The most eco-friendly Christmas tree is one that lasts for years. Here’s how to choose, decorate, and care for a living tree during the holidays.

living Christmas trees
Thomas J. Story

For most people, choosing a Christmas tree comes down to a fundamental choice between a harvested tree off a lot or an artificial one. But there’s a third option: Inviting a living tree into your living room for the holiday. This approach gives you all the nice pine-y smells associated with traditional trees, but none of the guilt you might feel knowing a tree was chopped down to make your holiday décor happen.

It’s always nice to bring in some greenery during the cold, dark winter months. Select a living Christmas tree as you’d choose plants for your garden―go with what you love, and have room for.

Across the West, there’s a wide variety of pines to choose from that would make great living trees, each with its own look. You can step away from the traditional deep green with the blue spruces of Colorado. There are plenty of trees with classic semi-short needles, but there are shorter options like the curled needles of the Korean fir, or, for something more graceful and ethereal, the long, brushlike needles of the Bosnian pine.

Regardless of the specific type of tree, look for landscape-grade trees (not sheared), in 5-, 7-, and 15-gallon cans, and transplant them into a decorative container. You can use the same tree in a container for four to seven years, depending on how fast it grows. If you intend to plant it outdoors eventually, choose a variety that thrives in your climate. And be sure that you have a sunny spot for it.

Here are some of the best choices for living Christmas trees available in the West, and some tips on how to care for and decorate your living tree.

Favorite Christmas Trees

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