Should you get an artificial Christmas tree this year?
It’s nearly that special time of year – a time for seeing family and friends, enjoying delicious food, and, of course, putting up your Christmas tree!
Although “real Christmas trees” are fantastic, artificial options are equally as great. In fact, we find the term “fake Christmas tree” a little rude.
Artificial Christmas trees are perfect for busy families who don’t want the added stress of wondering if their green houseguest will make it to the big day. They take up less time, they’re easier to store after the holidays, and, when it comes down to it, they look pretty much the same as natural ones.
Still unsure? Well, then keep reading!
In this beginner’s guide to artificial Christmas trees, we’ll answer all your questions. What are the benefits of artificial Christmas trees? Are they more environmentally friendly than their natural counterparts? How do you make them look as good as possible?
If you want to jump to a specific section, click a heading in the contents below.
Or, if you decide to go down the natural route, make sure to check out our article "How to keep your Christmas tree alive and looking good".
We hope that you find our guides helpful and, more importantly, that you and your family have a very merry Christmas.
- A brief history of artificial Christmas trees
- What are the different types of modern artificial Christmas trees?
- What are the benefits of modern artificial Christmas trees?
- Are artificial Christmas trees better for the environment?
- Can you recycle artificial Christmas trees?
- Are artificial Christmas trees flammable?
- How do you make your artificial Christmas tree look as good as possible?
- How do you store an artificial Christmas tree?
A brief history of artificial Christmas trees
In the 19th century, German families began making their own Christmas trees in response to rampant deforestation. Specifically, they used wire and goose feathers that had been coloured green to construct their trees.
The Addis Brush Company in Britain realised in the early 1900s that there had to be a better way of making Christmas trees. The brush manufacturer, best known for creating the original toilet brush, utilised the same bristles (again, dyed green) to produce leaves on their trees. Compared to the goose feather trees, these could support substantially greater weight.
Then, in the 1950s, aluminium trees were the next big thing. However, they began to lose popularity in the 1960s as consumers wanted products that better mimicked natural trees.
What are the different types of modern artificial Christmas trees?
Modern-day artificial Christmas trees can be divided into three main categories: those made from PVC, PE, and a mix of the two.PVC
Until recent years, all artificial Christmas trees were made from PVC.
Specifically, sheets of compressed PVC are used to create the needles by cutting them into long, flat rectangles before being twisted between two strings of wire that act as branches.PE
PE, or Polyethylene, is considered to be the only material that truly replicates the look of a real Christmas tree.
PE trees are injection moulded, with moulds made using real tree branches, resulting in life-like, three-dimensional needles and branches.Mixed
Some artificial trees feature a mix of PVC and PE.
The tips of the branches are made with PE for the most realistic look and feel, whilst PVC is used further down the branches to make the tree appear thicker.
What are the benefits of artificial Christmas trees?
There are many benefits to choosing an artificial Christmas tree:
- Artificial Christmas trees don’t require any maintenance. There's no need to water or trim it.
- Unlike real Christmas trees, your floor won’t become covered with innumerable needles.
- If you have allergies, then an artificial tree can be a great alternative that won't have you sneezing.
- Real trees are flawed. For some people, part of the fun of having a tree is accepting that quirky unevenness. But if you enjoy the look of a perfect tree, one significant benefit of artificial options is that you can adjust their branches to achieve the exact look you want.
- When you buy an artificial Christmas tree, you will be saving yourself time for years to come. No longer will you have to schlep down to the garden centre every December to get your new tree!
- You can buy a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree, which will cut back your decoration time even more.
Although, it has to be said that there are some downsides to artificial Christmas trees…
Are artificial trees better for the environment?
In short, no. Despite what people might think, artificial trees are not better for the environment.
The manufacturing process can be harmful to the environment and often results in waste products that have to go somewhere.
Also, one study found that artificial trees made from PVC are worse for the planet than their natural counterparts because of how long they take to break down in a landfill.
Even though you'll probably use your artificial Christmas tree many times before disposing of it, most plastic items take hundreds of years to degrade when buried in landfills – and many don't even get buried at all.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn't buy an artificial Christmas tree; just realise that if your goal is environmental friendliness, there are other ways you could help out more.
Can you recycle artificial Christmas trees?
Here's the deal: you’re unlikely to be able to recycle your artificial Christmas tree.
Artificial trees are made out of many different materials and they all have different recycling requirements.
Some of them are recyclable, but they can only be recycled if they're taken apart first.
Other types of artificial trees cannot be recycled at all.
If you want to know for sure whether or not your tree is recyclable, check with your local recycling centre.
Are artificial Christmas trees flammable?
Despite the need for flame retardant treatment, artificial Christmas trees are nevertheless more flammable than their natural counterparts.
Although they’re still perfectly safe and this shouldn’t be a reason to panic, it’s always worth being as safe as possible.
Christmas tree lights should always be turned off at night, cables should never be run beneath carpets or rugs, and wiring should always be checked frequently.
How do you make your artificial Christmas tree look as good as possible?
We’ve got some top tips to help make your artificial tree look as good as possible.Pick the right size and shape of tree for your space!
Although this tip might seem a little obvious, we’ve all bought a piece of furniture or ornament that we think is perfect… until you get it home and realise that it doesn’t fit!
So, indulge us for a moment.
The top of your tree should be at least six inches from the ceiling. This also takes into account the tree's topper or any other decorative stand that increases its height. Therefore, you would need a seven-and-a-half foot tree if your ceiling is the standard nine feet tall and your angel topper is 12 inches.
If you have a large area, choose a wide, full tree; if you have a smaller area, use a narrow or skinny tree. Calculate the floor space you have available and compare it to the size specifications of the tree.Invest in a pre-lit option
The pre-lit artificial Christmas tree has grown in popularity recently as it cut down the amount of time you have to spend decorating.
If you’re particularly busy, we’d recommend going for one of these options.Leave your tree to stand overnight after you unpack it
Whether you just bought it or have had it stored away since last year, leave your tree to stand overnight after you unpack it.
In using this small approach, the branch tips will be able to unfurl fully, making it simpler to fluff them.
Talking of which…Fluff your tree’s branches
Don’t be dismayed if your artificial tree’s branches look a little flat at first – they’ve simply been compressed during storage, particularly if it’s a new tree.
You will need to shape, known as "fluffing", the tree's branches in order to make it appear as full as possible.
When fluffing, take your time to evenly distribute each branch. This will make sure you get the picture-perfect appearance we all want for Christmas.
To make the branches easier to access and ensure that you don't miss any that are hidden away, we advise beginning to pull out and fluff the branches at the bottom and work your way up.For a snowy look, flock your tree
Flocking refers to the process of adding a white, powdery material to the branches of a Christmas tree to give it a snow-covered appearance.
You can buy flock spray online.
Always flock your tree before adorning it with any lights, ornaments, or tinsel for the best, most organic-looking results.
How do you store an artificial Christmas tree?
Your tree's limbs can be folded down after Christmas so that it fits back in the box.
We advise folding the branches back down as tightly as possible to keep them safe from harm, dirt, and dust.
When storing your artificial Christmas tree, it's important to remember that not all locations are suitable.
You need to make sure that the storage space is dry and well-ventilated – the last thing you want is for moisture to build up inside the PVC/PE branches and cause them to become mouldy!
Also, avoid areas with direct sunlight or heat sources like radiators.
We hope this guide has helped you understand the ins and outs of artificial Christmas trees.
If you’re still wondering whether to get one, what we can tell you is that they’re a great way to save time, money, and space at home.
Plus, they come in so many different styles that there really is something for everyone!
Whatever option you go for, we hope that you and your family have a very merry Christmas.