How to Choose the Right Artificial Christmas Tree
Consider the key factors in lights, height and width, needle type, and style—all before you make your purchase.
If you were still vacuuming up pine needles from your carpet in July, you may be thinking about getting an artificial Christmas tree this holiday season. It won't shed, you won't have to lug it up three flights of stairs every year, and there's no watering required. You also get to customize every detail, from its color to needle variety. Last but not least, it comes with a feel-good perk: According to the American Christmas Tree Association, reusing an artificial tree for at least five years has a more favorable effect on the environment than a live tree does. In the market for a faux alternative? Here's what you need to consider.
First, look for a place in your home where the tree can preferably be seen from multiple rooms. Make sure it's more than three feet from a radiator or other heating source and won't interfere with room flow; a corner is usually a good option. You may have to temporarily move some furniture out of the way to accommodate the tree.
Width and Height
Consider both the width of the room and the height of the ceiling when you select a tree, suggests Thomas Harman, founder and CEO of Balsam Hill, a leading manufacturer of artificial trees and other holiday décor in Redwood City, California. "With most trees, as they get taller," he explains, "they also get wider at the base." Measure the diameter of the space where you are planning to display the tree so you know what size to shop for. Trees come in many sizes, from less than four feet to more than 30 feet. Harman recommends buying a tree that's at least six inches lower than your ceiling height. "This will allow some clearance to ensure that the tip of your Christmas tree will not hug your ceiling and will allow space for a tree topper," he says.
In Christmas tree vernacular, the shape of a tree is called the "profile" as seen when you're standing in front of it. Choose a tree with a narrow profile if you don't have much floor space; you'll still have plenty of branches to hang ornaments. If space is not a problem, opt for a full profile.
Naturally, green is the most popular artificial tree color but there are plenty of other hues available to you should you want to go with something a little more unique. Make a merry statement and opt for a tree in wintry white, champagne gold, silver, or even pretty candy pink.
A tree's degree of realism is a big deal in the artificial tree world. The higher-priced trees look like they were created by Mother Nature herself, with needles that mimic the texture, color, and density of the real thing. Less-expensive trees are still realistic-looking but to a lesser degree—for example, some may have branches reconfigured to be more accommodating for hanging ornaments.
You've got lots of choices. Choose clear, multicolored, or mixed lights; LED or incandescent; bulbs in various shapes like candlesticks and strawberries. In terms of quantity, the industry rule is to hang at least 100 bulbs per foot, so a 7 1/2 foot tree should have at least 750 lights, for example. "But some people do like a lot of lights and they can certainly do more than that," Harman says. If you want to skip stringing the lights yourself, buy a pre-lit tree—the lights are permanently attached. If you want to hold a light show in your home, get color-changing LEDs that you control with a remote or through an app.
Artificial trees don't come cheap. But while a 7 1/2-foot high-quality artificial tree costs $600 to $1,000 at Balsam Hill, "the same real tree, without lights and delivery, will be around $100 and last one season," Harman says. Do the math to see if getting an artificial tree is worth it to you.