The hunt for the best Christmas tree is already underway and garden centres are busily selling trees that will be in a sorry state by the 25th December.
There’s a bewildering range to choose from: there are a dozen or so different species and they’re sold in a variety of ways; cut, containerised – when they’re grown in the ground, pulled up and potted – and container grown.
50connect’s guide can help you find the right tree for your home and keep your carpet needle free!
Type of tree
The type of tree you buy can make a big difference to how long it lasts.
If you just want an ornamental tree, this is the cheapest option. Treat it like a large cut flower and don’t forget to recycle it. These are field-grown trees that are sawn off at ground level. Avoid any that are nailed to wooden stands as they’ll be harder to keep fresh. Many Norway spruces are trimmed during growth to improve the shape but are likely to cost more – look for ‘premium’ quality trees.
Expect to pay £30 – £36 for a 1.8m – 2m (6ft-8ft) cut Norway spruce or £30 – £40 for a Nordmann.
A good investment if you want to keep a tree in the garden for two or three years. These are the most expensive option and have spent their lives in a pot. Grown in small plastic pots and placed in a decorative pot; large roots grow through the bottom and need to be cut off. Although this is the most expensive option, it will look the best and can be kept after Christmas.
Expect to pay £40 for a 1.2m (4ft) potted Norway spruce and £35 – £45 for a similarly sized Nordmann.
Avoid these trees. A cut tree is a better bet, or look for a container-grown tree. Containerised trees are labelled as “potted” but these trees can have their roots destroyed when being dug up and potted. Usually rammed into their pots so tightly, watering can be almost impossible and the trees dry out very quickly.
Expect to pay £43 for a 1.2m (4ft) potted Norway spruce and £35 – £45 for a similarly sized Nordmann.
The main types of tree available are the traditional Christmas tree – the Norway spruce – and the Nordmann fir.
The Norway spruce is the one that traditionally drops all its needles on the living room carpet and is nearly bald by Twelfth Night. It has a stronger scent and can be persuaded to hang on to its needles by careful treatment. The best quality trees are pruned in the field to produce an even, conical shape.
In recent years, the Nordmann fir has become the most popular Christmas tree, outselling Norway spruces by about 4 million to 2.5 million. Their biggest selling point is that they don’t drop their long, flattened needles even if neglected.
Other Tree Types
For the more adventurous, a number of alternative Christmas trees are available. However, they grow more slowly and can be more expensive than the traditional Norway spruce or Nordmann fir.
Like the Norway spruce, the blue spruce loses its needles unless it’s kept watered, but it has an attractive metallic blue sheen. The trees have a broad base and are very prickly, so they are best suited to a larger room.
This is similar to the Nordmann fir but with a narrower shape, so it’s suitable for a smaller room. It holds onto its dark green, strongly scented needles well.
Lodgepole pine – This looks quite similar to the Scots pine (mentioned below), but has darker, straighter needles.
This is one of the UK-produced trees that is becoming more common. The thick, broad needles have a silvery sheen and a pleasant pine aroma.
One of our few native conifers, it’s sheared when young to make a better shape. It’s difficult to dress, but retains its needles and has an evocative pine scent.
Also known as Omorika spruce, this has a narrow shape with upward pointing shoots, often with cones as it flowers early. However the soft, scented needles drop readily.
Looking After Your Tree
- Buy it as late as you dare – ideally the weekend before Christmas – if you want it to look good and last until Twelfth Night.
- Look for freshly delivered stock. Choose one with a good shape and if you opt for a cut tree, pick one that has at least 30cm of clear trunk at the base.
- When you get it home, saw the bottom 3cm off the trunk of a cut tree and stand it in a bucket of water, somewhere cool. Clamp it securely into a stand with a water reservoir and top this up regularly. If the water disappears quickly, this is a good sign as it means the tree is absorbing it.
- Stand trees in a cool part of the room, well away from radiators. A living tree will do best in a cool room, porch or conservatory, especially if you intend to keep it. Stand the pot of the living tree in a deep saucer and keep the saucer topped up with water.
Recycle your tree
- Cut trees are also fully recyclable after use and many garden centres and local councils will take trees off your hands after Christmas and shred them.
- If you’ve got a shredder, do it yourself and use the chippings as a mulch – acid loving plants such as blueberries or rhododendrons would appreciate it.
- If you want to keep a living tree, keep it in a pot, potting it into a slightly larger pot as it grows. Keep it in a fairly shady spot and water in dry spells.
- Christmas trees are renewable – they’re grown as a crop and replanted each year. Young conifer plantations support abundant wildlife.
Which? Gardening – Independent expert advice you can trust
The British Christmas Tree Growers Association – Association for those who grow and buy specialist Christmas Trees
What type of tree are you buying? How long does your tree last? Do you have any tips and recommendations to pass on to other readers?
If so, let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums.Last modified: June 10, 2021