The ultimate guide to choosing and caring for your Christmas tree from Forestry England

Family picking christmas tree in forest

The ultimate guide to choosing and caring for your Christmas tree from Forestry England

Published: November 2023

For many of us, choosing a real Christmas tree is one of the best things about the festive season. But with so many trees to choose from, how do you make sure you pick one that will last throughout the festive season and will look perfect in your home?

Forestry England is excited to announce the opening of 15 Christmas tree sales centres across the country, where you can find high-quality real Christmas trees that are proudly grown in the UK. Additionally, all Norway spruce trees are both grown in Britain and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

There will also be a variety of festive events from illuminated trails to cracking the Zog Christmas code on a family activity trail, offering the perfect location for a Christmassy day out.

Forestry England’s ultimate Christmas tree guide is also here to help you! Included are tips from our experts on how to pick the freshest and healthiest tree, how to care for your tree once it’s home to keep it looking fantastic throughout Christmas, and some lovely sustainable decoration ideas for the whole family to enjoy!

How to pick your Christmas tree

Forestry England sell high-quality, home-grown Christmas trees in 15 of the nation’s forests – you can find your nearest location here.

If you can’t get to one of these locations, Forestry England suggests carrying out these few simple tests to ensure you get the freshest and healthiest tree that will last throughout Christmas:

  1. Check the tree's branches: Take a branch with your thumb and forefinger and gently pull it towards you. If lots of needles come off, the tree is not fresh and won’t last throughout Christmas.
  2. Smell the needles: Crush some needles in your hand and see if they release a good scent. A fresh tree should always smell fragrant.
  3. Bounce the tree: Beware of lots of falling needles, while a small amount of shedding is to be expected, if there is a lot of shedding with little movement, do not buy it.

Care for your tree

To keep your real Christmas tree looking and smelling fresh throughout Christmas it is important to look after it.

Here is Forestry England’s step-by-step guide to making your tree last longer.

Give your trunk a trim

Once you get your tree home, saw just over a centimetre (or half an inch) off the trunk to get rid of any hardened sap and then put straight into water. This will help the tree to absorb lots of water to stay fresh and green throughout your festivities.

Not too hot

Your tree’s natural habitat at this time of year is out in the cold air, minimize the shock of the relocation and keep your tree happy by giving your tree some good distance from the radiator.

Keep your tree watered

Make sure you choose a sturdy stand that can hold a good amount of water. Your Christmas tree needs to be kept in water all the time, so finding a base with a good well that you can easily top up is important.

Check your tree’s water every day, you'll be surprised just how thirsty they can be! Make sure the trunk is nicely submerged for happy and healthy needles.

Leave out the gimmicks

You might have been told that cola or corn syrup in the base helps to keep your tree alive, or maybe the garden centre tried to send you home with special tree food?

Don’t fall for it! Your beautiful tree just wants a constant supply of fresh water, it's that simple.


For many, unboxing and dusting off Christmas tree decorations marks the start of the holiday season. If you find you need extra decorations to spruce up your spruce, why not get crafty with your family? Here are some lovely ideas for sustainable Christmas tree decorations:

Decorative festive pine cones

Decorate pine cones to create a mini Christmas tree, or paint a pine cone robin to get in the festive spirit.

Create a twig star

Ditch your plastic tree topper in favour of a lovely handmade stick star. Start by placing five twigs in a star shape. Using twine or string, tie the sticks together at each point of the star. Wrap the twine around all the sticks at the point several times. Pull it tightly to make sure it holds securely. The perfect ornament for your family Christmas tree.

Scented orange tree slice decorations

Add a traditional feel to your tree with these easy to make decorations. Simply slice an orange, decorate with cloves and pop in the oven at the lowest setting for around an hour.

Salt dough decorations

Salt dough decorations are easy and fun to make. Simply make some salt dough, roll it out and use Christmas biscuit cutters to cut out some festive shapes. Remember to make a hole in the top of each shape for hanging on the tree. Once this is done, pop them in the oven on the lowest setting for 3 hours or until solid. When they are cool, paint and decorate as you like. Acrylic paint works well, but you could also colour them with felt-tip pens then leave to dry. To finish, loop the ribbon through the hole and tie at the top, ready to hang on the tree.

Get an activity pack here for more Christmas crafting fun.

Support our forests

We know our climate is in crisis and that trees, woods and forests are vital for  our environment and our own health and wellbeing. Buying your real Christmas tree from Forestry England helps to look after the nation’s forests and also boosts your wellbeing with a magical day out. 

To find your nearest sales centre and find more information on events across England visit

Notes to Editor

  1. Images are available here (insert link if available). Please credit Forestry England/Crown copyright.
  2. Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests, with over 291 million visits in 2022/23. As England’s largest land manager, we shape landscapes and enhance forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. We are continuing the work we have already started to make the nation’s forests resilient to climate change and by 2026 we will:   
  • create at least 6,000 more hectares where we integrate wilding activities in our productive forests
  • increase the diversity of visitors to the nation’s forests and have one million hours of high-quality volunteer time given to the nation’s forests 
  • plant at least 2,000 hectares of new, high quality, predominantly broadleaf woodlands 

For more information visit Forestry England is an agency of the Forestry Commission.

Christmas tree sale centres:

  1. Rothebury forest, Northumberland
  2. Hamsterley forest, Durham
  3. Whinlatter forest, Lake District
  4. Guisborough forest, North Yorkshire
  5. Dalby forest, North Yorkshire
  6. New Forest, Hampshire
  7. Moors Valley County Park, Southampton
  8. Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Hampshire
  9. Alice Holt forest, Hampshire
  10. Cannock Chase forest, Stafordshire
  11. Haldon Forest, Devon
  12. Cardinham woods, Cornwall
  13. Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
  14. Wendover woods, Buckinghamshire
  15. Wyre Forest, Worcester

Media contact:

Forestry England press office|