Pine, Fir or Spruce: Which makes the best Christmas tree?

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The holidays are upon us, and with them comes the task of choosing the perfect Christmas tree, something that Purdue University forestry specialist Dan Cassens said may require some thought.

fabchristmastrees-main_FullIn Indiana, there are several species of Christmas trees, including varieties of pine, spruce and fir. Each species comes with its own pros and cons.

“Scotch and white pines are two of the more popular Christmas trees in Indiana,” Cassens said. “Pines are known for their soft needles and excellent needle retention, and they are available on most farms.”

In recent years, fir species have become more popular Christmas trees in Indiana. Fraser and Canaan firs are among the most common, and both are known for their needle retention and fragrance. These species also boast large, soft, waxy branches with short needles, making them easy to decorate.

“Often times, people will see different species of trees in home decorating magazines, and that will spark a trend toward different types of Christmas trees,” Cassens said. “Sometimes it takes a while to meet the demands of those trends, however, because it takes, on average, seven years to grow a tree large enough to sell.”

For consumers looking for something slightly different than the traditional pine or the popular fir species, spruce trees also are an option.

“In the southern portion of the state where it’s much harder to grow some of the true fir species, spruce tends to be more popular, after scotch and white pine,” Cassens said. “Spruce also are available elsewhere, but shoppers will want to be sure they are purchasing a locally grown tree. Traditionally, spruce trees don’t hold their needles well, but if the tree is grown locally and cut fresh, consumers can help them retain their needles for three weeks or more by keeping them well-watered and away from heat.”

More information about Christmas tree varieties and sources is available by visiting the Indiana Christmas Tree Association Web site at or the National Christmas Tree Association Web site at

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 October 2020