How To Pick The Best Artificial Christmas Tree

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

Ornament on Artificial Christmas Tree
Photo: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images

There's a brief pause in the year after the family's Thanksgiving rumblings have passed before a new battle is on the horizon heralding the arrival of the next holiday season: picking out the Christmas tree.

Every year, families cross over from the tradition of picking a real tree from a farm to shopping for an artificial tree in a big-box store. 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 year. And when you add in tangled string lights, curious pets, and busy schedules that don't revolve around sweeping and watering, an artificial tree starts to make sense. Luckily we live in a time where these artificial trees 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 the wrong artificial tree. We've laid out a few things to consider that should help you pick the best artificial Christmas tree for your home this year.

1. Consider your space.

Measure the area you plan to put the tree. The top of the tree should be six inches from the ceiling if you aim 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. For your convenience, choose a tree that stays lit when one bulb goes out. If you like to change your décor each year, an unlit tree may be the better, less-committed option.

Madcap Cottage Design Small Blue Christmas Tree
Weenie, the pair’s rescue dog, admires the holiday finery. Hector Manuel Sanchez; Design: John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon; Styling: Kendra Surface

3. Pick a Pine Needle.

Trees tend to come with a variety of needle options. Some designs imitate a natural tree as closely as possible.

Others may not look realistic up close but create a fuller, more voluminous tree. What is 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 to zoom in and examine the tree.

4. Select Your Shape.

Are you trying to convince guests (ahem, in-laws!) that this tree is real? Or can you live with an artificial tree because you need the exact right shape? Many artificial trees come in pencil-thin and razor-edged shapes, which are not exactly realistic. That shape might be just right for a specific 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 at has a style that incorporates both dark and light greens and browns, that's the key to realistic tree coloring. Monotone green trees can be beautiful but may not look as natural.

Madcap Cottage Design Flocked Christmas Tree
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Design: John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon; Styling: Kendra Surface

6. Build a Winter Wonderland

One wonderful thing about artificial trees is the ability to mimic a cherished snowy Christmas every year—despite the weather outside. Choose a flocked tree to resemble the dusting of snow that would cover a tree found on a Christmas tree farm just after the first winter's snowfall. Flocked trees are also available in different colors, so this is an opportunity to coordinate with your existing decor and make setting up decorations in the future more effortless.

7. Attached Elements

When selecting an artificial tree, attached components can impact how you display this tree in your home. First, the number of tips is a descriptor signifying the quality of the tree and, therefore, will affect the overall appearance. More tips generally indicate a better quality tree.

A second attachment is a faux trunk. If you were to select a tree from a Christmas tree farm, you would undoubtedly know there is a tree trunk that might be visible in particular areas. When buying an artificial tree, a trunk is an element that can add some realism to your decor but might not be the look you want to achieve.

Finally, when selecting an artificial tree, you should know if it includes a stand. When there is an attached stand, this helps to ensure your tree stays upright and might make storage easier. Alternatively, if the tree's stand is flimsy, this can increase the likelihood that your tree will be unsupported. After many uses, you might need to replace your tree earlier than you intended—which can be costly.

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