19 Finest Varieties of Stay Christmas Timber for Your Dwelling

There are several factors involved in choosing a live tree for Christmas. By live, I mean an evergreen tree purchased with the roots attached rather than a pre-cut one you will dispose of after the holiday. The benefit of a live tree is that you can plant it after the holiday and enjoy it for years. If you plan to keep your live Christmas tree, variety selection becomes even more important.

Selecting a live Christmas tree requires a bit more knowledge and forethought than selecting one that’s pre-cut. Some factors don’t matter much if you don’t intend to plant it in your yard after the holiday. If you plan to plant, knowing which types will thrive in your climate zone is essential. 

Other important factors to consider in your selection include needle size, density, and needle retention, as well as the shape and aroma. Here are 19 trees we’d pick for Christmas, whether live or pre-cut. 

Arizona Cypress

Arizona cypress is beautifully symmetrical, with small, tightly arranged grey-green needles.

Botanical Name: Cupressus arizonica
  • Sun Needs: Full sun
  • Height: up to 80’
  • Native Range: Southwestern United States and Mexico
  • Zones: 7-9

Arizona cypress is among the most symmetrical and well-shaped trees you can purchase. It is steeple-shaped with lovely, soft grey-green needles that are small and tightly arranged on its many branches. Its pleasant aroma resembles juniper mixed with pine and citrus.

In the landscape, the Arizona cypress is an imposing figure. Reaching up to 80 feet tall at maturity, this species needs a large piece of sky to fill. It has attractive, ornamental bark that is a reddish brown shade. The bark is thin and papery and splits into strips over time. It tolerates warm weather and thrives outdoors in zones 7 through 9. 

Balsam Fir

Close-up of branches of Abies balsamea, commonly known as the balsam fir, in a garden. Abies balsamea is a medium-sized evergreen tree with a narrow, spire-like crown. Its dark green needles are flat, short, and two-ranked. Balsam fir cones are small and upright, oblong, oval shaped, with a distinctive purple-blue color.This sturdy, needle-retaining tree is ideal for heavy decorations with a pleasant pine scent.

Botanical Name: Abies balsamea (L.) Miller
  • Sun Needs: Partial shade
  • Height: 40’-60’
  • Native Range: Northeastern United States and Canada
  • Zones: 3-6

Balsam fir is sturdy and won’t drop all its needles on your living room floor. It has a dense, pyramidal growth habit, meaning it holds many ornaments. If you’re heavy on the decorations, this is a great little tree that can stand up to the pressure. It is heavily resinous and particularly aromatic, with a classic pine and cedar scent. 

Balsam fir is slow-growing in the garden but can become quite large over time. It flowers in June with male and female flowers, and cones follow, falling off in October or November. It likes cooler climates and performs best in partial shade, particularly when young. The bark is thin and grey, with resin blisters close to the surface.

Colorado Blue Spruce

Beautiful young Colorado blue spruce growing on the plantation. Colorado blue spruce is a striking evergreen tree with a pyramidal to conical shape. Its needles are sharp, stiff, and notably blue-gray to silver-blue in color.Colorado blue spruce features stiff, blue-green needles and sturdy branches for heavy decorations.

Botanical Name: Picea pungens Engelm.
  • Sun Needs: Full sun
  • Height: up to 100’
  • Native Range: Rocky Mountains and Northeastern North America
  • Zones: 3-7

Prized for its stiff, sharp, blue-green needles, Colorado blue spruce has a nice shape with branches that are highly varied in length. They are quite sturdy and retain their needles well, so this is another good option for the heavy decorator. It is not known for having a pleasing smell, and when the needles are crushed, they smell somewhat unpleasant.

Colorado blue spruce is gorgeous in the wild and the yard. If grown in full sun, it will become very large and maintain a nice shape for many years before losing the tight organization of the branches as they near maturity. This is the official state tree of Utah and Colorado. 

Colorado Green Spruce

Close-up of Picea pungens branches against a blue sky. Picea pungens, commonly known as the Colorado green spruce, is a beautiful evergreen tree with a conical to pyramidal shape. Its needles are sharp, stiff, and deep green in color.Colorado green spruce has dense, upward-facing branches and short needles.

Botanical Name: Picea pungens
  • Sun Needs: Full sun
  • Height: 60’
  • Native Range: Rocky Mountains, Southern Canada
  • Zones: 2-7

Colorado green spruce makes a stunning Christmas tree, with dense, upward-facing branches that open outward to a nice pyramid when weighed down with lights and ornaments. The needles are short and stiff, in a stunning, classic shade of dark green. Spruce are not as fragrant as firs or pines but are very attractive, well-shaped, and sturdy.

Planted outdoors, Colorado green spruce has a nice pyramidal shape that tapers toward the top. It has a moderate growth rate and reaches up to 60 feet tall at maturity. This is a great landscape tree that is adaptable and thrives in a wide range of climates. 

Douglas Fir

Distant view of rows of young Douglas Fir Christmas tree farm. Pseudotsuga menziesii, commonly known as the Douglas fir, is a large and stately evergreen tree with a tall, straight trunk and symmetrical shape. Its needles are flat, soft, and radiate in all directions, green to bluish-green.Douglas fir features soft, radiating needles with a sweet, spicy aroma when crushed.

Botanical Name: Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: up to 250’
  • Native Range: British Columbia south to central California
  • Zones: 4-6

Douglas fir is not a true fir, but it is one of the most popular varieties of Christmas trees in the United States. It has soft needles that radiate from all sides of the branches, giving it a very full appearance. When its needles are crushed, it has a sweet, spicy, earthy aroma. 

While the native range of Douglas fir is relatively small, it encompasses a surprisingly wide variety of climate conditions. As a result, Douglas fir can be grown successfully in dry and humid climates and high and low elevations.

It has a moderate growth rate and a long lifespan, leading to mature trees reaching as tall as 250 feet! As the tree ages, space will increase between branches, making the foliage less dense.

Eastern Red Cedar

Close-up of Juniperus virginiana branches in a garden. Juniperus virginiana, commonly known as the Eastern redcedar, is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree with a dense, columnar to pyramidal shape. Its scale-like foliage is dark green.Eastern red cedar is easy to care for and well-adapted to a wide climate range.

Botanical Name: Juniperus virginiana L.
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 30’-35’
  • Native Range: Eastern and Central United States
  • Zones: 2-9

The lovely conical shape of an eastern red cedar tree is popular, although it tends to be less so than some of its rivals. This is perhaps because the branches and foliage are softer and less durable than a fir or a spruce. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful tree if you prefer a more modern, minimalist style. It is a juniper, and the fragrance is that of cedar mixed with crushed fruit.

In the landscape, this is a very convenient and easy-to-care-for tree. It grows in nearly any climate and tolerates heat and cold like a champion. It is drought tolerant and makes an excellent windscreen, as it remains dense. This tree doesn’t require an enormous space, either. It matures to about 30 feet tall, which makes it a nice, midsized evergreen.

Fraser Fir

Rows of Christmas trees (Abies fraseri) at tree farm. Abies fraseri, commonly known as the Fraser fir, is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree with a slender, conical shape. Its dark green needles are flat, short, and two-ranked. This is a popular Christmas tree with an upright growth habit, sturdy blue-green needles, and a resinous fragrance.

Botanical Name: Abies fraseri
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 50’-60’
  • Native Range: Appalachian Mountains
  • Zones: 4-7

Fraser fir is another trendy variety of Christmas trees. It has a lovely, upright growth habit and a classic Christmas tree appearance. The needles are rounded and stiff and a lovely blue-green. They hold up well to decorating, and the tree will be nice and plump as the branches are weighted down. It also has a pleasing, resinous fragrance.

Although they can reach heights up to 85 feet tall, Fraser firs will typically stay closer to the range of 50-60 feet at maturity. It has strong branches that tend to grow upward, making it appear more compact and slender. The bark is thin, and as it ages, it develops into papery scales. 

Korean Fir

Close-up of Abies koreana, commonly known as the Korean fir, in a garden. It is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree with a compact, broadly conical shape. Its needles are short, glossy, and dark green. The cones are small and cylindrical with purplish-blue coloration.This is a plump, wide tree with short, stiff needles, bluish-black cones, and a fresh pine forest aroma.

Botanical Name: Abies koreana
  • Sun Needs: Full sun
  • Height: 30’
  • Native Range: South Korea
  • Zones: 5-7

Korean fir is plump and cheerful. It tends to be rather wide compared to its height, so if you like a plump tree, this one will do the job. The needles are short and stiff, green on top, with a white sheen to the underside. Bluish-black cones are highly decorative against the attractive foliage. This tree has a fresh and strong aroma of a pine forest. 

In the garden, Korean fir is compact to medium-sized, reaching only 30 feet at maturity. It is a slow grower, gaining less than a foot per year. This attractive tree won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It has dark, resinous bark and likes cool climates but also tolerates humidity. 

Leyland Cypress

Leyland Cypress Trees in a row along the road as hedge. Cupressocyparis leylandii, commonly known as the Leyland cypress, is a fast-growing evergreen tree with a slender, pyramidal shape. Its scale-like foliage is dark green, giving the tree a dense and uniform appearance.The Leyland cypress is ideal for allergy sufferers because it has no sap and minimal scent.

Botanical Name: x Cupressocyparis leylandii
  • Sun Needs: Full Sun
  • Height: 40’-60’
  • Native Range: Hybrid
  • Zones: 6-10

The Leyland cypress is a hybrid variety that is very popular as a Christmas tree in the American southeast. This is an ideal tree for allergy sufferers; it does not produce sap and has very little scent. As a young tree, it has a very nice conical shape with feathery branches and very dense foliage. 

Leyland cypress is a fabulous privacy or windscreen. A hybrid, this species has no native range but is hardy in zones 6 through 10. The greatest selling point for this tree is its extremely fast growth rate. Layland cypress can grow up to four feet in height in a single year!

Noble Fir

Close-up of branches of Abies procera Rehd, commonly known as the Noble fir, against a wooden fence. Abies procera Rehd, commonly known as the Noble fir, is a majestic evergreen tree with a tall, straight trunk. Its needles are flat, short, and deep green, with a silvery sheen on the undersides.It features smooth, resinous bark, bluish-green needles with a silvery underside, and large decorative cones.

Botanical Name: Abies procera Rehd.
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: up to 175’
  • Native Range: Oregon and Washington, Cascade Range
  • Zones: 5-6

Noble fir doesn’t appear in many places in the wild but makes an excellent Christmas tree. Its strong branches are perfect for heavy ornaments, and its beautifully symmetrical shape makes this a stunning tree if you’re looking for a tree that can be viewed from all angles. Noble fir is also one of the nicest-smelling trees with a woody, aromatic, evergreen aroma.

In the landscape, noble fir can grow very large, up to 175 feet tall, if given the space. It has smooth, grey bark with blisters of resin, which give the tree its pleasing aroma.

The needles resemble spruce, with a bluish-green shade, but the underside is frosty white, giving the tree a silvery cast. It also produces large, heavy cones that are nice for decorating with. 

Nordman Fir

Nordmann fir plantation. Abies nordmanniana, commonly known as the Nordmann fir, is a tall and graceful evergreen tree with a symmetrical, conical shape. Its needles are dark green, glossy, and flat.This popular Christmas tree features dense, rounded needles, good needle retention, and a mild, fresh scent.

Botanical Name: Abies nordmanniana
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 200’ 
  • Native Range: Turkey, Caucasus Mountains
  • Zones: 4-7

Nordman fir has gained popularity as a Christmas tree and is often grown for this purpose. It has dense foliage with rounded needles, which makes decorating less painful. Its rich green color makes it a wonderful backdrop for ornaments. It has very good needle retention as well. Another desirable trait is the scent, which is light and fresh, not overpowering at all. 

As a landscape element, Nordman fir is easy to grow and care for. It has few issues with pests or diseases and provides a nice backdrop for other plants. The bark is smooth with resin blisters, and it produces large cones. This tree is not well suited for hot climates, and it is not drought-tolerant. 

Norfolk Island Pine

Araucaria heterophylla, commonly known as Norfolk Fir in a natural forest against a background of pine trees. This is a distinctive evergreen tree with a symmetrical, tiered or spiraling growth pattern. Its long, slender branches are densely covered with feathery, needle-like leaves arranged in whorls, giving the tree a strikingly organized appearance.Norfolk Island pine thrives in warm climates but can be kept as a smaller houseplant.

Botanical Name: Araucaria heterophylla
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: up to 200’
  • Native Range: Norfolk Island
  • Zones: 10-11

This is a great tree for gardeners living in warm climates, as it thrives in warm weather and is not cold-tolerant. However, it can easily be grown as a houseplant and will remain smaller this way. If you’re looking for a traditional Christmas tree, this is probably not the right one, but it has a lot of character and lovely weeping branches when it’s young. 

Planted outdoors, Norfolk Island pine can grow very tall, up to 200 feet. It can grow well in a large, sturdy container but will remain much smaller. This tree is commonly sold as a houseplant because of its specific climate requirements. It also is not fragrant, so it’s a good choice for those who do not like a traditional Christmas tree scent.

Norway Spruce

Norway spruce forest. Picea abies (L.) Karsten, commonly known as the Norway spruce, is a large, classic evergreen tree with a tall, straight trunk. Its densely packed, sharp needles are dark green, and the branches hang gracefully, creating a dense, pyramidal shape.Norway spruce features long, sturdy branches, small needles, and a pleasant evergreen fragrance.

Botanical Name: Picea abies (L.) Karsten
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: up to 130’
  • Native Range: Europe
  • Zones: 3-7

With its long branches that drift upward at the ends, Norway spruce makes a wonderful Christmas tree that will stand up to decorating like a champ. The needles are small and neatly arranged along each branch in a dense formation. The needles tend to drop through the season, but this tree has a nice evergreen fragrance.

Norway spruce has an attractive pyramidal shape with dark green foliage. It is a large tree that grows quickly and can reach heights up to 130 feet in the United States and 215 feet in its native Europe. It has reddish bark, which scales and flakes off as the tree ages. Rich, moist soil will keep this tree happy. 

Scotch Pine

Close-up of Pinus sylvestris growing in evergreen coniferous forest. Pinus sylvestris, commonly known as the Scotch pine, is a medium-sized evergreen tree with a rounded to conical crown. Its long, slender needles are a bright, yellow-green. The cones are small and reddish-brown.This is the most common Christmas tree with long, sturdy needles, variable appearance, and moderate to large size.

Botanical Name: Pinus sylvestris L.
  • Sun Needs: Full sun
  • Height: 50’-75’
  • Native Range: Northern Europe and Northern Asia
  • Zones: 3-7

Scotch pine is the most common Christmas tree in the United States. Its long, soft needles are very sturdy despite their fluffy appearance. The needles remain intact even when the tree is dried out. It’s a strong tree and stands up well to heavy ornaments. 

The appearance of Scotch pine can vary in terms of needle length and color. As a moderate to large-sized tree, it’s more manageable than others on the list. It transplants very well and is highly cold-tolerant. It is adaptable to many environments but doesn’t like hot weather. 

Spanish Fir

Close-up of branches of Abies pinsapo, commonly known as the Spanish fir. Spanish fir is a striking evergreen tree with a slender, conical shape. Its needles are stiff, needle-like, and deep, dark green, with two white bands underneath. Its cones are small, greenish-pink, and have a distinctive cylindrical shape.Spanish pine develops a unique, plump, pyramidal shape featuring blue-green needles arranged in rosette patterns.

Botanical Name: Abies pinsapo
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 50’-70’
  • Native Range: Spain
  • Zones: 6-7

Depending on the tree height you prefer, Spanish pine can be narrow if cut while young. It gradually fills out with age, though, coming into a nice, plump, pyramidal shape.

The attractive blue-green needles are arranged in a rosette or whorling patterns on the branches, giving this tree a unique look. This tree has a citrusy scent.

Its whorling needles make this a very nice addition to the landscape. It produces attractive cones that are a uniquely light greenish-pink color and also produces small red fruits. Spanish fir has a smooth bark that matures to a rougher and more fissured appearance. It can reach up to 75’ tall in the right habitat. Its sap is also used to make soap. 

Virginia Pine

Close-up of branches of Pinus virginiana, commonly known as the Virginia pine. Virginia pine is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree. Its needles are short, twisted, and two per bundle, giving them a somewhat bushy and coarser appearance. The cones are small and reddish-brown.This popular Southern Christmas tree starts as a pyramid with long, soft needles and a fresh pine fragrance.

Botanical Name: Pinus virginiana (Mil.)
  • Sun Needs: Full sun
  • Height: up to 70’
  • Native Range: Eastern United States
  • Zones: 4-8

Virginia pine is the most popular Christmas tree in the South. In its early years, it has the form of a nicely proportioned pyramid. It has long, soft needles, making the entire tree appear fluffy.

The branches respond well to trimming, so any rogue branches can be manicured to create a more symmetrical appearance. It has a fresh, piney fragrance. 

As this tree matures, it loses the pyramidal shape and forms a slightly wider canopy. The needles are very long-lasting, so it doesn’t make much of a mess in the yard. The bark is pinelike and reddish brown with plates that form between fissures.

White Fir

Close-up of branches of Abies concolor, commonly known as the white fir, in a forest. It is a large and symmetrical evergreen tree with a tall, straight trunk. Its needles are relatively long, flat, and bluish-green to silver-blue.Its needles darken and curve upward as it ages, and the bark starts smooth and gray with resin blisters.

Botanical Name: Abies concolor (Gord. and Glend.) Hildebr.
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: up to 130’
  • Native Range: Pacific Coast, ID, NM, CO
  • Zones: 3-7

White fir has all the characteristics of a stunning Christmas tree. If you want something a little less conventional that still provides a pleasing pyramidal shape and a pleasing, piney aroma, this is a great tree to select. The needles are very light green and point upward, giving the tree an uplifted and unique texture. It has great needle retention as well.

This tree can live a very long time, with some known to be as old as 350 years. As the tree ages, the color of the needles will deepen to a duller green and continue to curve upward near the top of the tree, becoming straighter near the lower branches. The bark is smooth and grey with resin blisters when young, breaking into flat scales as the tree matures.

White Pine

Close-up of Pinus strobus branches. Pinus strobus, commonly known as the Eastern white pine, is a large, stately evergreen tree with a straight and tall trunk. Its soft, flexible needles are grouped in bundles of five, and they are green in color.White pines feature soft, bluish-green needles and flexible branches.

Botanical Name: Pinus strobus L.
  • Sun Needs: Partial sun
  • Height: up to 150’
  • Native Range: Canada and the Northeast United States
  • Zones: 3-7

White pines have soft, flexible, bluish-green needles. Their branches are flexible as well. This is a great tree if you decorate sparingly, but heavy ornaments may weigh the branches down too much. They have excellent needle retention, but there is minimal scent to a white pine tree. 

This is the largest pine native to the United States. It is an imposing figure in the landscape with a mature height of 80 feet or higher. Very large white pine trees were used to fabricate masts for English ship masts. The cones are large and more fragrant than the needles or bark, which is smooth and brown initially, gradually turning grey and fissured. 

White Spruce

Close-up of Picea glauca (Moench) Voss in a garden with mulched soil. Picea glauca (Moench) Voss, commonly known as the white spruce, is a slender and conical evergreen tree. Its needles are short, needle-like, and blue-green in color.White spruce has excellent needle retention.

Botanical Name: Picea glauca (Moench) Voss
  • Sun Needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: up to 150’
  • Native Range: United States and Canada
  • Zones: 2-6

White spruce has the best needle retention of the spruces. The needles are short and stiff with rounded tips, making this an easy tree to decorate. The branches are stiff, making it great at holding heavy ornaments. While it doesn’t have a pleasant smell, the scent is only apparent when the needles are crushed. 

In the landscape, white spruce is a large, well-proportioned conifer. It maintains its conical shape into maturity, making it a very nice ornamental. The bark is thin, and grey, and a bit scaly. It likes moist soil but can survive in partial to nearly full shade if necessary. It’s a beautiful and versatile tree. 

Final Thoughts

When selecting a live Christmas tree, knowing a bit about your options is good before you purchase. Make sure that the tree you choose will thrive in your climate and have the characteristics you are looking for as an ornamental. A live tree is an investment, not only monetarily, but in terms of your tree’s long-term health and happiness in your particular environment. 

Leave a comment