Choosing the right Christmas tree

Consumers still have an array of choices as supplies tighten for some Christmas tree species.

Fraser fir
Fraser fir. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

While it’s true that supplies of some species, particularly Fraser fir, will be tighter than in past years, consumers that want a real tree will be able to find one. Michigan farms and tree lots offer an array of great Christmas tree choices. Whether you look for a pre-cut tree at a local tree lot or bundle up the family for the choose-and-cut experience, you will find a wide variety of tree types that offer something for everyone.

How do I find a real tree?

As with most things, shopping early will ensure the best selection. If your holiday tradition is to put the tree up closer to Christmas day, you can store your tree with its cut end in water in your garage or other protected, unheated space until you are ready to move it into the house. (See “3 easy steps to make your real Christmas tree last this holiday season.”) Consumers will also have an easier time finding a real tree if they are willing to expand the menu of trees they choose from. Michigan Christmas tree growers produce a diverse range of Christmas tree types, and this might be the year to consider something different for your holiday tradition.

To help you pick the perfect tree, Michigan State University Extension has developed a description of the main types of trees grown in Michigan:

The “tried and true” Christmas trees

These Christmas tree species can be found at nearly every choose-and-cut farm or tree lot.

Fraser fir 

Fraser fir continues to increase in popularity for good reason. Fraser fir has blue-green needles with silvery undersides. The branches are stiff and hold up well to ornaments. The trees have a pleasant scent and needle retention is excellent. For more pictures and information on this species, see MSU‘s Fraser fir Youtube video.

Fraser fir
Fraser fir. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

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Scots pine 

Scots pine is the tree species that has long defined the Michigan Christmas tree and is still a favorite for traditionalists. Scots pines are dense trees with dark-green needles. Stiff branches hold up well to ornaments and needle retention is excellent. Scots pine is also an economical choice. For more pictures and information on this species, see MSU‘s Scots pine YouTube video.

Scots pine
Scots pine. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

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Douglas fir 

Douglas fir is a dense tree with soft, light green needles. You’ll need to stick with lighter-weight ornaments since the branches are not as stiff as some other species. Another good choice for budget-conscious consumers. For more pictures and information on this species, see MSU‘s Douglas fir YouTube video.

douglas fir
Douglas fir. Photo credit: Jill O’Donnell, MSU

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Blue spruce

Blue spruce remains a popular Christmas tree because of its bright blue color. Branches are stiff and hold ornaments well. Blue spruce needles are quite sharp, so be sure to wear gloves and long-sleeves when handling. While the needles may make the tree hard to handle, some people choose blue spruce to keep pets away from the tree. For more pictures and information on this species, see MSU‘s blue spruce YouTube video.

Blue spruce
Blue spruce. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

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Black hills spruce 

Black hills spruce have needles that are shorter and softer than Colorado blue spruce. Black hills spruce have excellent color and have a very traditional Christmas tree appearance. Branches are stiff and hold up well to ornaments.

Black hills
Black hills spruce. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

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White pine

White pine is one of two Michigan native conifers commonly used for Christmas trees, along with balsam fir. This is a dense tree with soft, green needles. This tree will require light-weight ornaments. For consumers that have a high ceiling and want a larger tree, white pine can be an economical choice. For more pictures and information on this species, see MSU‘s white pine YouTube video.

White pine
White pine. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

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Balsam fir 

Balsam fir has long been a preferred species for many consumers because of its strong Christmas tree scent. It has dark green needles and excellent form.

Balsam fir
Balsam fir. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

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Concolor fir 

Concolor fir have longer needles that may be as blue as a blue spruce. The big draw for this species, however, is the strong, citrus-like scent of its needles. For more pictures and information on this species, see MSU‘s concolor fir YouTube video.

Concolor fir
Concolor fir. Photo credit: Jill O'Donnell, MSU

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Up and coming varieties of Christmas trees

In addition to the traditional species mentioned above, Michigan growers continue to add species to their mix. For more information on other lesser-known trees, see "Christmas trees for connoisseurs: Try an exotic species this year."

Korean fir

Korean fir is native to Asia, as noted by the name, but grows well in our climate and soil. It has dark green needles with striking silvery undersides. The form and unique texture add to this species’ appeal. For more pictures and information on this species, see MSU‘s Korean fir Youtube video.

Korean fir
Korean fir. Photo credit: Jill O'Donnell, MSU

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Canaan fir 

Canaan fir does combine many of the characteristics of balsam fir with better needle retention of Fraser fir. It is sometimes described as a hybrid between balsam fir and Fraser fir, but is actually a specific seed source from balsam fir from the Canaan Valley of West Virginia. For more pictures and information on this species, see MSU‘s Canaan fir Youtube video.

Canaan fir
Canaan fir. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

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Want to find a Christmas tree farm near you? Visit the Michigan Christmas Tree Association website to see choose and cut farms, retail lots, and wholesale farms in your area!

More information on selecting and caring for your Christmas tree from MSU Extension

Articles:

Tip sheets:

Videos:

Dr. Cregg's work is funded in part by MSU's AgBioResearch.


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