty Images

    The white spruce is very similar in appearance and characteristics to the Colorado blue spruce. This pretty, bluish green native of the Northern U.S. holds it's needles well, but they have an unpleasant odor when crushed, so don't handle the tree after it is decorated. The stiff branches and needles hold your ornaments secure.

    • Native Area: Canada, northern U.S.
    • USDA Growing Zones: 2–6
    • Height: 40–60 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full, Partial

Tip

To preserve its longevity, always make a 1-inch cut straight across the base of your Christmas tree's trunk before placing in water. This gets rid of any dried resin and assures proper water absorption.

Whether you're purchasing your Christmas tree, or cutting down your own, several evergreen varieties will perfectly suit your holiday decor needs. Just make sure to trim your tree according to its unique characteristics, and water it daily, so that will remain vibrant throughout the holiday season.

Article Sources
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  1. Deck the Paws: Ensuring a Pet-Safe Holiday Home. Texas A & M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.