Christmas Tree Recycling 2023: 12 Ways to Repurpose Holiday Decor

Outdoor Christmas trees surround birdhouses in a backyard wildlife sanctuary
Move your Christmas tree outdoors to provide shelter and food sources for birds and other wildlife. (DepositPhotos)

Do-It-Yourself Christmas Tree Recycling

If your community doesn’t offer recycling, or if you prefer to do your own thing, check out these ideas for recycling Christmas trees and greenery:

    • Place trees and greenery around your yard as shelter for birds and small animals.
    • Take your wildlife sanctuary a step further by “decorating” your tree with festive outdoor goodies. Sprays of birdseed, strings of popcorn or cranberries and chunks of suet help attract featured friends.
    • Cut the branches into small pieces, then add them to your compost pile for use in the spring.
    • Once the greenery has dried, brush off the needles and use them to make potpourri. Mix with cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, nutmeg, dried flowers, and dried fruit for an aromatic and colorful winter treat.
    • Use the wood from branches and trunks. Long branches make great support stakes, and now is a good time to make sure plants are staked to protect them from winter storms. You can use larger branches and trunks to make rustic fences, arbors, or garden crafts.
    • Evergreens can make great kindling and fuel for bonfires. But keep in mind that evergreens should never be burned in an indoor fireplace due to their extreme flammability and high sap content, which can cause a buildup of dangerous creosote in chimneys. You shouldn’t burn decorated, artificial or flocked trees and greenery.

Evergreen boughs, as seen in a residential backyard garden.
Once the holidays have passed, recycle your Christmas tree by using evergreen boughs in the garden. (DepositPhotos)

Deck the Garden with Boughs

If you don’t have a wood chipper to make mulch, consider recycling your Christmas tree by simply laying boughs over tender plants.

Evergreen boughs help protect plants from drying winds and sun, while allowing for water drainage. Boughs also help to hold soil in place on slopes.

While most plants will do fine with a standard layer of 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch in the fall, a few plants might benefit from an extra winter application of mulch, such as:

    • Tender small shrubs
    • Evergreen perennials
    • Bulbs and tender perennials that have begun to sprout prematurely due to a warm spell
    • Newly planted seedlings or plants that may not have time to establish roots before freezing weather
    • Plants that are only marginally hardy in your zone

Since the best time to apply extra mulch is after the ground freezes, holiday greenery is a timely solution. The late mulch application keeps plants dormant and helps to prevent frost heaving and damage due to late winter thaws.


Challenges with Evergreen Bough Mulch

If you’re recycling your Christmas tree in your garden, consider these challenges of evergreen bough mulch:

    • Woodland creatures love to burrow into evergreen branches — and they may decide to feast on your plants! If you have a rodent problem in your garden, this method may not be the best for you.
    • The boughs create a pocket of insulated air around the plant. Once the weather warms, this pocket can breed mold and fungus — remove the mulch as soon as freezing weather is over in the spring.
    • Be kind to wildlife by removing all tinsel and wire ornament hangers before putting trees outdoors.

7 COMMENTS

  1. i read somewhere that the needles of the trees can be placed in distilled alcohol and used like pinesol. also my husband keeps the barks for years and carves them into canes or other art works. what do you guys have for ideas?

  2. Cleaners such as “Pine-Sol” contain pine oil and isopropyl alcohol, and homemade pine cleaner recipes have similar ingredients. Seems like your recipe would be a good home-grown idea, but I haven’t been able to find any specific information on it. Your husband’s carvings sound beautiful! Christmas trees provide great materials for art and life.

  3. I am as big a fan of going green for Christmas, but I generally focus my efforts on putting up LED Christmas lights around my house. I had never realized all the ways one could recycle a tree.

    • Absolutely, Max! We’re glad this article inspired you. Let us know if you come up with additional great ideas to recycle Christmas decorations. 🙂

  4. Has anyone ever frozen Christmas tree branches in say plastic bags to reuse during the year for potpourri? Was thinking about trying it. Then pull a bag out of the freezer and boil for homemade potpourri through out the year.

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