Genius ideas for sprucing up a fake evergreen.

By Katie Holdefehr
November 10, 2017
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There are plenty of reasons to love an artificial Christmas tree: It’s environmentally-friendly, it lasts for years, and it doesn’t shed pine needles everywhere. The one major downside? These trees can look fake, and spending a summer stuffed inside a cardboard box in the attic doesn’t do them any favors. Luckily, with a few tips and sprucing secrets, you can help even the straggliest of fake trees look full. After fluffing up the branches, adding some fresh garland, and making your tree smell like pine, don’t be surprised if your guests mistake your faux tree for the real deal.

Tom Merton/Getty Images

Fluff Up the Branches. 

Thin, skimpy branches are the telltale sign of a fake Christmas tree. After sitting in a box for 11 months out of the year, the flattened faux pine needles and scrunched branches create obvious bare patches. To bring your fake tree back to life, devote some time to fluffing up each branch and fanning out the needles. Start at the bottom branches of the tree and work your way up to the top.

Don’t Skimp on Ornaments.

If you’re afraid your artificial tree won’t look full enough, eye-catching ornaments can help fill in empty spots. Hang your ornaments strategically, starting with the largest ones, and concentrating on any areas that could use a big, sparkly distraction.

Drape a Greenery Garland.

Wrapping a fake tree loosely with garland, whether fake or real, will help it look lush and full. Start from the top of the tree and work your way down to the bottom. (Be sure to get a strand long enough to cover the entire tree—stopping halfway down won’t fool anyone.) If you don’t want to invest in a long garland, opt for pine picks or sprays of artificial greenery attached to a metal stem, in a color that matches the tree. Intersperse them evenly throughout the branches to give the tree a balanced look, and make sure the metal stem is well hidden within the tree branches.

Tuck in Real Branches.

As an alternative to garland, you can also add real pine branches collected from trees in your backyard, as long as the color is close to the hue of your tree. The real branches will add texture and make the tree look more organic. When adding branches, try to keep the tree looking balanced by spacing them throughout.

Add an Authentic Scent.

You can tell a pine tree by more than just its looks—a whiff of woodsy fragrance lets you know it’s the real deal. To fake it, add pine-scented stick ornaments to the back of the tree, in an inconspicuous spot. You can also use pine needle essential oils for a natural solution, or light a pine-scented candle in the room.

Spritz It With Fake Snow.

While a dusting of artificial snow won’t make the tree look more real, it will spruce up lackluster branches. Take the tree outside before spraying the branches with a light, even dusting of spray-on snow. Consider where snow would realistically hit the tree, and concentrate on the top of each branch. Let the tree settle and the fumes dissipate before bringing the tree back indoors.

Top It With Tinsel.

If you’re a fan of tinsel, this is the perfect opportunity to let it loose. Drape metallic tinsel on each branch, being sure to cover any obvious sparse spots. Because the tinsel drapes down in between the branches, it’s the ideal decoration to fill a thin tree.

Add Pinecones (and Ribbons).

Large decorations, like pinecones and velvet ribbons, that can be placed wherever you like are ideal for dressing up artificial trees. Place these decorations strategically to cover bald spots and make the tree look lush.

Use a Standout Tree Stand.

Nothing makes a fake tree look cheap quite like an inexpensive plastic tree stand. Instead, cover the stand with a no-sew homemade tree skirt, or place the stand inside a large woven basket and fill it with pinecones. If you give your fake tree a sturdy base, it’s more likely to look real.

Supplement With Strand Lights.

Sure, the whole point of buying a pre-lit tree is so you can avoid wrapping it with string lights, but if you’ve had your tree for a while, adding additional lights is an easy way to update it (especially if any of the original lights have burnt out). To make the tree really shine, consider adding strands of bigger vintage-style bulbs that will also help make it look fuller.