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To fake tree, or not to fake tree, that is the Christmas question

Two clay Christmas trees in an artificial snowy landscape

According to a recent Which? survey, two thirds of us now have an artificial Christmas tree, and only around a fifth of us have a real one. Are real trees on the way out or are they vital to your festive cheer?

It appears that the Christmas ritual of choosing a tree, wrestling it into the car, dragging it through the house, giving it pride of place in the living room, breathing in the pine scent and vacuuming up the needles afterwards is becoming a thing of the past. We’re now more likely to bring a plastic tree down from the loft and take it out of the box.

Our survey has shown that the most popular type of artificial Christmas tree by far is one that looks real. It’s a trend that has been confirmed by two Which?-recommended garden centres: Aylett Nurseries in St Albans and Coolings in Kent both say that, while sales of real trees remain healthy, sales of realistic artificial trees have increased.

Even better than the real thing?

Fake trees have come a long way since the bright green PVC atrocities of yesteryear. Nowadays they are modelled on real trees and have ‘real’ tree names such as ‘English Pine’. They have polyethylene tips, and the best (which can cost several hundred pounds) look pretty real. They create no needle mess, come in different shapes and sizes and have adjustable branches. Some even come with fairy lights already attached.

Not that any of this is convincing me. My parents ‘went fake’ a few years ago and I now have a brief sulk when I go home every Christmas. There’s no pine smell for starters, and the whole thing just looks too perfect. For years we had a real tree, so what’s changed?

Costly Christmas trees

Mum says a combination of factors led her and Dad to get a fake tree. Dad got fed up of digging up soil to put the tree in, and latterly of filling a Christmas tree stand and topping it up with water. Fallen needles were a bit of an issue, and real trees were too wide for the corner of the room where it usually goes. Mum also thinks real trees have got more expensive and she can’t justify paying £33 (the average spend according to our survey) for something that only lasts a couple of weeks.

I think mum and I will have to differ on this one. I can’t abide fake plants of any kind – fake box balls, fake turf or fake Christmas trees. They give absolutely nothing back in terms of oxygen or wildlife habitats. They’re becoming more and more common, and they make my heart sink. It’s like we’re turning our backs on nature – something that most of us get precious little of already.

A real Christmas tree, on the other hand, is usually grown as a sustainable crop, contributes to the local economy and provides a habitat for wildlife while it grows. And according to the National Trust, just five minutes gazing at a tree can reduce stress levels. If that isn’t a recipe for a happy Christmas, I don’t know what is.

What sort of Christmas tree will you have this year?

A real tree (48%, 719 Votes)

An artificial tree (40%, 601 Votes)

I will not have a Christmas tree (11%, 165 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,486

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I cut a branch off my yew tree.


I like the smell and non-uniformity of a real tree. We have one in the living room and one outside the front door. A local guy grows these and sells them relatively cheaply – last year we got two 6 ft spuce for £10 each. No contest! It’s probably less effort hoovering up the needles than clambering up into the loft.


Where do you live ? I’m sure we’d all like to know where you can get a 6ft tree for £10,
I like a real tree but they tend to be £40 – £50 for anything of a decent size where I am, and thats a lot to spend on something that will wither and die and be thrown out in a matter of days

Alan says:
5 December 2012

Wow! I also want to know where one can get ANY real tree for £10!
All the garden centres round me in Bedfordshire start at £30 for a wee weedy thing and work up to £60+.
Even dear old TESCO charge more than £10.


I’ve never had my own Christmas tree, having spent most festive seasons away from home since my university days. I’d like to have a tree this year, but my flat is very tiny.

If anyone spots a 2 ft real tree in the London area, let me know!


I have to admit that I have a fake tree – and it’s teeny tiny. My flat’s quite small so that’s the main reason, but I’m also usually away for Christmas so it seems a bit pointless buying a tree that’s just going to drop all its needles and leave me with a mess to clean up in the new year.

I love the smell of a real tree, my Dad always gets a real one and it gives his house a real Christmassy smell and feel. I don’t think they’re vital, though – I can get a similar Christmassy smell by mulling some wine!


I bought my real tree last night from a Christmas tree farm. We saved money by choosing one from the ‘orphans’ corner where they sell off all the slightly mishapen trees for only £15 – pretty good for a 5ft Nordman.


Should have said it came from The Christmas Tree Farm at Chesham in Buckinghamshire.


I go to stay with family from before Christmas to after New Year. They always have a proper tree. I just put up an artificial tree with lights on a timer to make the house look occupied when I’m away.