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Updated November 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best artificial Christmas trees

The decision between a live tree and an artificial Christmas tree is a personal one, but for many, the holiday season is stressful enough. Why burden yourself with choosing, chopping, watering, and maintaining a live Christmas tree when you can enjoy a lovely, no-fuss artificial tree for a fraction of the effort?

Just like real spruces, pines, and firs, artificial trees aren’t one size fits all. If you want to choose a tree that will grace your holidays for the next 10 years or so, you have some important decisions to make. You'll want to consider the height, width, color, features, and price in order to find the tree that will work best in your household.

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You can lend your aid towards conserving the environment by choosing to get an artificial Christmas tree instead of choppinng down a living one.

Why go artificial?

Perhaps you’re still debating whether to buy a fake or live tree this year. With the right artificial tree, you can achieve the same standard of beauty that a freshly cut holiday tree provides. Here are some other great reasons to go artificial:

  • You don’t have to water a fake tree.
  • You can leave your tree up for months without worrying about hazardous dried needles.
  • Fake trees rarely shed their needles.
  • A fake tree won’t trigger your outdoor allergies.
  • Fake trees look gorgeous, and you can rely on them year after year.
Expert tip
If you feel the metal pole is visible, buy mini pine garland strands and wrap the center pole before decorating.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Considerations

Tree types

Over 500 types of evergreen trees exist today, but only a handful of varieties make it to the living rooms of Christmas celebrants each year. Three of the most common genera are pine, fir, and spruce trees.

So how do you discern between a pine, fir, and spruce? Much of the difference lies in the needles. Pine needles grow in clusters of two, three, or five. Fir and spruce needles don’t grow in groups; they adhere individually to their branches. Fir needles are soft, but spruce needles are sharp.

Within the pine, fir, and spruce genera, you’ll find more specific tree species, such as the Colorado blue spruce and balsam fir. Here are six of the most common.

Balsam fir: Tall and fairly slender, the balsam fir is a dark green, pyramid-shaped tree with a wispy tip and short needles.

Colorado blue spruce: The sturdy branches of the Colorado blue spruce extend in the classic triangular Christmas tree shape. Its needles exude a silvery blue-green hue that many people associate with the holidays.

Douglas fir: The Douglas fir is one of the most popular holiday tree types. Interestingly, it doesn’t actually belong to the fir family. People love it for its lush appearance and soft, dark green/blue-green needles.

Noble fir: The Noble fir is known for its upward-sweeping branches and rich green needles. Noble fir branches are also frequently used in holiday wreaths and garlands.

Scotch pine: Extremely popular in the U.S., the Scotch pine is known for its bright green color and upward-sweeping branches.

Virginia pine: The stout, hearty Virginia pine is a popular Christmas tree choice in the southern states. A mature Virginia pine sports dense needles and pretty pine cones.

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Expert tip
If you have the storage space, consider buying a zip-up tree bag and keep your tree assembled and upright all year long.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Tree sizes

Before you buy a new artificial Christmas tree, think critically about the size that you want. Today’s trees run the gamut in terms of height and width. The dimensions you choose should reflect your personal taste and the amount of dedicated space you have for a tree.

Height: The tree height you choose will likely correlate with the height of your home’s ceiling. Eight- to ten-foot ceilings are the norm for most homes, but some people have vaulted or cathedral ceilings that extend much higher.

If you wish, you can measure the height of your ceiling before making a purchase. When calculating the numbers, take the height of your tree topper into account a well. Experts recommend that you allow for a foot or more of empty space between the top of your tree and the ceiling.

When in doubt, a 6’ tree generally fits most homes.

Width: Similarly, your tree’s width should correlate with the amount of available space for a tree in your home. If you’re not sure whether you should buy a full-, medium-, slim-, or pencil-width tree, measure the square footage of your proposed location.

There are trees as small as 30 inches in diameter and as large as 60 inches. Companies define “full,” “slim,” and “pencil-width” in different ways, so it’s wise to look at actual numbers before selecting your tree — especially if your space is limited.

Other options

Unlit vs. pre-lit: If you hate untangling Christmas lights — or the thought of arranging your lights harmoniously on branches makes your brain throb — you may want to consider a pre-lit tree. Many of today’s pre-lit trees come with LED lights, which stay fairly cool and consume little energy.

On the downside, you can’t alter the color or size of the bulbs on your pre-lit Christmas tree. If you buy a tree with tiny, clear bulbs, you’re stuck with tiny, clear bulbs for the life of the tree. However, you could certainly throw some excitement into the mix by adding strings of large, colorful bulbs, glowing Santa heads, or whatever you choose.

Pre-lit trees tend to cost more than their naked counterparts, and if you buy an LED tree, you may find that it burns much brighter than a tree with incandescent bulbs — maybe too bright. Then there’s the fear that if one bulb burns out, they’re all going down. Thankfully, plenty of modern trees offer “continuous on” and  “burn-out protection” benefits to allay your fears.

Fiber optics: Perhaps you’re interested in a non-bulb route to tree illumination. Or maybe you want to enhance your regular bulbs with some cool, festive technology. If so, consider a fiber optic tree.

Fiber optic trees have light fibers woven directly into their artificial branches. As a result, you can have a tree that glows blue, pink, purple, or whatever subset of the rainbow you choose. Fiber optic trees look sleek and very “cutting edge,” so if you like a little modernism with your holiday decor, consider a tree with this built-in technology.

On the downside, fiber optic trees don’t burn energy as efficiently as LED trees. The branches grow warm and could pose a threat to the fingers and paws of curious little ones. And, like other pre-lit trees, you lose a bit of creative freedom with a fiber optic tree. Of course, you could always compensate for that with your own unique ornaments and other decorative touches.

Fake snow, pinecones, and berries

Your creative options don’t end with lighting. You can carry the festivity one step further by buying a tree that has been flocked. A flocked tree has been sprayed with artificial snow, and it gives the tree a heart-warming, wintry appearance that some people love. The practice of flocking dates back to the 1800s, when people used flour or cotton to make their trees look snowy.

To cast a snowy appearance on today’s artificial trees, companies apply chemical mixtures that may include paper pulp and corn starch. But buyer beware: cheap flocking sheds like dandruff, litters your floor, and may end up passing the lips of small children and pets. If you want a flocked tree and don’t want a mess, you should opt for a high-quality model.

Other optional accents include fake pine cones and berries. Of course, if you don’t own a tree with these accents but like their look, you can always find ornaments that make your tree look more forest-like.

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Expert tip
Consider storing your tree with desiccant pouches to help prevent musty odor on your tree.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Hinged vs. hooked branches

An artificial tree’s branches attach to its body in one of two ways. Either the branches hook into a center pole (an assembly job completed by the owner), or they’re permanently affixed — hinged — to the body.

Trees with hooked branches tend to cost a bit less than their hinged counterparts, but they present more work for the owner each year. Nevertheless, some people enjoy putting their tree together and view it as a holiday tradition. When assembling a hooked-branch tree, start at the bottom and work your way upward, attaching each branch to its receiver hole in the center pole. Separate the limbs and fluff the tree as you go.

Trees with hinged branches generally arrive in two or three large pieces that the owner must join together. When assembling a hinged tree, begin at the bottom and fluff the branches and limbs as you move upward. Most owners find this job to be quick and painless.

"If you plan to hang an abundance of ribbon or ornaments, consider buying a tree that isn’t too dense with foliage. After all, you need space to display your cherished heirlooms and other flourishes."
STAFF
BestReviews

How much should you spend on an artificial tree?

In truth, you could spend anywhere from $15 to $600 (or more) on an artificial Christmas tree. 

We don’t advocate for dirt-cheap, poorly-made Christmas trees for several reasons. First of all, a low-quality product will look cheap and fall apart quickly.

Also important is the fact that, although the ideal artificial tree lasts a decade, families often try to stretch that time frame much longer. For that reason, you want a tree that’s well-engineered and durable. 

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Whether unlit or pre-lit, always check to see how an artificial tree will look under lights. Try to go for both tree and decorations that look as natural as possible in any form of lighting.

Tips

Tree stability

Your tree is only as stable as the stand in which it rests. The market boasts artificial trees with both plastic and metal stands. Unless you’re buying a smaller tree that stands less than six feet tall, consider a tree with a metal stand.

Fire safety

Opt for a tree that’s flame retardant or fire-resistant. Trees with a UL tag have passed safety standards established by Underwriters Laboratories, a global safety organization. Realize, however, that even the most “fire-proof” fake tree could catch fire under bad electrical conditions.

Avoid overloading your circuits with lights and other electronics, and never station an artificial tree within three feet of an electrical source or heat vent. If you have a fireplace, keep the tree even farther away — eight feet at a minimum.

Decorating

When celebrating the spirit of Christmas, no one wants to catch an inadvertent glimpse of the metal or plastic pole inside their fake tree. For this reason, you should fluff and shape each branch of your tree until you’re completely satisfied. Fluffing the tree when it’s lit can help you visualize what your final product will look like.

And remember: just because your tree is artificial doesn’t mean the needles aren’t sharp. Keep a pair of rubber or gardening gloves nearby in case the assembly or fluffing process starts nipping at your fingers. The only entity doing any nipping here should be Jack Frost, and he’s supposed to concentrate on your nose, not your fingers.

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