Best artificial Christmas tree 2018: looks like the real thing but lasts forever

The Christmas gift that keeps on giving

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They used to have a tacky reputation but the best artificial Christmas trees are now considerably better than the real thing. They look like the real thing, they last for many, many years, they don't shed needles or shrivel. Admittedly they don't smell like the real thing, but you can always get a pine room odouriser, right?

We're here to steer you away from tacky, shiny, ersatz crap and towards the very cream of fake trees. Seriously, once you've had a good one, you'll never go back to an actual tree.

How – and why – to buy the best artificial Xmas tree

Good quality artificial firs have several things going for them. While initially expensive, you only have to fork out once for something that will likely last a lifetime of Christmases. 

Better still, fake pine needles don’t stab you in the hand while you’re trying to manhandle the tree into position and, even more importantly, they don’t end up all over the floor or stuck in the carpet after a couple of weeks in situ – the number one pain in the ass with real trees. 

And then there’s the perennial ‘what to do with the dead tree’ malarkey that usually involves pleading with the bin man or taking an axe to it to chop it into smaller bits, as a serial killer might. 

The only possibly disadvantage with an artificial tree is that you’ll need somewhere to store it till next season but they almost invariably can be collapsed down in size, so that shouldn't be too arduous for most people.

Faux firs come in a wide variety of shapes and heights to suit all pockets and room sizes. Some models even come pre-dressed with twinkly LED lights, their connecting wires cleverly concealed within the branches; something that is very difficult to achieve with a real tree. 

So, what is the best plastic yuletide shrub?

So which artificial tree tops our wish list? We’ve plumped for the premo quality Balsam Hill Nordman Fir, which comes in numerous different heights. The amazingly life-like Hayes Garden World Ridgedale Infinity Fir comes a close second and is actually even more pricey, per foot. But, you get what you pay for when it comes to festive evergreens made of poly ethylene. 

If you lack space for your spruce, and demand a bit of Scandinavian style, the White Company Spruce is also undeniably a thing of beauty, and somewhat cheaper.

The best artificial Christmas trees, in order

1. BALSAM HILL NORDMAN FIR

The best artificial Christmas tree

Reasons to buy
+Reassuringly realistic+A variety of sizes+Available with or without lights

• Buy direct from Balsam Hill

Available in a wide range of heights, from 4 feet to a gargantuan 12 feet – with prices ranging from £189 to £1,729, and the option of having them with or without built-in candle lights – this stately faux fir is about as realistic as it gets. 

According to Balsam Hill, the needles on this tree have been created from moulds of live tree cuttings so that they accurately exhibit the gently curved characteristics of the classic conical Nordman fir. The overall colour, too, is spot on, right down to the needles’ silvery undersides.

As is the case with so many artificial trees, its branches might be considered a little too perfectly tailored for some but this will be less noticeable once it has been dressed.

If you’ve had your fill of dropping needles and are seeking a lifelike perennial replacement that will be around longer than you will, consider this stately Christmas centrepiece.


2. WHITE COMPANY SPRUCE CHRISTMAS TREE

Best artificial Christmas tree for elegance

Reasons to buy
+Elegant Scandinavian styling+Very lifelike+Comes with stand
Reasons to avoid
-No lights

• Buy direct from The White Company

When it comes to Christmas decorations, Scandinavians tend to eschew kitsch tinsel and coloured fairy lights in favour of tasteful minimalism, something the White Company excels at.

Whether from a distance or up close, this elegant faux 6ft Crimbo conifer looks just like a genuine spruce. All of its branches are hand painted for added authenticity, sparsely arranged and realistically asymmetrical. The needles, too, are extremely lifelike.

This tree doesn’t come with fairy lights so we would advise perusing the White Company’s wide range of tasteful white lights before emptying your pockets at the till. And while you’re at it, you may as well add some of the store’s fine selection of refined natural ornaments in the process. 

3. HAYES GARDEN WORLD RIDGEDALE INFINITY FIR

Best artificial tree for really large rooms/budgets

Reasons to buy
+Very lifelike+Available with or without lights

• Buy direct from Hayes Garden World

This is a room-filling, luxury whopper of a plastic tree. The 7.5ft version has a 62-inch spread and despite being plastic, really does a remarkably realistic look and touch – although it's less pointy and potentially painful than its real-life counterparts.

Even from up close you’ll be hard pressed to tell this imposter’s a reproduction since it almost perfectly replicates the characteristics of the real thing, including the silky texture and accurate roundness of its needles, the correct shade of dark green and the naturalistic density of its branches. 

The outer fronds of each branch are also quite sparsely composed – just as nature intended. However, some prospective buyers may think it’s too perfectly preened, in which case we’d advise opting for the White Company’s 6ft spruce instead.

For those who’d rather not faff about with fairy lights, a wallet-emptying £1,630 will buy you the same tree pre-fitted with 4,200 soft white LED lights, replete with invisible wiring. It also comes as an 8ft model if 7.5ft is a bit short for you.

Hayes Garden World does a frankly insanely huge variety of artificial trees, including one that is 18 god damn feet tall. 18 feet.

4. JOHN LEWIS & PARTNERS KENSINGTON

Best tree from the nation's favourite Xmas retailer

Reasons to buy
+Lifelike foliage+Reasonably priced and comes with lights
Reasons to avoid
-Perhaps too formal for some

• Buy direct from JL&P with a 2-year warranty

If you’re looking for a well-crafted Christmas tree that’s meticulously preened to perfection, consider this excellent choice from the house of John Lewis & Partners.

This lifelike emerald beauty stands 5-feet tall and comes adorned with 300 mains-powered, multi-function LEDs that emit a soft white Christmassy glow.

The Kensington’s pine needles are extremely lifelike though its neatly structured branches may be a little too formal for some. Nevertheless, this is a brilliant option for smaller rooms and it doesn’t cost a packet. 

As with all faux firs, at the end of the festive season, simply bend the branches upwards, put the whole shebang in a protective bag and store it away until next year.

5. B&Q GLENSHEE SPRUCE CLASSIC

Best cheap artificial tree

Reasons to buy
+Authentic branch layout+Good looking from a distance
Reasons to avoid
-From up close, not so much

• Buy direct from B&Q

Up close, this 5ft10in B&Q fir isn’t as authentic looking as the other models here. Its needles are extremely thin and squared off rather than rounded, and while the little brown flecks of plastic sown into the branches give it a 'natural', weathered look from a few metres away, their phoniness is easy to spot on closer inspection. 

However, from a distance, the irregularity of this tree’s branches mimics nature more impressively than some of the more formal looking models on this page. If you’re in the market for a keenly-priced artificial tree that looks good and will last many seasons, then this one certainly passes a great deal of muster.