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How to Choose an Artificial Tree for Christmas

If you don’t want the mess of a real evergreen in your home this holiday season, or if allergies prevent you from having a live tree in your house, an artificial tree may be the perfect solution for your holiday decorating.

Buying Tips for Artificial Trees

Christmas trees are a nearly universal element in most homeowners’ holiday decorating. Some people don’t like the fuss and mess of a live tree, while others have allergies that preclude them from having a real evergreen in their house. If you’re considering purchasing an artificial tree for your home this holiday season, use these ideas as a guide:

Choosing Artificial Tree Accents

  • Pre-Lit Artificial Trees: Pre-lit artificial trees are a great way to minimize setup and cleanup (and avoid the holiday trauma of a giant ball of tangled lights). However, pre-lit artificial trees are generally more expensive, and you can’t change the size or color of the lights from year to year. Swapping burned-out lights for fresh ones may also be a challenge. If you choose a pre-lit artificial tree, look for one that is labeled “continuous on” or “with burn-out protection.” This means that if a single bulb on the strand burns out, the rest of the lights stay on.
  • Flocked or Accented Artificial Trees: When an artificial tree is flocked, its branches look like they have been dusted with snow or glitter. You can choose how flocked you want your artificial tree to be; some are dusted more heavily than others. Additional artificial tree accents also may include natural-looking elements, such as pinecones and berries. Keep in mind that these items cannot be removed, so a flocked or accented artificial tree may not match your decorating style if it changes from year to year.

Selecting Tree Height and Width

Most artificial trees for the holidays come in one of three widths, generally labeled as full, slim or pencil. Artificial trees also come in a range of heights, beginning at tabletop size and increasing, usually in half-foot increments, up to about 12 feet. To ensure the best artificial tree for your home, measure the spot where you plan to display the tree and leave enough room to maneuver around it to decorate.

Choosing Artificial Tree Material

  • Types of Branches: Artificial trees come with two types of branches—hinged or hook-in. Hinged artificial trees, which consist of just a few parts, have permanently affixed branches and are generally easier to set up. Hook-in branches are individually hooked into a specific spot on a central tree pole. These artificial trees take much more time to put together and cannot be pre-lit, but they also tend to be less expensive.
  • Types of Material: Artificial trees are made using one of two types of plastic: PVC or PE. The main difference in materials is in how the trees look. PVC needles are attached to the artificial tree branches using wires. PE artificial trees are fabricated, so both the needles and the branches better resemble those of a real tree. Branch tips may also be sculpted, which means they better replicate the look of a real evergreen.
  • Tinsel, Feather and Other Artificial Trees: While many artificial trees for Christmas are designed to resemble real evergreens, some of them are designed to fill a different decorating need. Tinsel and feather trees are two common examples; these are typically white, silver or gold. While many are often used as tabletop trees, tinsel trees are available in full-size as well.

Note: The density, or tip count, indicates how full your artificial tree looks. When purchasing, evaluate your artificial tree’s branches for sturdiness; if you have lots of ornaments, you want branches sturdy enough to hold them.

Additional Considerations When Choosing Artificial Trees

  • Price: Just as artificial trees can be found in all sizes, they can also be found in all price ranges. Ultimately, the quality of the tree and additional accents will affect the pricing. While off-the-shelf varieties are generally affordable, custom artificial trees are also available.
  • What’s Included: The general life expectancy of an artificial tree is about 10 years, and some may come with a warranty. Stands are usually included; plastic versions may be less stable than those made of metal. Some artificial trees also include additional accessories such as a storage bag. Your artificial tree should also be fire-retardant and fade-resistant.
  • Decorating with Both Artificial and Real Trees: Both artificial and live evergreens can be deftly worked into a variety of holiday styles and schemes within your home. A small artificial tree is a great tabletop choice to display a themed set of decorations or to complete a room’s color scheme, in addition to a full-size live evergreen. A miniature real evergreen can be used in a room where there isn’t lots of space, such as the kitchen or guest room, for added fragrance.

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens. Used with permission. © Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.