Christmas trees: let's solve the natural vs. fake dilemma

Adonis Adoni Adonis Adoni
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Every year, when the Christmas are a few jingles away, people from all around the world will unite to debate what kind of Christmas tree will decorate their living room: natural or fake?

Last century such a debate was non-existent as people had only two options for their Christmas tree, pine or fir tree. However, in the 1930s the first artificial tree made its first appearance and ever since it has dominated Christmas topics of discussion.

If you happen to sit in a bemused silence, wondering what kind of tree will decorate you living room, we have decided to make your thinking process fun and uncomplicated. Both modern options have their benefits and disadvantages, varying from costs, look, environmental impact and general care.

Let’s see what type of tree is more naughty than nice this year!

Length of life

Residential Christmas Styling Bhavin Taylor Design Modern living room
Bhavin Taylor Design

Residential Christmas Styling

Bhavin Taylor Design

A forethought of buying a Christmas tree is, of course, its lifespan. There is a general consensus that artificial trees will last longer, as they can be stored in the attic when the Christmas is over and be dragged out for next season.

Some artificial trees can even last up to 20 years but the average rests at 10, while you will need to cut down a new natural tree each year. However, as to whether an artificial tree will manage its 10 year anniversary will depend on the treatment it will get from its perspective owners. 

Also, in their lifespan one can calculate their prospects of recycling. Most artificial trees are non-recycle and non-biodegradable, while natural trees can be “treecycled”. In essence, after their use they will become food for the soil or will be chipped for playground materials.


Another general consensus is that fake trees are cheaper. However, there is a wide variety of prices for natural trees depending on what you are seeking. Many variables will be taken into consideration for the final price of real trees such as the grade, the species, the size, where it was harvest, the retailer and even the day you choose to buy it.

However, artificial trees might still seem more appealing as their investment will not be an annual recurrent expense. Given that the average lifespan for artificial trees is 10 years, one just need to make a few calculations. Will the overall cost of buying real trees over a span of ten years be more than the one-off investment of an artificial one?


Christmas Lifestyle, M&S M&S Living roomAccessories & decoration

Christmas Lifestyle


There are general two common species of real trees: pine and fir. Pine trees have long and slender needles attached in clusters on branches. Fir trees have flat and waxy needles that are directly attached to the branches in long rows. The branches of fir trees are quite flexible but they can shed some needles.

Artificial trees can come with lights already installed, either in LED or incandescent bulbs. Their lights can have a multi-colour appear that changes or randomly flicker. There is a bigger variety in sizes with artificial trees and in general they tend to have a more perfect shape than their real counterparts.  

However their perfection sometimes can appear to be phoney. There is also the option of flocked trees which are treated in a way to make the tree appear covered in snow. An additional element of some fake trees is wire in the branches. The wire helps them expand to their original state after they have been removed from the box.


It is pretty evident, most mess, will come from real trees as they shed their needles on your living room carpet. However, falling needles have great fertilising properties and can be used in the garden. So, there could be a purpose behind their cleaning!

With artificial trees, most mess will come with assembling them. As they can be somewhat stubborn when connecting their parts, it will be a time consuming activity which is bound to leave a trail of clutter behind.


As all living creatures, real trees will require daily watering. In fact when you buy a freshly cut tree, is advisable to cut ½ to an inch from its base to aid water absorption. In making the cut, use a chainsaw or manual saw, as a reciprocal saw will create friction.

If the friction gets hot enough, then your tree will seal its sap and won’t allow any water to be absorbed. Also, when you tree first settles in its base, it will be incredibly thirsty requiring gallons of water. As for the artificial tree, as soon as it assembled you only need to light it up. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

Christmas tree stand

For natural trees, you will need an extra element for their stand. As they will require constant watering, a reservoir should be fixed on their base. That implies, the tree stand will take up space and it might be costly.

Most commercial stands for real trees come with a fitted water reservoir, however you can always create one. Take a strong bucket, large enough for the stand to fit inside, and have fun dressing it to match your living room décor.  You can also use the gifts on its perimeter as a camouflage! As for fake trees, a stand is included in their package which makes the whole process just a little bit easier

Danger to children and animals

Christmas '14, Farrow & Ball Farrow & Ball Living roomFireplaces & accessories
Farrow & Ball

Christmas '14

Farrow & Ball

There are real trees which can be toxic to pets and people, if they are grown with chemical pesticides. However there are farms which grow their trees organically using only pest control. Also, pine smell can be allergic to some people.

Fake trees, are made out PVC material which contains hormone-disturbing plastic softeners called phthalates. In addition, there are fake trees which can be contaminated with lead. In the event of a fire, they will emit the toxic chemical dioxin. Hence, it is important, whether it is natural or fake, to keep Christmas trees as far as you can from the fireplace!

So, what's the verdict? On the balance, their main differences lay on maintenance and disposal. Thus, it will always depend how much effort you wish to put for your Christmas tree.  We prefer, though, the freshness of natural Christmas trees. How can you beat that pine smell?

For more Christmas inspiration, you might like to check out: Budget Tips For Decorating This Christmas.

What will adorn your home this Christmas? Natural or fake? We’d love to know in the comments!

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