5 ways to repurpose your live Christmas tree after the holidays

Pruning during sunny winter day, close up view on hands and pruning shear
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We understand if you’re one of the people who have held on just a little longer to the holiday season. Letting go of your home’s festive look can be challenging. Plus, the thought of tossing out that perfect live Christmas tree you chose and decorated can be a major downer.

What if there were some alternatives to allow you to recycle or upcycle your ready-to-retire Christmas tree rather than leaving it on the curb for trash collection? With approximately 25 to 30 million live Christmas trees sold each year in the U.S., a lot of natural resources are wasted at the end of a few weeks.

Woman taking a used Christmas tree out of a front house door on twelfth night in the new year
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MORE: This family kept the same Christmas tree alive for more than 30 years

We researched and rounded up some of the best ideas for repurposing your Christmas tree. Whether you want to keep a part of your live Christmas tree close to home or dispose of it more responsibly, here are some ideas to say a fond farewell to your holiday centerpiece.

1. Keep its decorating game going!

TikToker @cranerygardens showed followers how to trim some of the smaller branches from the live Christmas tree to use in a  decorative outdoor planter. You may already have one outside from last year sitting with dirt, ready to go!

Crane took the branches and arranged them in the planter while incorporating other natural elements and store-bought decorations for the finished product.

“I collect pinecones from the backyard and just fill in the gap in the planter,” he wrote in the caption.

Here’s the full video!

@cranerygardensReusing live Christmas tree part two. The stems at the top of the Christmas tree are smaller and more delicate. They are perfect for a smaller decorative planter. I chop up the stem them to make it even smaller if needed. I put chicken decoration statue on the top of the planter and to make it look like that chicken is laying eggs. I collect pinecones in the backyard and just fill in the gap in the planter. You can add anything that you would like on the planter after you finish to make it look more decorative. Checked out what I did with the bottom stem of the live tree in part one. I will put up reel of part three very soon. follow me for more gardening ideas. Any question or comment let me know. 🥰❤️🎄♬ Made You Look – Meghan Trainor

2. Add it to your compost pile

Whether you already have a compost pile or want to start one to grow your garden this spring, small live Christmas tree branches are a great addition.

Garden Betty recommends breaking down tree branches into smaller parts to “better take advantage of all that organic matter.” After you cut the branches, leave them in a pile in your yard. After they dry and decay, add them to your compost pile.

Use decaying Christmas tree branches in your compost pile
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MORE: 5 gardening mistakes that could spell doom for your plants

3. Create natural habitats for wintering animals

Winter can be rough on animals. It’s cold and the bare trees leave little shelter for them in the bad weather. By taking your live Christmas tree branches and bunching them up outside, you can create a little natural habitat for birds, squirrels and other critters who may need a place to cozy up.

Also, check with your local zoos. Some of them, like the Belfast Zoo in Ireland, may welcome your “treecycle” donations to create animal enrichment, bedding and more for their inhabitants.

4. Redecorate your branches as an outdoor bird feeder

Having some of those state-of-the-art bird feeders where you can connect your smartphones may be nice. But, honestly, the birds just want a place to find nourishment in the cold winter months.

You can easily make some bird feeders with Christmas tree branches! Almanac recommends stringing branches with popcorn, cranberries and other bird-friendly items. Or, you can try County Living UK’s tip of covering them in butter/peanut butter and rolling them in birdseed.

bird in pine tree
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5. Transform your live Christmas tree into mulch

Nettles and Petals on TikTok shares a number of recommendations on how to recycle live Christmas trees. One of our favorites is to use the needles as mulch for your garden. You may also be able to find places where you can take your tree to be chipped or rent a woodchipper to grind it down and make your own mulch.

@nettlesandpetals Don’t throw away your Christmas tree!🌲 If you haven’t already, it’s Time to repot or recycle your Christmas tree! 😊👍🏻 Around 8 million Christmas trees are thrown away each year in the UK alone however, If you opted for a real Christmas tree this year there are so many ways to reuse or recycle it… Mines a potted tree that’s around 4 years old, so I’m repotting mine and reacclimatising it to live outdoors until next year. After around 7 years I’ll plant this one outside where it will probably outlive us all! Ideally repot in early Spring, but it’s fine to do it now, just harden it off by bringing it inside every evening for around a week and don’t leave it in an exposed position. Repot into a pot that is at least 10cm (4ins) larger in diameter than the last. I just use some homemade compost mixed with around 10% natural bark mulch to aid in drainage, but any good multipurpose compost will do. Make sure that tree is kept well watered and is not allowed to dry out and feed with an organic natural fertiliser throughout the year. If yours isn’t potted, there are many ways to recycle it… The needles can be used as a mulch for things like strawberries. 🍓🌱 Turn the branches into bug snugs 🐞🐛🪲 The whole tree can be chipped and used as mulch for the garden. 🪵 Or many animal rescue centres will happily take them off your hands to use as habitat and bedding. 🐇🦔🦊🦆 So will you be repotting or recycling your Christmas tree this year? 😊🌲 #zerowaste #lowwastelifestyle #plantingtrees #gardeninghacks #gardeningtips #reuserecycle #organicgardening ♬ original sound – Nettles and Petals

With a little creativity and effort, you can transform your Christmas tree into something more than a seasonal decoration. The tree can be a renewable gift, too!

MORE: How to upcycle your old winter sweaters into cute pet beds

Cleaning & Organization, Crafts, Gardening, Holiday & Seasonal, Home, Science & Nature, Tips & Advice
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About the Author
Marie Rossiter
Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World. Visit Scripps News to see more of Marie's work.

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