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How to Choose a Christmas Tree

close up of natural pine branch tips twined with microlights

Picking a Christmas tree can be a difficult decision.


You want your tree to be the beautiful and magical focal point of your holiday festivities, but there are some very practical questions to answer first.


For instance, are you looking for a real or artificial Christmas tree? Where will the tree be placed in your home? What size tree do you need? What can you afford?


Let’s explore each of those questions individually.

Pros & Cons of a Real Christmas Tree
Pros & Cons of an Artificial Christmas Tree


Tree Height
Tree Width
Full Profile
Medium Profile
Slim Profile
Pencil Profile


Tinsel Trees
Wall Trees
Upside Down Trees
Colorful Trees
Fiber Optic Trees
Pop-Up Trees

Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees

What are the differences between a real and an artificial Christmas tree? Not everyone agrees on what makes the “perfect Christmas tree.” There are several arguments to be made for both choices.

Pros and Cons of a Real Christmas Tree

close up of natural pine branche

Real Christmas trees are grown by a Christmas tree farmer for the specific purpose of becoming a Christmas decoration. That makes them a renewable resource. People who buy live Christmas trees admire their piney scent and natural imperfections. Also, visiting a Christmas tree farm or tree market may be part of a family tradition.


Real trees don’t need to be stored after the Christmas season. They are biodegradable and can be recycled. When this year’s Christmas trees are harvested, new trees are planted.


While prices may vary from year to year, real trees tend to cost less than most artificial trees.


On the other hand, real trees can be messy, dropping pine needles everywhere. They need to be watered regularly and can pose a fire hazard if they get too dry.


If you purchase a real Christmas tree, make about a ½-inch fresh cut off the tree base and set it in cold water immediately. A fresh-cut Christmas tree will “drink” several quarts of water to start, so it’s important to check and add fresh water several times a day for the first week. As time goes by, you will likely be able to cut down on watering frequency.


Be sure to place your live Christmas tree in a stand with a large water reservoir and keep it filled. Check out our expansive line of live Christmas tree stands to find the right one for you.

Pros and Cons of an Artificial Christmas Tree

close up of artificial Christmas tree branches with ornaments

While the scent of pine is a strong attraction for real-tree lovers, allergies can make artificial Christmas trees a more comfortable choice.


Even without health concerns, there are other reasons for choosing an artificial tree. First, they don’t lose their needles like real trees. They don’t need to be watered and they’re fire-resistant.


They are easy to set up - especially if you buy a pre-lit tree with the Christmas lights already attached. Plus, you can display them for a longer period of time.


Although artificial Christmas trees can be found in all price ranges, they cost more than a real tree. However, since artificial trees last for years, the investment evens out over time. And many artificial trees come with manufacturer warranties. With real trees, there are no guarantees!


Christmas Central offers a full range of artificial Christmas tree sizes, styles and varieties. We partner with some of the world’s largest Christmas tree companies and offer everything from simple and classic styles to the most realistic, high-quality Christmas trees available.


What Size Christmas Tree Should You Buy?

Getting the right size Christmas tree requires a little planning. First, decide where you want it to be displayed. Then, measure the space - both the floor area and height from floor to ceiling.


TREE HEIGHT

When determining the maximum height of your tree, be sure to leave enough room for your tree topper - typically between nine and 12-inches.


Artificial tree heights include the stand, but if you buy a real tree, be sure to account for the additional height of the stand.


Tabletop trees start at around 18 inches tall. Unlit and pre-lit artificial Christmas trees in 6.5’ and 7.5’ heights are among our most popular sizes, but Christmas Central also sells commercial Christmas trees 12 feet and taller.


TREE WIDTH

In general, you should leave at least six inches of space between the widest branches of the tree and the wall. If you can’t spare the room, there are artificial trees to satisfy even small spaces. Artificial tree widths run the range from bushy full profiles to space-saving pencil profiles.


Wall half trees are another option. They hug the wall, giving the illusion of a full-sized tree. 
Diagram comparing height of 6-1/2 foot Christmas tree and 6 foot man

What Tree Profile is Best?

When we talk about a tree’s profile, we’re referring to its width and shape. Below, we outline the common profiles and proportions.

Full Profile

full profile Christmas tree
A full profile Christmas tree is 1.5 times as tall as it is wide, for a height/width ratio of 1.5 or less. For example, a 7.5' tall tree will measure 5’ or more at the widest spread of its branches near the base.

Medium Profile

medium profile Christmas tree
A medium profile Christmas tree has a height/width ratio of 1.5 to 2, meaning the tree is 1.5 to 2 times as tall as it is wide. A 7.5' tall tree has a base diameter between 3.75’ and 5'.

Slim Profile

slim profile Christmas tree
A slim profile Christmas tree has a height/width ratio of 2 to 2.5, meaning it is 2 to 2.5 times as tall as it is wide. A 7.5' tall slim profile tree has a base diameter less than 3.75' and larger than 3'.

Pencil Profile

pencil profile Christmas tree

A pencil profile Christmas tree has a height/width ratio of at least 2.5, making it at least 2.5' times as tall as it is wide. A 7.5' tall tree has a base diameter of less than 3.75'.

Unlit or Pre-Lit Christmas Tree?

If you're looking for a simpler decorating experience, pre-lit trees may be the right choice for you. Pre-lit Christmas trees are already decorated with evenly-spaced light strands, saving you time and effort when decorating. On the other hand, you may prefer to use your own light sets, particularly if you like the look of vintage Christmas lights. Christmas Central has a large selection of both unlit and pre-lit Christmas trees.
unlit Christmas tree
pre-lit Christmas tree with miniature white lights

PVC vs. PE/PVC?

Most artificial Christmas trees are made of either polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyethylene (PE).


PVC is extremely common and has been used in artificial trees for many years. The branches consist of plastic cut into very thin and narrow fringe-like strips. PVC trees offer a classic and affordable look.


Many of the newer, more realistic trees feature polyethylene (PE) branches that are molded to look like natural pine needles for exceptional realism. Most trees with PE branches also incorporate PVC branches for a fuller appearance.


Either type of artificial tree style will provide a traditional look you will appreciate for years to come.

close up of classic style PVC artificial pine branch tips

Tree Species

five photos showing the differences in color and branch style between different tree varieties
The best part of buying an artificial tree is the options! Artificial Christmas tree styles vary widely. They may have upswept or downswept branches. The foliage may be true green, or it may have a blue or more golden tone. Some foliage is lush, while other styles are loose and airy. Take time to study the variations and find your perfect Christmas tree style.

Iced, Frosted & Flocked Trees

Christmas Central offers trees in a variety of flocked styles. Flocking is a lightweight white coating that imitates a fresh snowfall. The terms iced, frosted and flocked refer to varying levels of flocking.

Iced Christmas Tree

lightly flocked iced Christmas tree
An iced Christmas tree has the lightest coating of white, giving it the look of a tree touched by a winter frost.

Frosted Tree

moderately flocked frosted Christmas tree
Frosted Christmas trees receive a heavier coating of white, like a dusting of snow.

Flocked Tree

heavily flocked Christmas tree
Flocked trees receive a generous and dramatic coating of white.

Specialty Trees

Tinsel Trees

champagne colored tinsel tree
The iconic silver Christmas tree is a tinsel tree. However, tinsel trees come in many other colors, including gold, pink and blue. Some people like tinsel trees for their nostalgia, others because they’re colorful, bright and fun! Tinsel trees come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Wall Trees

front and side view of wall tree
A wall tree is flat on one side, like a tree cut down the middle. When the flat side is placed against the wall, it gives the impression of a full-sized tree, but takes up much less floor space.


Upside Down Trees

upside down Christmas tree
Want a real conversation starter? Try an upside down tree! These unique trees are both fun and space-saving, since the widest part of the tree is at the top. Most upside down trees have floor stands, but if you mean to hang yours, make sure the ceiling can support it.

Colorful Trees

pink Christmas tree
Add a new Christmas hue to your holiday decor with a colorful Christmas tree. If a traditional green tree seems tame, why not try a gold or silver tinsel tree? Colorful trees can support a special theme or coordinate with a particular decorating scheme. Colored Christmas trees come in all colors of the rainbow, unlit and pre-lit, as well as some flocked varieties!

Fiber Optic Trees

small artificial Christmas tree with fiber optic lights and star tree topper
Rather than using mini lights or vintage lights, fiber optic trees are lit with tiny optical fiber filaments. These fibers, hidden within the tree’s needles, transmit light from a central source. Most fiber optic trees are small - but very eye-catching! Some even offer color-changing options.



Pop-Up Trees

pop-up tree with white bows and ornaments
For the easiest possible set-up and clean up, consider a pop-up tree! Pop-up trees consist of a springy cone-shaped form that collapses for storage. Pre-decorated pop-up trees may feature PVC needles and other faux foliage, ribbons and ornaments. With many bright and tinsel varieties, pop-up trees are perfect choices for people who like variety, or wish to display multiple Christmas trees.

Other Christmas Questions

Do you have additional questions about your Christmas tree? Check out our Tree Resource Center for answers about tree shaping, lighting and decorating.