Artificial decorated trees may be popular, but there's nothing like a real Christmas tree for tradition, beauty and fragrance. This year, whether you decide to select your favorite live tree from a local lot or cut your own from a tree farm, here are recommendations from the National Christmas Tree Association to help you take home the right variety.
If you're looking for something long lasting with little needle drop, try a white spruce. However, the NCTA describes the needles as having a bad aroma when crushed. That is also true for the Colorado blue spruce, according to the NCTA.
Want that perfect holiday fragrance? The Douglas fir and balsam fir both have a pleasant scent, according to the NCTA, with long-lasting color, pleasant shape, and good needle retention. The Douglas fir is said to be one of the top selling species in the U.S.
The Noble fir and white spruce both have sturdy branches widely spaced for best large ornament visibility.
For upturned branches, short needles with good retention, pleasant scent, and dark blue-green color, the NCTA suggests the Fraser fir. For medium length upturned needles, try a noble fir.
For long, soft needles on a full, bushy tree, go for a white pine, although it isn't known for lasting fragrance. It's considered better for smaller ornaments due to its density and small branches.
White pines have a soft green color; Douglas fir and Colorado blue spruce are the best trees for bluish green needles.
Want a tree that is more sustainable than some others? The bright green Scotch (or Scots) pine's approximately one-inch needles "don't even fall when they're dry, providing excellent needle retention. ... A common Christmas tree in the U.S., the Scotch pine has an excellent survival rate, is easy to replant, has great keepability and will remain fresh throughout the holiday season," says the NCTA.
Allergic to tree sap? Consider the Leyland Cypress, "the most popular Christmas tree in the southeast."
Something for everyone? For a balanced, nicely shaped deep green tree, with branches that are neither too close nor too far apart, consider the noble fir. "These needles turn upward, exposing the lower branches. Known for its beauty, the noble fir has a long life, and its stiff branches make it a good tree for heavy ornaments, as well as providing excellent greenery for wreaths and garland."
Whatever live tree you purchase, says Better Homes & Gardens, scrub last year's tree stand with a dilute bleach solution and rinse prior to putting the new tree up; use a sharp saw to cut an inch off the trunk base to remove the sappy seal and allow for good water uptake; remove any bottom tree branches that will prevent the trunk from sliding into the stand; place the tree in the stand, level it, then fill and refill the stand reservoir with warm water as often as needed to keep the water level high.
Then, place it away from heat vents and remember to turn off the tree lights when you leave the room.
After the holidays, give a little back to Mother Nature by removing all ornaments, especially cords, ties, tinsel and anything else synthetic, then taking your fully biodegradable tree outdoors and propping it up somewhere out of the wind to be a wildlife perch and provide cover during windy, wet winter weather. Make a family project out of hanging peanut-buttered pine cones on the tree and enjoy the view.