Here's How the Price of Christmas Trees Has Changed Over the Years

christmas tree bar graph illustration

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christmas tree bar graph illustration
Cheapism / Dall-E 3

How the "Green" Is Put in "Evergreen"

There's nothing like the smell of a spruce in your living room to make your home feel like the holiday season has arrived. The constant vacuuming of pine needles keeps you on your toes, too! Yet in a world where the price of everything is going up, it's hard not to wind up with a serious case of sticker shock when purchasing a real Christmas tree. 

But don't blame inflation just yet. We took a look at Hustle's investigation behind the climbing cost of Christmas trees, and did some more digging to uncover more evergreen economics.

Christmas in Upstate
Morgan Campbell/istockphoto

How Much Has the Price of Christmas Trees Gone Up?

Remember the financial crisis in 2008? The economic turmoil in '08 got its filthy hands on everything, including Christmas trees. Struggling farmers planted fewer trees in 2008 because they couldn't afford to go full bore; as a result, the future of Christmas tree prices was permanently affected

Trees take several years to grow before they can be harvested and cut down to decorate for Christmas. Starting in 2016 (when the trees planted in 2008 grew big enough), the price of Christmas trees jumped up — and has stayed up, thanks to '08's domino effect. 

Here's a breakdown showing the average price of Christmas trees through the years, according to data compiled by The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA):

2008: $37

2010: $36

2012: $41

2014: $40

2016: $75

2018: $75

This year, the average price of a Christmas tree is up 10% from 2022, with each tree costing around $80 to $100.

Worker Offering a Helping Hand

How Many Real Christmas Trees Are Sold in the U.S. Each Year?

A whopping 25-30 million Christmas trees are sold each year in the U.S. At about $80 a pop, the Christmas tree industry is considered a $2 billion business.

Boy holding a saw near cutting down Christmas tree

U-Cut vs. Wholesale

When it comes to purchasing real Christmas trees, there are two main sales channels: U-Cut and wholesale. Consumers following the U-Cut route typically visit tree farms, where they can walk around and choose their tree before cutting it down themselves. About one-third of Christmas tree sales are through U-Cut, according to the NCTA. 

The wholesale route means that the Christmas tree farmers cut, package, ship, and sell their trees in bulk to different retailers, distributors, and tree lots. 

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Beautiful young woman buys a Christmas tree at the fair.
Maksym Belchenko/istockphoto

Where Do People Buy Christmas Trees?

While some people might be fortunate enough to own or have access to private property where they can cut their Christmas trees down each year, others who opt for the real thing have to shop around. According to the NCTA, 24% of wholesale Christmas tree shoppers purchase their trees from chain stores. Another 17% get theirs from retail lots, while the remaining 27% shop at nurseries, nonprofit groups, or online. 

Related: Is Home Depot's $500 Christmas Tree Worth It? Here's How to Get the Festive Look for Less

One senior man standing in the field and hoping that it will rain

How Much Do Tree Farmers Make?

The industry as a whole is worth $2 billion, but that doesn't necessarily mean Christmas tree farmers are sitting in a bathtub full of Benjamins right now, basking in their riches. 

Hustle connected with eight Christmas tree farms in five different states and surveyed them to discover that, on average, they sell 6- to 7-foot trees cut, baled, and loaded, for $35 each. After considering the expenses throughout the 8- to 10-year growing cycle, the profit margin is dismal, giving farmers around $8 to $10 per tree.

Generally speaking, U-Cut farms are often more profitable than wholesale Christmas tree farms, since they don't have the added costs of cutting, packing, and shipping trees. 

Related: 6 Holiday Ripoffs That Would Turn Clark Griswold into Scrooge

Christmas Tree Farming

Where Do Most Christmas Trees Come From?

Now, you can imagine that there probably isn't an abundance of Christmas tree farms in places like Honolulu. Yet, according to the NCTA, all 50 states grow North American real Christmas trees. These days, 98% of real Christmas trees come from tree farms, and two out of every three trees come from the following four states: Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. 

Aerial View of Tree Farm, Different Varieties of Trees

How Long Do Christmas Trees Take To Grow?

Christmas trees are not like Chia pets. They take years and years to grow to a size suitable for stringing lights and hanging ornaments. On average, it takes Christmas trees between eight to ten years to grow to 6 feet tall. While there are about 15 different varieties of Christmas trees, they all follow similar life cycles.

Christmas tree farm

Supply and Demand of Christmas Trees

There are about 15,000 Christmas tree farms in the U.S. according to the USDA. The market is controlled by the 434 biggest farms, which command about 75% of the supply. Each year, among the farms, there are at least 350 million trees growing in different stages, and around 25 million should make it to harvest with each new Christmas season. Tree farmers consistently keep up with planting and harvesting to meet the supply and avoid another 2008 debacle.

Artificial pine tree for Christmas decoration
RHL Acil Banjar/istockphoto

Real vs. Artificial Trees

The split between real and artificial trees is evident. Ask a few of your friends whether they have a fake tree or a real one in their home for the holidays, and you'll probably receive a mix of answers. 

Still, it's not exactly an even split these days. Of the 96 million Christmas trees in households each year, only 19% are real. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 85% of artificial trees are made in China in factories that churn out around 1,500 trees in just two days, accruing labor costs of a measly $600 a month. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out which tree market is the more profitable one.