There’s something about a Christmas tree that gives your home that warm, cozy feeling of the holidays and timeless traditions. For many families a favorite tradition is bringing home a real Christmas tree. It’s that time of the year to start shopping around to find the right one at the right price. Considering how much does a real Christmas tree cost weighs on several different factors.
🎄 FACTS: In 2018 Americans spent over $2 billion on over 32.8 million real Christmas trees, with the average price being $78. Compare that to about 23.6 million fake Christmas trees purchased in 2018 with the average price being $104.
Real vs Artificial Christmas Trees
Real Christmas Trees
Artificial (fake) Christmas Trees
Fact : “Based on differences in environmental impact, natural Christmas trees are generally better than artificial trees.” (Read study)Environmental Assessment of Natural vs. Artificial Christmas Trees
Summary : Cost of A Real Christmas Tree
As stated earlier, the average price of a live Evergreen tree was $78 in 2018, but what about other tree species and other factors that feed into the price of a real tree.
If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here are the numbers that you need to know for 2019, based on our own research. We go into more detail later. There are many factors that determine the overall cost, which are helpful to know when shopping.
Quick Facts : Tree Species
Factors to Consider
There is a great deal that goes into the cost of a real tree. If it’s your first time buying one you may want to take some notes. What you can expect to spend will depend on a number of factors such as:
The species of the tree will play a large part in the price. Particular species that require more upkeep, for instance, will come at a premium price compared to those that are low maintenance. Likewise, the larger the tree the higher the price tag. This is because larger trees are much more difficult to produce. They are harder to shear and to protect from damage caused by birds, animals, insects and diseases.
Additional costs should be taken into consideration apart from the initial price of the tree itself. You will need a tree stand that will support the tree and hold water.
If you’re cutting down your own at a tree farm you may need to get it trimmed down to the desired height, which might come at an extra charge. Some places may also offer delivery for a fee if you don’t have the means to transport it yourself.
You might also incur costs for disposal after the holidays, unless you choose a potted tree. That’s right, potted Christmas trees are also a thing in case you’re new to the game. These living trees are sold (or in some places even rented out) balled and wrapped in burlap so that they can be planted after the Holiday season as landscape trees.
🎄 Great Resource : Locate a Christmas tree farm near you with the useful tree locator map for the USA (National Christmas Tree Association). Who knew such a thing existed? It’s amazing what you can find online.
Types of Christmas Trees
The type of tree you choose should be a considerable factor when selecting the right one to bring home. There are many different species that fall within one of these five common types: Fir, Spruce, Pine, Cypress, and Cedar. The type of tree you decide on makes a difference in the price you’ll pay. These are the most commonly sold species that are marketed for Christmas trees:
Trees of the Balsam Fir species are characterized as having a conical shape with a pyramidal crown. The needle-like leaves are flat and dark green in color. The leaves are also known to have shiny silvery-white hints and are long-lasting. Balsam Firs retain a pleasant fragrance. This species falls within the small-medium sized range reaching heights up to 66 feet. The species has the largest distribution of naturally grown North American Fir species and found from southern Pennsylvania as far south as West Virginia and Virginia.
If you’re looking to make a statement in your home, the Douglas Fir will give you just that in height. These magnificently large trees can grow to reach up to 330 feet tall! They also typically come at a higher price tag compared to other types of trees within the average height range. If you’re not shopping for a taller than average tree, you may want to stick to one of the other varieties. They have very strong branches which are soft and needle-like and great for holding up to heavy ornaments.
The Fraser Fir shares many similarities to the Balsam Fir. It’s well known for its strong fragrance and extra sturdy branches that are perfect for heavy ornaments. The yellow-green branches are needle-like and soft to the touch. They grow at an angle slightly upward. These trees are a great option for those who like to decorate heavily with lots of space in between branches. Fraser trees typically fall in the smaller height range up to 50 feet tall. They are grown naturally only in regions where elevations are over 4,500 feet. They have favorable characteristics for shipping making these easily available across tree farms and retail chains.
This is a very commonly sought-after Christmas tree for its height and having sturdy branches for decorating. Noble Firs can grow up to 230-feet tall. They are characterized by deep green leaves that grow curved upwards and have a strong fragrance. The branches typically grow evenly spaced making these easy to decorate. The species is naturally grown in middle to upper elevation regions and are native to Northern California and along the coastal regions of Oregon and Washington. They make up 25- 30% of the market in fresh Christmas trees in the Pacific Northwest.
Colorado Blue Spruce
As the name implies, the Blue Spruce is named and well-loved for its gray-blue needles and known for being the state tree of Colorado. The leaves grow at a curved upward angle and characterized as giving this spruce the perfect christmas tree shape. They’re grown as ornamental trees in the eastern United States.The strong branches are great for heavier ornaments and with dense foliage, this tree is ideal for those who like to use a moderate amount of decorations. Blue Spruce trees can reach up to 75 feet tall.
The Norway Spruce has a medium fragrance and features dark green leaves that are needle-like and pointed. These can grow up to 180 feet. The Norway Spruce is known for having very poor needle retention so it’s very important to cut fresh and care for it properly. If you have a tendency to be neglectful with watering this is not the ideal tree for you unless you like sweeping up needles frequently.
Also known as the Canadian Spruce and the Western White Spruce, this spruce tree features leaves that are blue-green in color. It gives off a medium-fragrance but if the leaves get crushed it has an unpleasant scent. Special care should be taken when selecting one to inspect for damaged branches and careful handling when transporting home. These fall within the tall category growing up to 130-ft tall. The needles are short and sturdy providing a suitable option for decorating. The White Spruce is known for having better needle retention compared to other Spruce species. This species can be found and harvested in the Northeastern United States and Canada.
The Scotch Pine, also called the Scots Pine, is a common Christmas tree option. This species can range in color between blue-green to darker green during the winter months. These are known for having excellent needle retention and easy upkeep. Bear in mind the needle-like leaves are also quite sharp so you may want to wear gloves while decorating. In addition to its sharp leaves, there may be very minimal space between branches as a result of heavy shearing. This would be a suitable tree if you like to keep decorating simple with minimal decorations. They’re also very easy to replant with a favorable survival rate, making the preferable option if you’re looking to buy a potted tree species.
The Virginia Pine is the most popular Christmas tree variety sold in the south. This pine is commonly characterized for having short, twisted needles and short branches. It features dense foliage that responds well to trimming and it gives off a medium fragrance. The Virginia Pine falls within the small to medium range growing up to 70-feet tall.
If you’re searching for a mildly-scented tree the White Pine is a great option that gives off very little aroma. The leaves are characterized as having a light bluish-green hue, providing a beautiful tree to keep minimally decorated. The branches are not very strong so it’s not suitable to use heavy or large ornaments. The White Pine is the largest pine tree in the U.S. and can grow up to 230 feet tall.
This species is characterized as having a steeple shape and ranges in color from pale-green to gray-green. Its tiny leaves are plentiful and lay close to the surface of the branches. The species is primarily found and grown in Alabama, the Carolinas, the Florida panhandle, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Southern California, Tennessee, and Texas. These are mainly found at choose and cut tree farms locally in the south, southwestern, and southeastern regions.
Eastern Red cedar
This species is one only found in tree farms where you choose and cut your tree and are found in Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. They are characterized as having a compact form and a pyramidal crown. The leaves are dark green in color with a shiny appearance. These trees are slow growing and typically fall in the small to medium range.
How Much Does A Real Christmas Tree Cost?
How much does a real Christmas tree cost when buying from a massive retailer vs. a locally owned tree farm? If you’re contemplating where to get your tree from this year here are a few facts that might help in your decision.
These are simply average prices based on the most commonly bought trees. You can expect to pay more or less depending on the size of tree you’re searching for. Another cost variable is where you buy from and your location. Prices will range based on region. For instance, trees that are grown and available locally such as those grown in southern regions will likely be cheaper than those that were harvested and brought in from northern regions.
Fact : The average price of real Christmas trees will will go up about $3 (on average) for 2019 thanks to inclement weather affecting tree farming as well as other economic factors.
Where to Buy Your Live Christmas Tree?
Pros – The retail chain stores such as Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, Target, etc. generally have lower prices on Christmas trees because they get them at wholesale prices. Many retailers may also offer a money-back guarantee or warranty on their trees if you take it home and find something wrong with it.
Cons – Most retail stores sell the trees already wrapped or netted so it can be hard to determine quality beforehand.
Local Tree Farm
🎅 If you didn’t catch this earlier in the article, I’ll share it again. You can easily find a Christmas tree farm near you using this online tree locator map from the National Christmas Tree Association, which I’m thankful exists and so should you.
Pros – there is generally a better selection of different varieties of trees to choose from over what the retail stores carry. You can usually inspect the trees from a choose and cut farm or lot much easier to determine quality before you buy. When you buy from a tree farm you’re also supporting a local business and their family rather than a large corporation.
Cons – Trees are typically a little higher in price compared to retailers and price may be determined by the foot which can be considerably higher for a tall tree. For instance – you might pay anywhere between $49 – $84 for a 7-foot tall Douglas Fir compared to $30 -$45 for one from Walmart.
Another option is buying online. You can actually order a live Christmas tree online from retail lots or big name websites such as Amazon. The plus side is prices for trees bought online are comparable to those found in retail chains and are generally cheaper than local farms. The downside is you can’t visibly see or inspect the tree beforehand. You run the risk of damage during shipping and delivery.
So how much does a real Christmas tree cost by type? Considering the variable factors that can determine the final price, here is what we’ve concluded in terms of price comparisons from least to most expensive
Where to Buy Online?
- A Tree at your Door : Arrives in 1 to 5 days for most states. About 7 days for Hawaii.
- Walddie : Delivery is free
- Amazon.com : Yes, Amazon sells real live Christmas trees.
- Hammacher Schlemmer : Freshly cut within a day of shipment
- Home Depot : Sold through third party sellers
- Christmas Trees Now : They sell a wide range of tree species.
Real vs. Artificial Christmas Tree
It’s one of the biggest debates surrounding the holiday, should you go with a real or artificial Christmas tree? There are many variables that come into play here. For some it’s not an option, rather a necessity such as those with allergies to live trees. For others there’s no question — a real tree is the way to go.
The one primary disadvantage is considering how much does a real Christmas tree cost compared to an artificial one. If you are trying to save money artificial trees are more cost-effective overall. While they’re typically more expensive over a real tree initially, they have an average lifespan of 10 years. This depends on the quality you buy and how it’s handled and stored.
Additional costs also play a factor such as the tree stand. You will have to buy a tree stand that can accommodate a live tree which is an added expense. Artificial trees usually come with a stand. Lights are another added cost when it comes to a live tree where some artificial trees are sold pre-lit with lights already wired through the branches.
Real trees require care and maintenance. Artificial trees are more convenient in that they require no maintenance at all. With a real tree it is vital to its health that it receives adequate water supply and you will have needles to clean up afterwards.
Live trees are more economical for the environment and better for your home. Artificial trees are commonly made from PVC plastic. Over time these plastics can release toxins that can be potentially harmful for humans and pets. Real trees are natural and also decompose over time.
You may be surprised to learn that real trees are actually a safer option over artificial in terms of fire hazard, as long as they are kept watered and not allowed to dry out. A burn test was conducted on a real tree and an artificial tree in a controlled environment under the same conditions by the Farmington Hills Fire Department. The results were surprising: the artificial tree went up in smoke in no time where the real tree was barely singed. When kept properly watered a real tree is much more resistant to fire than artificial trees.
Statistics on Christmas Tree Sales
If you really want to get down to which option more people prefer, real vs. fake Christmas tree, here’s a look at some numbers. A research survey conducted last year showed that more real trees were sold than artificial trees. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the number of real trees sold last year was reportedly 32.8 million and the number of artificial trees sold was 23.6 million. The average price consumers paid: $78 for a real tree and $104 for artificial.
Among those that purchased real Christmas trees, where they purchased from came down to a split tie between retail chain stores and tree farms. The percentage of real trees sold at mass retailers such as Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc. was 28%. The same percentage were sold from choose and cut tree farms. Sales from a pop up retail lot made up 23%, nurseries and garden centers made up 10% of sales, non-profit organizations such as churches accounted for 6% of sales, online sales such as Amazon composed of 2% and 3% of sales came from other sources such as Mail Order.
When is the Best Time to Get a Tree?
Traditionally, most people purchase their Christmas tree in December. With real trees you may be under the impression you should wait closer to Christmas to enjoy it’s natural beauty while it lasts. The truth is pre-cut trees you buy from the mass retail chains or from a pop-up tree seller lot get cut at the same time.
In the case of a real pre-cut tree, the sooner you buy one the better. You will have a much better selection to choose from than if you wait. Moreover, the sooner you pick out your tree to bring home and care for it, the better chance it will have. You want to select your tree while it’s still relatively fresh to maintain its fragrance and have better needle retention. The longer a tree sits at the retail lot, the lower the quality will be once you bring it home. Most distributors deliver trees to the retailers in late November.
With tree farms where you cut down the tree yourself there is no doubt on freshness. If you have one of these located near you and plan on shopping there for your tree it doesn’t really matter when you choose to get it.
With living potted trees, it’s best to wait. Potted trees are best not kept indoors for longer than 10 days due to their sensitive nature when exposed to warmer temperatures. Trees go dormant in the winter so if left too long under warm conditions the buds will break and begin growing. This is not something you want. If purchasing a potted tree, wait until the week of Christmas.
Christmas Tree Selection Tips
When you go to pick out your ideal tree you definitely want to look for freshness. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when selecting that perfect tree.
Inspect the leaves for color and durability. If the needles appear pale in color (that is not characteristic of the species) seem brittle or break off easily this may be a sign it has been sitting in the lot awhile. You want to look for vibrant green color and leaves that are bendable but not break easily.
Pass your hand gently across the leaves. A few to moderate amount may fall which is typical. If there is a noticeable amount of needles that fall off when you gently stroke it steer clear. Another sign of freshness is leaves that ‘spring back’ easily.
Check for signs of damage such as broken branches or bare spots. If the tree appears in overall healthy condition you may be able to bargain for a lower price with the seller over imperfections.
Christmas Tree Care / Maintenance Tips
After you’ve chosen your desired tree you will need to care for it to keep it looking fresh and lively. Christmas trees do not require a great deal of care but it is important to maintain it. White and Norway Spruce trees in particular do require more maintenance than other species Think of it as a bouquet of flowers. Follow these steps after you’ve picked out your tree to take home.
Step 1: Remove netting. Once you get your tree home take the netting or bonding off right away to allow the branches to move and breathe.
Step 2: You need to saw off about an inch of the bottom of your tree base. You should also remove a couple inches of bark from around the base of the tree. The purpose of this is for optimal water retention. Trees absorb water through the bark rather than the wood of the tree. Exposing a few inches at the bottom will allow water to travel up more effectively.
Step 3: If you purchased your tree early, let it sit outside in a bucket for a day or two before taking it in. This will allow the tree to become conditioned before bringing it into your home. Leave it in a shaded area. Cut trees do not need sunlight to preserve their color.
Some advise using a feed or adding substances to the tree to preserve freshness; however, this is purely optional. As soon as a tree is cut it will try to seal itself as a preventive measure against infection. This is why it’s important to cut off the old base of the tree to remove any clogged pores. If kept adequately watered a real tree will keep just fine without adding anything to the water.
Expect to water your tree frequently the first day or two you bring it home. A fresh cut tree can take up as much as a gallon of water the first day depending on the size and species. Keeping your tree sufficiently watered is really important for a number of reasons. For safety, a well-watered tree is more resistant to catching on fire. Keeping it watered will also help in needle retention and keep it healthy longer.
Once a tree becomes dried out it is much harder for it to absorb water when you do rewater it. It will also begin losing needles prematurely. If your tree has dried out you can remove it from the stand and cut off some of the base as you did the first day then re-water it.
Best Christmas Tree Stand
Krinner’s Tree Genie
- Set up your Christmas tree in less than a minute.
- No assembly required. Simple.
- Patented internal safety belt.
- Patented bell inside the foot pedal lets you know with a DING when the tree is held at maximum strength. Pedal locks for safety.
- 2.5 gallon water reservoir with level indicator
- Can handle : up to 12 foot trees, 7″ trunks
- 20″ base diameter
- 18 lb. base weight
- Krinner’s original single cable operation
- Additional centering device for smaller trunks
- 5 safety claws
Rated as one of the best sellers in tree stands, the Krinner’s Tree Genie Deluxe Christmas tree stand provides ease and convenience. With traditional tree stands placing your tree upright and securing is usually a two-person job. With the Krinner’s Tree Genie there is no assembly required and no screws to tighten. This innovative tree stand is designed with a foot pedal you pump to tighten the claws around the trunk to secure the tree in place. It uses a single cable operation to provide equal claw pressure around the tree trunk. You simply stand the tree into the open stand and hold straight then press the foot pedal until the tree is secured by the clamps.
There are 5 stabilizer feet that give this stand greater stability for your peace of mind. A locking mechanism feature is designed to lock the foot pedal once you’ve secured your tree to avoid accidental release. The water reservoir can retain up to a gallon of water. The newer Deluxe model also features a water level float to indicate how high the water is.
For Potted Trees
If you went with a potted living tree you will tend to it a little bit differently. Because potted trees are sold bagged and wrapped in burlap with the roots they will not require frequent watering as with pre-cut trees. It is important, however, to be mindful of carefully handling to avoid damage.
Avoid carrying potted trees by the stems. The heavy weight of the root ball puts pressure on the roots which can cause them to break and become damaged if mistreated or dropped. If possible, carry the tree by the root ball itself or roll the ball along the ground when transporting it into your home.
Before placing the tree indoors be sure the root ball is moistened. You will need to have a large pan or bucket to place the root ball in. This will make it easier to keep it in a moistened state while it’s being displayed and prevent your floor from becoming stained.
Christmas Tree Safety Tips
It’s important to keep safety in mind with Christmas trees. Real or artificial, they can each pose potential hazards. We can’t prevent what disasters may or may not occur this holiday season when it comes to your family, but we can help you avoid unwanted tree mishaps! Here are some safety tips to follow so you can enjoy your tree throughout the holiday.
Location is important. Naturally, you will want to place your tree where it will be the focal point of the room. Consider location carefully to ensure safety. In a corner or near a wall is preferred as it’s less likely to be knocked over.
Keep your tree away from any heat sources to minimize a fire hazard. Real or not you want to avoid placing it near hot air ducts, stoves, fireplaces, and do not use space heaters near the tree. This will also help preserve the tree’s freshness and reduce the chances of it drying out.
Make sure cords from lights are not a tripping hazard. Run cords behind the tree and keep clear from any walkways. Only use light cords or any connections that will be used in decorating your tree that are in good working condition. If the cord is frayed or wires exposed replace it. Do not leave lights on for long periods of time or when you aren’t home.
What to Do With Your Tree After Christmas
After the gifts have all been opened, leftovers have all been eaten, and relatives have all gone, it’s time to do away with your tree. Before you toss your tree out with the torn wrapping paper and gift boxes consider an alternative disposal method. There are many different options available for disposing your tree which serve better for the environment.
- Do you own a wood chipper/shredder? Real trees can serve as excellent mulch for flower beds, backyards, and playgrounds.
- Coastal erosion prevention. Live trees can be placed as barriers to minimize soil and beach erosion. In fact, last year there were close to 1.5 million real Christmas trees used to place as barriers along the coast of Louisiana to protect against erosion.
- Burn it. If you have the adequate space outdoors (not too close to homes or buildings) you can have a bonfire with your tree. Just don’t burn it in your fireplace!!! Trees contain sap which can create a tar-like substance when burned. This can easily ignite a fire inside your chimney and you certainly don’t want that. Use safety precautions when burning.
- Check your local council on disposal services for Christmas trees. In many areas a collection service or waste disposal service may be available Christmas trees.
- Cut it up and recycle it. There are over 4,000 recycling programs specifically for Christmas trees in the U.S. If you have a local recycling center you can visit the Recycle Now website and find instructions on how and where to recycle your Christmas tree.
If you purchased a potted tree one advantage is you can replant it to have and use again the following year! Here’s what you should do with your potted tree once Christmas is over.
The tree should be reconditioned to the climate before planting directly outside. Leave the tree in an unheated garage, barn, or a sheltered space that’s cool for a couple of days. If you are unable to plant it right away or if the ground is still frozen you will need to keep the tree in a sheltered location and the root ball needs to be heavily mulched and kept moist until ready to plant.
When you’re ready to plant the tree, dig a hole the depth of the root ball and 2 times the diameter. Place the root ball into the hole and backfill with your soil. Water the tree and mulch around the base with straw, bark, sawdust, or other mulch material. The tree will remain dormant until the spring.