Your Ultimate Guide To Real Christmas Trees

Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke © A real Christmas tree in living room by fire Pic: Shutterstock

There’s nothing more festive than the scent of a real Christmas tree, but what variety of fir should you buy and how can you keep it looking its best until the big day? We have all the answers here…

Around 7 millions real Christmas trees are snapped up in the UK each year, with families up and down the country making their tree the star of the show when it comes to Christmas decorations. With a little bit of care, you can keep your tree looking picture-perfect right through the festivities.

“Bring Your Christmas Tree Home Day”

Each year, Christmas trees seem to go up earlier and earlier, but to keep your tree looking its best through to the 25th, the best time to buy is the first or second weekend of December.

The busiest day for real Christmas trees, dubbed “Bring Your Christmas Tree Home Day”, is the second Saturday in December, which this year falls on December 9.

Choosing your tree early is essential if you have a colour or shape in mind to suit your home, but no matter where you buy, be sure to ask about the varieties and ease of care before making your final decision.

What types of Christmas trees are there?

There are many popular varieties available including  Nordmann Fir, Norway Spruce, Fraser Fir,  Serbian Spruce, Alberta White Spruce and Blue Spruce. Here are our favourites:

Nordmann Fir

Nordmann Fir

The Nordmann Fir has good needle retention and the softer foliage makes it the ideal option for families with young children or pets. Prices start around £89.99.

The pros:

  • Symmetrical, triangular shape
  • Traditional
  • Slow to drop needles
  • Strong branches
  • Glossy green
  • Soft, dense foliage
  • Easy to care for

Fraser Fir

Fraser Fir

The Fraser Fir is slightly narrower in shape, making it a good alternative for smaller areas. Choose a taller option if you can to make the most of vertical space. Once inside and decorated, this tree gives off a fresh and festive scent of natural pine. A pot-grown tree has extra green credentials as it can planted outside afterwards, so make sure you explore this option, too. Potted trees look equally good outside your home, greeting guests at the door.

The pros:

  • Slightly narrower shape
  • Great for smaller spaces
  • Dense foliage
  • Blue tint to the overall green colour
  • Citrus like scent

Blue Spruce

Blue spruce

The Blue Spruce has a beautiful silvery-green colour, making it a very popular choice. Look out for pot-grown varieties that can be moved to the garden afterwards. Prices start around £59.99.

The pros:

  • A good, dense shape
  • When cared for correctly, a potted spruce can be moved to the garden and used year after year
  • Suitable for indoor or outdoor use
  • Colour ranges from silvery-green to steel blue
  • Generally smaller in size, they are good if you are limited on space

How long do real Christmas trees last?

Indoor and outdoor real trees

With a little care your tree should last right through to the New Year, but a potted variety can be replanted in the garden and go on for years.

Healthy trees will have a shiny, glossy green coating on the needles which feels slightly waxy to touch.

A quality tree should have good needle retention and sturdy branches.

Do a simple needle retention test before you make your final selection. Take the tree by the trunk and give it a gentle tap on the ground. All evergreen trees lose needles all year round, but any more than a few fallen pine needles then you may want to reconsider your tree choice.

How do I choose a real Christmas tree?

Boy selecting a beautiful real Christmas tree Pic: Shutterstock

Pic: Shutterstock

Many real tree are available with home delivery, but if you’d prefer to select your own tree, then it can be a fun day out and become a family tradition.

An important first task – make sure you have emptied the car and have enough space to fit your tree, either inside or on the roof. To get your tree home safely, there are some simple steps to follow.

Ask the retailer to net your tree to protect it on the journey home – and put a blanket down to protect your car’s interior. The same goes if you are putting it on the roof of your car. Securely fasten your tree down with rope or cable ties and drive home slowly and carefully.

Once home, remove the net as soon as possible. If it’s a cut tree, saw off an inch or two from the base – do this outside to keep mess to a minimum! – and stand it in water.

Place the tree upright against an exterior wall or fence, out of direct sunlight, as this will stop it drying out.

How to look after a real Christmas tree

Real Christmas tree in beautifully decorated living room

It’s best to leave your un-netted tree to stand for 24 hours before decorating so that the branches can settle. As exciting as it can be to get the tree up and decorated instantly, it will look much better if you give the branches a chance to drop into place.

Choosing a suitable tree stand is important. Opt for one with a water reservoir and cover it with a Christmas tree skirt. There are plenty of stylish solutions available.

Your tree will need around 1-2 litres a day, depending on the temperature of the room. Sawing off a couple of inches from the stump when you first get it home will help the tree take up more water and last longer.

Try to avoid putting your tree next to a radiator. Keep the tree stand water reservoir topped up and keep the room cool when not in use. Don’t place it too close to candles.

If you are bringing a pot-grown tree indoors, keep the compost moist but not wet.

If your tree is too wide for the space you planned it for, you can clip some of the larger branches lower down to make it fit. Save the cuttings, as these can make lovely decorations, in vases or as part of a homemade wreath.

Top tips for decorating your real tree

Rebecca Stanton

Rebecca Stanton

Rebecca Stanton, stylist at Dobbies Garden Centres, shares her top five Christmas tree styling tips.

Light it up: No tree is complete without the twinkling of fairy lights. To make your home really sparkle, you will always need more than you think. Turn the lights on before adding baubles and decorations, to make sure you have good coverage all over.

Go big: The tree you decide on will impact the overall styling and final look. For example, certain types of real tree will help bring to life a traditional scheme, while other types will lend themselves to a more contemporary Scandi style. If you are going for an opulent look, a tall tree will set this up perfectly.

Level up: To create a more contemporary look, use extra-large baubles and clusters of smaller baubles together in your tree. Carefully place your larger baubles first to ensure your tree feels balanced, then work around those to add in smaller baubles and decorations.

Bauble packs: To instantly update your style, pick up a mixed size bauble pack, in shades to suit your colour palette. Not only do they instantly set the theme, they help spread colour throughout your tree – think a base layer for you to build on top of with your more special decorations. Top tip: if you wire three baubles together using silver floristry wire and attach them deeper on the branch, it helps fill out your tree and creates a more stylised look.

A layer of nature: Decorating your real tree doesn’t need to end at the baubles. Try laying some sprigs or bunches of dried flowers, dried grasses, heather or eucalyptus on the branches. Add orange slices and cinnamon sticks to bring the smell of Christmas into your home.

What to do with your real tree after Christmas

When the festivities are over and we have welcomed the New Year, it is time to take down your real tree. Traditionally, January 5 or 6 is when trees should be taken down and decorations packed away.

Recycle your tree. Check with your local council for more information on collection services from your doorstep.

If you opted for a pot-grown tree, plant it as soon as possible in January so you can enjoy it the following year. Select a spot with well drained soil, sun, and enough space for the tree to sit comfortably.

Water and feed your pot-grown tree regularly in its first year when planted out in the garden. Remember it will grow to be very large, so check you have enough space!

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Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.