There is still an art to picking out a Christmas tree even if it isn't growing in the ground.

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There’s a brief pause in the year, when the egg bowl, iron bowl, and palmetto bowl have all doled out bragging rights for another season, any Thanksgiving family rumblings have since risen and fallen, and there’s only one certain battle on the horizon that heralds the arrival of a new holiday season: picking out the Christmas tree. Each year, a new set of families cross over to what many an ancestor may consider the dark side of holiday décor: artificial Christmas trees. There is a certain principle-of-the-matter mindset to keeping a traditional live tree alive (in your home!) (for 25 days or more!) (every single year!). And when you add in tangled string lights, curious pets, and busy schedules that don’t revolve around sweeping and watering, well, the artificial trees just start to make sense. Luckily we live in a time where these artificial trees easily pass as elegant Christmastime additions to your home. With that blessing though comes the burden of having choices. They’ve got short and tall, skinny and fat, dark green, bright green, and in-between-green trees, and that’s just the beginning.

Since the tree is the crux of holiday décor, there’s no room for wasted time or money on a bad artificial tree. We’ve laid out a few things to think about that should help you pick out the best artificial Christmas tree for your home this year. (As far as convincing traditionalist relatives that artificial is the way to go though, you’re on your own.)

  1. Consider your space. Measure the area you are planning on putting the tree in. The tip of the tree should be 6 inches from the ceiling if you are aiming for the tallest tree your room will allow. Otherwise, the great thing about artificial is you can get a variety of smaller sizes like tabletop varieties or slim width floor trees, perfect for apartments!
  2. Decide on Lights. Are you going to buy pre-lit or add string lights yourself? Pre-lit is convenient, and now comes in a variety of clear, white, and multicolored options. Just ensure the tree is designed that when one bulb goes out, the rest stay lit. If you like to change your décor each year, obviously an unlit tree may be the better, less-committed option.
  3. Pick a Pine Needle. Trees tend to come with a variety of needle options. Some are designed to imitate a true tree as closely as possible. Others may not look as realistic up close, but create a fuller more voluminous tree. The best way to ensure you get the look you want? Check it out in person. If shopping online, Balsam Hill recommends making sure you have the option of high-resolution images that you can zoom in on.
  4. Select Your Shape. Are you trying to convince guests (ahem, in-laws!) this tree is real? Or can you live with artificial and simply need the exact right shape? Many artificial trees come in pencil-thin and razor-edged shapes: not exactly realistic, but maybe just right for a certain look or space. Otherwise, look for the larger, fuller, organic shapes that resemble something you’d buy off a Christmas tree farm.
  5. Get Precise With Color. If the site or store you are shopping has a style that incorporates both dark and light greens and browns, that’s the key to a realistic tree coloring. Monotone green trees can be played up beautifully but may not pass as realistic.