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After getting rid of pumpkins and leftover Halloween candy, many people across the country begin decorating their homes for the holidays, and that often starts with a Christmas tree. But due to global supply chain issues, getting your hands on a tree this season might be more difficult than in years past.
“While we believe the majority of consumers will be able to find a Christmas tree this year, selection will be limited, and consumers won’t have the range of options they may be accustomed to,” said Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association. “Supply chain challenges mean that there will be fewer live and artificial Christmas trees available this year, and those that are available will cost more than before.”
This is not the year to find a tree last-minute, or to wait for a retailer sale. Plan ahead, and buy early.
Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association
So what does that mean for shoppers? Experts recommend being flexible when you set out on your Christmas tree search — you might have to opt for a different height or type of tree than usual. And if the prospect of finding a Christmas tree this year is already stressing you out, you can consider buying an artificial tree, eliminating the need to worry about buying one each winter.
For those who don’t want to deal with a real tree this season, we talked to experts about how to shop for artificial Christmas trees — including tips for buying them when there’s low inventory — and rounded up some highly rated options based on their advice. We also asked experts about the environmental impact of Christmas trees, and what those with allergies and pets specifically should be aware of before they buy one.
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What to consider when shopping for an artificial Christmas tree
Live Christmas trees fill the air with the scent of pine needles and, depending on where you shop, buying them often supports local family farmers. But for those looking to save time setting up their tree, artificial models may be a better option. Warner said one of the major benefits of artificial Christmas trees is that they only take minutes to set up, and you can purchase options that are pre-lit or pre-decorated. Artificial trees are also available in a plethora of shapes, sizes, styles and colors, and some are even themed.
Another benefit of artificial Christmas trees is that you can use them for years. Warner said most artificial trees last an average of 10 years, while some can be used for 20 years or more. Because of this, it’s important to think about what kind of Christmas tree you want in the long run while you’re shopping. Warner recommended reading reviews, paying attention to ratings and looking through all the images a seller provides.
Additionally, Warner said you should consider where you’ll store your artificial Christmas tree when it’s not in use — while you may be able to display a 12-foot tree in your living room during the holidays, your closet may not be able to accommodate that same size.
Highly rated artificial Christmas trees to consider this holiday season
“This is not the year to find a tree last-minute, or to wait for a retailer sale,” Warner said. “Plan ahead, and buy early.” To help you do so, we rounded up some highly rated options from retailers like Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon and more with expert advice as guidance. We made sure to include options across price points, size and style, as well as both non-lit and pre-lit options.
Once your tree arrives, Warner suggested taking it out of the box and checking to make sure nothing is broken and that its base is level and sturdy — shipping delays also impact returns and replacements.
Available in 6-foot, 7 1/2-foot and 9-foot models, this tree has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 10,400 reviews on Amazon. It features a built-in foldable base and comes unlit, allowing you to add your own decorations if you choose.
Ashland's 7-foot tree has a slim pencil shape. The tree sports 210 clear lights with replaceable bulbs as well as a removable metal stand. It has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 1,100 reviews at Michaels.
You can purchase this pre-lit Christmas tree in four heights: 6 1/2 feet, 7 1/2 feet, 10 feet or 12 feet. Its clear bulbs illuminate the tree with white light, and it boasts a full shape, according to the brand. The tree comes with extra bulbs and it has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 1,500 reviews at Home Depot.
In addition to the traditional Green color that the brand says looks more like a live tree, this artificial tree is offered in white and black options if you want to go the non-traditional route. All models are pre-lit and are 6 ½ feet tall. You can choose between Clear, Multi and Blue lights. Trees come with a plastic stand and the brand says their tops are extra sturdy to hold a tree topper. This model boasts a 4.2-star average rating from more than 2,000 reviews at Walmart.
Three Posts’ artificial Christmas tree comes in multiple heights: 4 ½ feet, 5 feet, 6 feet, 6.6 feet, 7 feet, 7.6 feet and 9 feet. They’re all pre-lit with white lights and come with a metal stand. Extra bulbs are included with trees. They have a 4.6-star average rating from more than 7,700 reviews on Wayfair.
Balsam Hill’s Blue Spruce Artificial Christmas Tree comes in a variety of styles. You can purchase it unlit or lit with color and clear LEDs, candlelight clear LEDS or clear lights. Trees are designed to be full in shape, according to the brand, and are available in five heights: 4 ½ feet, 5 ½ feet, , 6 ½ feet, 7 ½ feet and 9 feet. They have a 4.5-star average rating from 3,500 reviews on Balsam Hill.
At 7.5 feet tall, this artificial Christmas tree comes with a metal stand and is designed to look like a Virginia Pine variety, according to the brand. It boasts a 4.7-star average rating from more than 1,200 reviews at Target.
In addition to clear lights, this artificial Christmas tree is decorated with pine cones. It’s available in multiple sizes, including 4 ½ feet, 6 ½ feet,7 feet, 7 ½ feet- and 9 feet. The tree’s steel base is foldable, allowing it to lay flat when it’s not in use, the brand says. It has a 4.6-star average rating from 3,300 reviews on Amazon.
Adding a bit of sparkle to your holiday decor, this Joss & Main artificial Christmas tree is white and glittery. It has clear white lights and a foldable base, and comes in 4 ½ foot-, 6 ½ foot-, 7 foot- and 7 ½-foot sizes. Joss & Main describes its shape as “very lush” and says the tree resembles a Fir variety.
In addition to a Green model and one covered in artificial snow, you can purchase this tree in Pure White, Pink and Black. It’s offered in 4 ½-foot, 6-foot and 7-foot heights, and all models are built with a foldable stand — its feet are covered by non-skid rubber to help prevent it from moving or scratching floors, the brand says.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales on artificial Christmas trees
- Balsam Hill is offering up to 50 percent off select artificial Christmas trees through Dec. 6.
- Joss & Main is offering up to 25 percent off artificial Christmas trees.
- Lowe’s is offering deals on select artificial Chirstmas trees.
- Macy’s is offering up to 60 percent off holiday decor including artificial Christmas trees.
- Michaels is offering up to 50 percent off artificial Christmas trees.
- Walmart is offering deals on select artificial Christmas trees.
- Wayfair is offering up to 30 percent off holiday decor through Nov. 30, including select artificial Christmas trees.
Artificial vs live Christmas trees: Their environmental impact
Any way you look at it, “the impact of a real or artificial tree on the environment is negligible,” said Bert Cregg, a professor at Michigan State University’s Department of Horticulture and an expert in Christmas tree production. “Both of these have next to no impact when you look at it compared to what most people do in the rest of their lives.”
But because artificial Christmas trees can be reused for years, you might think they’re more eco-friendly than live trees that are disposed of after the holiday season. Since artificial Christmas trees are largely made from plastic and can end up in landfills when they’re trashed, however, the issue has been debated. And many studies have been conducted around the topic, including some commissioned by the American Christmas Tree Association.
If you are concerned about sustainability in regards to your Christmas tree selection, Cregg recommended buying a live tree from a locally owned family farm or reusing an artificial tree as many times as you can before purchasing a new one. You can also often buy artificial trees secondhand. Warner noted that if you plan to replace your artificial tree while it’s still in good condition, you should try to donate it rather than throw it away.
Are artificial Christmas trees better for those with allergies?
For those who suffer from certain allergies, bringing a live Christmas tree into the home during the holiday season can cause irritation, said Dr. Nina Shapiro, professor of head and neck surgery at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. Does this mean that artificial trees are better for those with allergies? Not necessarily: Shapiro said you can have the same reaction to an artificial tree.
“Real or artificial, the allergic reaction may be due to contaminants such as mold, ragweed pollen and dust rather than the tree itself,” said Shapiro, author of “The Ultimate Kids' Guide to Being Super Healthy.” And for artificial trees, she said “the longer the tree stays in the home, the more likely dust and mold develops, making people more susceptible to allergies.”
To help reduce allergic reactions, Shapiro said it’s important to wipe down your tree — real or artificial — with a wet cloth or using a towel and a spray bottle filled with water before setting it up. The same goes for ornaments and lights, as well as other decorations you place around your home.
If you can, clean your tree and other decorations outside your home, which helps prevent dust and other allergens from being released inside. And when it’s time to store your artificial tree, consider investing in a storage bag with a tightly zipped seal to prevent moisture and dust from getting in.
Should you get an artificial Christmas tree if you have pets?
Branches and needles of a live Christmas tree aren’t great for pets. If they eat either of those or drink the water a real tree sits in, pets might experience anything from a mild upset stomach to more severe symptoms like organ failure (which is possible for a pet who ingests plant fertilizer), according to Dr. Zay Satchu, chief veterinary officer and co-founder of Bond Vet. This aligns with guidance we found from the FDA, ASPCA and American Veterinary Medical Association.
Satchu added that pets sometimes see Christmas trees — real or artificial — as toys. They do the same with ornaments, lights, tinsel and other decorations — all of those items can be dangerous if ingested. Satchu recommended consulting ASPCA Animal Poison Control to learn about the potential dangers of seasonal plants and other items before decorating your home, as well as asking your vet for additional guidance before bringing anything new into your home this holiday season.