Types of Christmas Trees

When it comes to Christmas decor, no home is complete without a stunning Christmas tree. At west elm, we’re here to help you identify the different types of Christmas trees and to find exquisite ornaments to adorn the branches. Across the United States, there are more than 35 different species of evergreens grown for their Christmas appeal. Although your region plays a large part in what types of evergreens are available, the most popular varieties are balsam fir, Douglas fir, noble fir, lodgepole pine, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and eastern white pine. Christmas trees are largely differentiated by needle type and length, scent and color.


In order to pick the ideal Christmas tree, it’s important to know the difference between the two common types, fir and pines. Pines can be identified by their bundled needles that are often found in groups of three to five together on a branch. Pines usually have fewer branches so they aren’t as full or heavy as other trees. Fir trees have individual flat needled leaves that are attached directly at the stem. Fir needles grow in a spiral on the tip and lay flat, resulting in a full, bushy look. A third option that is less popular, but still readily available includes spruce trees. these are similar to firs with individual needles but they are four-sided and can break when bent. Pine, firs and spruces are also used to make wreaths and garlands so you can create a cohesive look by choosing similar types or mix things up with different varieties.


The balsam fir is often labeled the most fragrant Christmas tree and features a slender, spire-like tip that is ideal for displaying tree toppers. The Douglas fir has soft, dark green or blue-green needles. This type of tree is popular for its good needle retention and a lovely citrus fragrance. The noble fir has attractive gray-green needles that tilt upward and very strong branches, so it is a good choice for hanging heavy ornaments and tree decor on.


The lodgepole pine is native to the United States. Featuring full, bushy silhouettes, this pine offers yellowy-green needles and is very good for needle retention. Trees with great needle retention tend to last longer and keep your tree skirts looking neat longer.


The Scotch pine features a classic conical shape and excellent needle retention, making it the most popular cut tree of the holidays. When it comes to picking a Christmas tree, it’s also important to keep size and location in mind. While stockings can be hung on the mantel with care, trees do better when placed away from heat sources, such as the fireplace or heating vents, as they can dry out.


Virginia pine is one of the few evergreens that can tolerate warm winter temperatures, making it an ideal choice for homes in warmer climates. Typically, a first pick among Christmas trees for Southerners, it’s also a good option because, like most pines, it holds its needles well. Alternatively, the eastern white pine has a soft green color, long needles, and a rich fragrance. This pine produces long, decorative cones that you can use to decorate your home for a cohesive look. Whichever tree type you choose, make sure to cut at least an inch off the bottom to open up the veins that deliver water to the branches. During the first few days, the tree will likely consume a large amount of water so stay vigilant to ensure needles don’t dry out.