Recycling Your Christmas Tree

Gardening expert Felder Rushing gives tips on reusing Christmas trees.
Bottle Tree Made From Christmas Tree

Bottle Tree Made From Christmas Tree

A bottle tree made from an old Christmas tree with a black-eyed Susan vine

Photo by: Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

A bottle tree made from an old Christmas tree with a black-eyed Susan vine

Q: If I cut off the branches of my Christmas tree, can I use them under my shrubs as mulch, or are they too acidic?


I think recycling Christmas trees, wreaths and swags is a superior approach to taking responsibility for our seasonal trimmings. And though the needle-like leaves of conifers are somewhat acidic, they don’t really pose a long-term problem in your garden. So this is a “win-win” thing.

If you don’t have a shredder/chipper machine, just cut off the branches with leaves, and layer them flat on the ground under plants. It’s entirely up to you whether you remove any silvery tinsel you may have used — I personally like the way it looks in the garden, and sometimes birds will retrieve a strand or two for use in their nests. Can you imagine how cool it would look if daffodils or other spring bulbs came up draped in tinsel?

Okay, I may have gone a little too far on that one. But do be aware that dried conifer needles are highly flammable; keep them away from plants anywhere near an outdoor fire pit, in case hot coals pop out of the fire.

Other Uses for Spent Christmas Trees 

Some people sink their leftover Christmas tree into a lake to provide underwater cover for small fish. If your garden backs up to a naturalistic area, consider hiding the tree in some other brush near the woodland or meadow edge, for even more wildlife habitat.

Some bold gardeners bob the branches of their old trees back to about the diameter of their fingers, and set it up against a fence post to use as a “bottle tree” — yard art made with recycled glass bottles, which reminds some folks of stained glass. Sounds strange, but it’s certainly eye-catching in the winter!

Gardening expert and certified wit Felder Rushing answers your questions and lays down some green-wisdom. You can get more of your Felder fix at

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