Friends of the Earth’s guide to the best Christmas trees that aren’t Christmas trees

Tree species such as spruce and pine are the typical options, being the centre of Christmas decorations since the Victorian times, but by breaking from this tradition you can make a unique Christmas display that does the planet good. 

All of the below can be found in containers – ideal for carrying inside come Christmas time, and perfect if you only have a small outdoor space – but will grow best and have more environmental benefits when planted in the ground after Christmas. Outdoor trees need extra care when brought indoors so make sure to give them plenty of water, keep them away from radiators and talk to your local garden centre to get the best tips.

Emi Murphy, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“We need to double UK tree cover to help the fight against climate breakdown, and your Christmas tree can be part of this! Buying a potted tree with roots lets you grow it outside and use it again year after year, reducing its environmental impact and costing you less. A living tree will also carry on absorbing carbon from the atmosphere for years to come.”

Holly

A perfect festive alternative, and by some accounts the original Christmas Tree, Holly is evergreen so will be lively and colourful even in December. Be careful of the spiky leaves though – if you’re worried about children or pets you could take some cuttings to use as decorations instead of moving the whole tree indoors. 

Yew

Another evergreen option for your alternative Christmas tree. It flowers in February – perfect for adding a splash of nature and colour during the latter part of winter. Its dense growth and red berry-like fruits provide valuable shelter and food for wildlife.

Apple and pear trees

They’re not evergreen but buy a container grown apple or pear tree, and you’ll be able to treat yourself to homegrown fruit in the autumn, and a beautiful blossom in the spring! They can also provide food and shelter for British wildlife including birds.

Bay tree

Evergreen shrubs that, if you’re feeling creative, can be pruned into stunning formal shapes. You can also use the leaves (fresh or dried) in cooking – perfect for that Christmas Day gravy!

Yucca 

If you already have an indoor plant why not decorate that come Christmas? Large indoor plants like yucca trees are perfect for bringing nature into your life, and would look fantastic with some Christmas decorations on them!

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