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Realistic vs. Traditional: The Best Artificial Christmas Tree Styles Explained

Learn the difference between realistic artificial Christmas trees and traditional artificial Christmas trees to help you choose the best tree this holiday season.

What's Inside


Most Realistic Trees by Balsam Hill

Artificial Christmas trees have really changed the landscape of modern holiday decor. They possess the same gorgeous look of real evergreens, but don't require all the clean up or additional care. They allow you to sit back and relax, knowing that your tree will look perfect throughout the entire holiday season.

With the convenience of an artificial Christmas tree comes the option of choosing the level of realism and style of your holiday masterpiece. Every type comes with its own unique qualities that make it a perfect choice for a particular home or budget. To help you select the best tree for your holiday decorating, our comprehensive guide breaks down the best features and benefits of each type of artificial Christmas tree.



Artificial Trees On the Market

All artificial Christmas have the benefit of being made from flame-retardant materials that promise your family years of use. Featuring easy assembly, these trees also often come pre-lit with a variety of lights to make decorating for the holidays even easier. To start the process of choosing the right tree for you, you can narrow it down by how realistic you want your tree to look. Today's homeowners have a wide selection of artificial Christmas trees to choose from based on the level of realism they offer: traditional, realistic, and most realistic.

Level of Realism: Traditional Trees

Traditional artificial Christmas trees are called "traditional" because they have the papery soft, flat needles that gave artificial Christmas trees their start. Made from resilient PVC plastic, these needles are cut into fine strands to mimic the effect of evergreen needles, but are not very realistic.

At Balsam Hill, Classic Needle tips comprise much of the foliage used in our collection of affordable traditional trees. Classic Needles are also used as filler in our more realistic trees to give them a fuller look. Balsam Hill's traditional trees are perfect for those who want the realistic shape and color of a Balsam Hill tree, but still like the look of the classic artificial Christmas tree.

Balsam Hill Blue Spruce

Price Range for Traditional Artificial Christmas Trees

  • The cost of a 4' to 9' tree typically ranges from $149 to $899, making it reasonable for nearly every holiday décor budget. The larger and grander 15' to 30' pieces for commercial spaces typically retail for anywhere between $2,399 and $20,000.

Style Tip

  • If you plan on placing your tree outdoors or in an area exposed to extreme amounts of sunlight (an atrium), a traditional tree is ideal. Classic PVC Needle trees can come with UV-coating, which prevents the foliage from fading.

Level of Realism: Realistic Trees

Realistic trees combine Classic PVC Needle foliage and highly realistic True Needle™ or pine needle foliage. The mix of foliage types gives realistic trees an extremely full and textured look. The Classic Needle tips are generally placed closer to the trunk of the tree to provide filler, while the realistic True Needle or pine needle tips give the tree its realism.

True Needle™ Foliage

Balsam Hill's realistic trees blend Classic Needle tips with our exclusive True Needle foliage, which makes use of high-quality polyethylene (PE). Unlike Classic Needles, which are soft and flat, True Needle tips have a stunning lifelike appearance. They are crafted from injection-molded PE plastic to recreate the structure and texture of real fir and spruce needles, and use a combination of pigments to reflect the actual colors of evergreen foliage.

Balsam Hill Saratoga Spruce

Pine Needle Foliage

Though many artificial Christmas trees mimic the popular look of the fir or spruce, oftentimes, you can also find foliage modeled after pine trees. Artificial pine needles are also made of PVC plastic. Balsam Hill's pine needle foliage is carefully made to mimic the size and texture of these fine needles as well as the coloring of new growth.

Balsam Hill Scotch Pine

Price Range for Realistic Trees

  • Realistic Christmas trees 5' to 9' tall typically retail within a $349 to $1,299 price range. Artificial trees at the mid to top of the price range will usually include lights, making holiday decorating even easier for those interested in convenience.

Style Tip

  • The textured look of a combination of needle types lends itself particularly well to a rustic or country-style decorating theme. The pine needle trees especially shine when decorated in a natural, woodsy theme.

Level of Realism: Most Realistic Trees

To create the most realistic trees, Balsam Hill faithfully captures the fine detailing of evergreens by using an extremely high percentage of True Needle™ foliage. Often modeled after real tree species, these trees exhibit ultra-realistic color and texture variations so vividly that it becomes almost impossible to tell whether the evergreen is real or artificial. At first glance, most homeowners have a hard time telling whether or not these artificial trees were actually harvested from a live tree farm!

These ultra-realistic trees also often feature hand-painted stems for an even more natural look. The needles may also have intricate coloration, varying from a dark green at the base of the needle to a warmer green at the tip, as seen in a tree like the California Baby Redwood.

Vermont White Spruce™

Price Range for the Most Realistic Trees

  • The most realistic Christmas trees are the epitome of superb craftsmanship. Because of their stunning realism, artificial trees categorized as 'most realistic' tend to be at a slightly higher price point than their 'traditional' and 'realistic' counterparts. Trees ranging from 4.5' to 18' will start at $199 and go all the way up to $6,000, which many homeowners consider to be a worthy investment for the realistic look and durability of this type of artificial tree.

Style Tip

  • Since these trees are so realistic, consider the shape and texture of the needles when selecting a tree. Short, fine needles on delicate forked tips, such as those on the BH Fraser Fir, would pair well with similarly delicate, intricate ornaments. On the other hand, the larger, tapered tips of the BH Noble Fir may look more proportionate with larger, heavier ornaments.


Determining Which Tree Style is Best For You

With multiple brick and mortar and online artificial Christmas tree retailers, determining which tree you want to invest in for your family celebrations can be difficult.

Balsam Hill offers a Branch Sample Kit so that you can experience the realism and quality of our artificial Christmas trees firsthand. When inspecting artificial Christmas trees for realism, it can help to know the difference between the different tree species available.

The Difference Between a Pine, Fir and a Spruce

People who value the authentic look and feel of their artificial Christmas tree may favor a particular species over the other, and often make a final decision based on the natural counterpart of the artificial Christmas tree. Balsam Hill makes molds of clippings from real trees for their most realistic trees, resulting in artificial branches that are lifelike in both shape and color.

The Realism of BH Balsam Fir™

An artificial tree patterned after an actual evergreen may sometimes be available as a full, narrow, or slim tree. The important thing is that they match the uniqueness and authenticity of the foliage, so that if you make a selection based on tree species, the tree you receive will match the authentic tree you know and love so well.


Pine Trees

The thin needles of real pine trees are attached to the stem in clusters of two, three, or five. A highly realistic pine tree will mimic this feature.



Rocky Mountain Pine

Fir Trees

Real fir needles are flat and flexible. They sprout individually from the stem. Captured by True Needle™ technology, the needles on the BH Noble Fir are characteristically plump as well.



Noble Fir

Spruce Trees

Similar to fir needles, spruce needles grow from the stem singly. The difference is in their shape. Spruce needles have four sides and sharp points. The spruce needles on artificial Christmas trees won't be quite as pointy as the real thing, which makes handling them easier.


Vermont White Spruce™

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right artificial tree for your home, but the decision should be easier after consulting with this comprehensive guide. Once you select a price point and style, take a closer look with our Branch Sample Kit, or browse our gorgeous selection of artificial Christmas trees to find the perfect one for your holiday decorating.