10 Creative Ideas to Recycle Your Old Christmas Tree

Don't haul off your old Christmas tree to the curb. Give your tree a second life by trying these Christmas tree recycling ideas instead!

Christmas tree for the birds, recycled ideasCourtesy Nancy Tully/Country magazine
Consider a live tree that you can enjoy after the holidays

Now that the holidays are over, you are probably ready to take down the decorations from your Christmas tree and haul it out to the curb for a trip to the nearest landfill.  But wait! What if, by taking advantage of a few Christmas tree recycling ideas, you could get some extra use out of it?

We’ve spent time searching for some fun and creative ways to use your old Christmas tree.  Here are a few of our favorites. So this year, instead of hauling out your tree to the curb, try one or more of these fun recycled ideas for your old Christmas tree instead!

1. Pine Needle Sachets

Preserve the scents of Christmas by making fragrant sachets using some of the needles from your tree. This craft is incredibly easy. Here’s how to make your own sachets.

2. Tree Trunk Coasters

Create coasters by cutting sections of your Christmas tree trunk. These would make great gifts. See how to make the coasters.

3. Christmas Tree Recycling for the Birds

Christmas Tree In A Snow Covered Garden Adorned With Fat Balls For The Birds, GermanyBlickwinkel/Alamy Stock Photo
Christmas tree decorated for the birds

Once you are finished with your Christmas tree, set it outside where birds can enjoy perching in its fragrant branches (be sure to remove all ornaments and tinsel first).  You can hang pine cones smeared with peanut butter for an extra special tree for the birds as well from its branches. Learn how to make a tomato cage Christmas tree for birds.

4. Plant Markers

Select 1/2″ thick branches from your tree and strip off all the smaller branches/needles.  Use a vegetable peeler to strip off some of the bark, revealing the light-colored interior and write what you are growing using a Sharpie pen.  These plant markers are really simple to make and look great!

5. Garden Signs

DIY Garden SignsJill Staake

Create stepping “stones” or garden signs from your tree trunk rounds. This craft is very similar to the wooden coasters. You could also use the wooden rounds to make small ornaments.

6. Christmas Tree Recycling to Insulate Perennials

Cut or saw off branches from the tree and layer them flat over your perennial beds as winter mulch. Even if snow already blankets the ground, the branches add an extra layer of protection from fluctuating winter temperatures, says Vijai Pandian, a horticulture specialist with the Milwaukee County (Wisconsin) extension. Use only local trees, as the greens from other areas can carry pests.

7. Make Bean Poles

After you cut off branches, place the trunk in the garden as a pole for beans, cucumbers or other climbing vegetables, says Debbie Kopydlowski, a Milwaukee County master gardener volunteer. If you have multiple trees, angle trunks together like a tepee. The idea also works well for flowers like morning glories (the September birth flower!) or black-eyed Susan vines.

8. Create a Heritage Fence

Save your tree, and maybe your neighbor’s, from the landfill by building a unique barrier. Remove tree branches, cut the trunks into equal lengths and use the sections as fence posts around your garden. You can also pile the trunks and branches as section dividers in the garden, between, for example, leafy greens and ornamentals.

9. Christmas Tree Recycling to Replant for the Future

Go to the garden center for a live tree, and decorate it in your house before planting it outside after Christmas, suggests master gardener volunteer Pat Nylen. You will have a pretty tree for the holidays and beyond. Just be sure to dig a hole before the ground freezes to make planting easier.

10. Nourish Your Soil

Chop up the trunk and branches for compost or, at minimum, keep the needles to mix in with your soil. They add to the acidity.

Bonus: Reader Ideas

  • “Stand and stake your recycled tree in the garden and plant beans or other vine crops under it. The tree makes a natural trellis, and it’s fun to see the veggies hanging from the limbs,” says Janice Ruesch of Fairport, New York.
  • “Trim the branches off your tree, leaving a few small stems for perches. Drill holes in the trunk and stuff with peanut butter, nuts or suet,” says Teresa Ambord of Anderson, California.
  • “My husband puts the tree into a pail of wet sand and lets it freeze. We set it on our deck and hang feeders from it,” says Betty Fraser of Red Deer, Alberta.

Once you’re done looking at Christmas tree recycling ideas, discover how to make a birdseed wreath for your feathered friends.

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist, writer and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. She is the CEO and owner of 'AZ Plant Lady,' an education company that aims to help people garden successfully in the desert climate. She is the author of the book, Dry Climate Gardening, and her byline has appeared in publications such as Birds & Blooms and Phoenix Home & Garden magazine. She is an instructor at the Desert Botanical garden and Tucson Botanical Gardens.