Christmas Tree Choice Guide


Choosing Made Easy With This Evergreen Guide

fresh Christmas tree

Pretty evergreen trees like the Fraser fir are part of our holiday decor.

Which are the most popular? It depends on where you live, but folks from all over voted in a poll that compiled a list of the favorites. Here in Ohio, Fraser fir, Canaan fir, Douglas fir, Pine – both Scotch and sheared White, are all very popular and widely available as cut trees. For trees you can plant, the pine and the Norway spruce rule what is offered.

The list as compiled through a poll taken at

‘Tis the season! Whether you are planning to plant a live Christmas tree or buy a freshly cut one for your holiday festivities, here is a short guide for choosing a Christmas tree.
  1. Fraser fir
  2. Douglas fir
  3. Balsam fir
  4. Colorado Blue spruce
  5. Scots pine
  6. White spruce
  7. Eastern White pine
  8. Concolor fir
  9. Noble fir

Trees may be favored and available by region including the Eastern red cedar and Virgina Pine for the South


Descriptions To Help Choose Your Tree

Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri)

Fraser firThis native Southern fir has small tight needles with a frosted reverse; dark green above; 1/2 to 1 inch long. It is fragrant and grows in a pleasing pyramidal shape that makes it perfect for Christmas trees, with good needle retention when cut. In nature it is found above 5,000 feet, in the southern Appalachian mountains.



Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Douglas firNative to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, this tree has persistent 1 to 1-1/2 inch needles and a nice scent. It is successfully grown throughout the temperate regions of the US. With an an erect pyramid shape, it makes a good cut tree choice, too. The branches are a bit weak for heavier types of ornaments, but it is very popular nonetheless. Not a true fir.



Balsam fir (Abies balsamea)

Balsam FirNative to the northern ranges of the US east of the Rockies and into Canada, the Balsam fir was named for its soothing resin which was used to treat Civil War Soldier’s wounds. It is aromatic and retains its needles well. The classic shape, dark green color, and fragrance makes it a favorite holiday choice. Although it grows in the US, it needs cool summers to thrive.



Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)

blue spruceThis evergreen comes in many varieties and is often sold as a “living” Christmas tree (one that is meant to be planted after Christmas week). It has very stiff needles, varying degrees of powdery blue color or light green depending on the cultivar. Grows well in most conditions, tolerant of salt spray, and makes a good landscape tree when young. If cut, the needle retention is mediocre.


Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

scotch pineNative to Europe, this pine is tough and is redolent of pine fragrance. Not the top favorite for Christmas, it is a traditional choice with excellent needle retention and open branching that allows for good ornament displays. Grows very well in the USA, it an economical choice both for the holiday and in the garden.



Concolor Fir (Abies concolor)

Concolor FirOne of the longest-needled firs, with soft bluish-colored needles. Called Rocky Mountain white fir, it is native to ranges in California and Oregon, and Idaho to Mexico. Has fair needle retention and a beautiful shape. Nice scent and good choice, but not as commonly found for sale in the Midwest as other types of evergreen choices.

The Noble Fir (Abies procera)

is similar in availability with cool blue-green color and one of the most attractive shapes and needles.

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

white pineFluffy look from long needles in a medium green color, these trees are native to the Eastern portions of the US. They are sheared to achieve the desired conical shape and more densely branched look of Christmas trees. Not much fragrance,but that might be a plus for allergy-sufferers. Grows very well as a landscape tree in most conditions, native to Ohio.



Choosing Your Christmas Tree

Of these trees, I grow white pine, Colorado blue spruce, and Fraser firs. The Fraser firs lasted for a number of years, but I lost them this year, they don’t do well in my part of Ohio, but if you have cooler, moist summers, they would probably thrive for you. They are very pretty indoors.

Most year, in fact, we buy Fraser fir cut trees, and they are ideal for us: fragrant, good needle retention, hold ornaments well, widely available and economical, last a long time indoors.

In my youth, I remember Scotch pines and White pines, which were full bodied trees well decorated and simply strewn with garlands, tinsel, and big lights with reflectors on them. I loved them!

norway spruce

Norway Spruce Needles

My least favorite are Norway Spruce, although those are my favorites in the garden for their ease of care and fast growth. As a Christmas tree they are too stiff and I don’t care for the smell.

Concolor are lovely when I can buy fresh ones. They are an elegant look with one of the best shapes. In my area they are pricey and I never see them planted in the landscape hereabouts.

I would highly rate the Noble firs if I could buy them- I don’t see them for sale in my area during the holidays, but they are used to make the wreaths I get, and are gorgeous combined with the incense cedar clippings and wired-in pine cones.

One thing I highly recommend for everyone who chooses a cut tree is water additive. It really makes a difference in keeping the needles supple and helping the tree to keep its good looks inside our heated rooms.

Although there are many types of tree preservative, many that I have purchased in the past were granule form that had to be mixed with water. I liked the liquid form of this one and the fact that I could cap it and keep it stored until the next year.

These preservatives help retain the needles, although it doesn’t substitute for a fresh tree.

Links For More Info …

Living Christmas Trees
Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Christmas Trees

I hope this little guide helped you decide which evergreen is for you when choosing your Christmas tree.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author


I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of "Ilona's Reflecting Pool". Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. The work on "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.