How do you fluff a Christmas tree? 6 steps to make an artificial tree look fuller (and more expensive)

Try these expert tips for fluffing an artificial Christmas tree to make yours look just as authentic as the real deal

A bright living room with an artificial lit up Christmas tree in the centre
(Image credit: Balsam Hill)

Without a doubt, the Christmas tree is the center of your festive decor. Its presence - festooned with lights and baubles, and with a treasure trove of gifts below - instantly brings warmth and the festive spirit to your living room. While traditional trees with real foliage remain the firm favorite for some, artificial trees can offer the same benefits year after year without as much hassle (or the expense). Fortunately, modern varieties now look incredibly realistic too, but in order to appear completely authentic, their branches need to be fluffed first. 

There's nothing that gets you more excited for Christmas day than putting up the tree. Sometimes though, after diligently spreading their branches, they still end up looking sparse and lifeless. 'Fresh out of the box, artificial trees can appear somewhat compressed and can need a little teasing to reach their fullest potential,' says Mac Harman, CEO of Christmas decor brand, Balsam Hill. 'We call this “fluffing” your tree and there really is an art to it!'

To help you have a tree that's worthy for the big day with full, bushy (albeit, fake) foliage, we've assembled a few expert Christmas decorating ideas for a more luxurious looking tree. 

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. She's committed to sharing articles that help readers embrace emerging trends and keep up-to-date with changing styles to keep in tune with the seasons. For this piece, she spoke with Balsam Hill's CEO about how to get a fuller looking Christmas tree by fluffing its branches 

Why is it important to fluff a tree?

A plain artificial Christmas tree

(Image credit: Balsam Hill)

Until today, 'fluffing' a tree might have been a totally alien term. Maybe you've been doing it subconsciously, or perhaps it's something you've never done before. While you might have been happy with your tree all these years despite skipping this step, the aesthetic benefits aren't to be snubbed. 

As Mac of Balsam Hill explains: 'So often, the tree is the focal point of the home at Christmas and as many of us also choose to display our trees so that they are visible to passers-by in the street, you want your tree to look its absolute best!' This is what fluffing a tree is all about. 

Besides the aesthetic advantages, Mac also believe tree fluffing becomes part of your Christmas decorating rituals, just like choosing your favorite baubles or adding your Christmas tree topper! 'I recommended carving out an evening and inviting round friends or family to help,' he says.

Classic Blue Spruce Artificial Christmas Tree, Balsam Hill 
Bushy blue spruce

Classic Blue Spruce Artificial Christmas Tree, Balsam Hill 

Add timeless charm to your Christmas celebration with this artificial Christmas tree from Balsam Hill. Made with 100% Classic Needle foliage, the faux branches have natural characteristics for a full, abundant look. 

How to fluff a Christmas tree

1. Be prepared 

A faux Christmas tree decorated with baubles next to a fireplace

(Image credit: Luke Arthur Wells)

Unboxing your tree is a feeling almost as good as opening your gifts on Christmas day. Although you might be tempted to jump straight in, you should make sure you're prepared first. 

It's a good idea to give the segments of your tree a good shake to get rid of any dust that's collected (especially if you've stored it in the loft). There will inevitably be some fallout from the branches, too. Have a vacuum cleaner or dustpan and brush handy in order to clear up the sprigs or needles that fall off. 

Although there's no equipment needed for fluffing a Christmas tree, the spiky faux foliage can be as irritating to your skin as the real thing. 'If possible, grab yourself a pair of gardening gloves before fluffing your tree (good quality trees often come with a pair inside the box),' says stylist and design writer Luke Arthur Wells. 'Even though they're artificial, fake trees can still be a bit prickly, and this will stop you getting in there and really fluffing your tree.' This is especially important if you have younger members of the family joining lending a hand!

2. Work from bottom to top

A silver frosted Christmas tree laden with baubles, blue and silver, china ornaments and Christmas tree lights, and sofa and tables.

(Image credit: Future)

When fluffing a tree, the idea is to make the branches look as full and bushy as possible. 'Starting with the bottom section of your tree, work your way up in sections,' says Mac. 'Tying up the branches above that you’re not working on with a piece of ribbon is recommended so they don’t obscure your view as you fluff the lower branches.'

Balsam Fir Artificial Christmas Tree, Target
Get the look

Balsam Fir Artificial Christmas Tree, Target

Celebrate Christmas in style with this artificial tree from Target. Hinged branches make setup quick and easy - just give them a fluff and you'll have an authentic looking tree that the family will adore. This unlit model also makes it perfect for customizing with your own lights. 

3. For larger trees, start at the top 

A faux Christmas tree with snow effect foliage

(Image credit: Luke Arthur Wells)

Although the most methodical approach is to start at the bottom of your tree and work upwards, this is no use if you have a taller tree since you won't be able to reach the top branches. 'If you have a larger tree, it's a good idea to fluff the topmost section ahead of putting the tree up as it’s a lot easier to work on the ground,' notes Mac

4. Spread the branches 

An artificial lit up Christmas tree in a dark blue living room

(Image credit: Balsam Hill)

When it comes to how to decorate a Christmas tree, it's a job that can't be rushed. The same goes for fluffing one. 'The biggest hack when it comes to making your artificial tree look fuller and more realistic is time; if you spend a good couple of hours on it, your tree will be all the better for it,' Mac notes.

It might sound tedious, but it's important to work methodically, focussing on each individual branch, in order to achieve the most realistic looking tree. 'Start at the back of each branch and stagger each sprig so that it is offset from the one before,' Mac explains. 'Take the tip of the sprig and move it so that it points in a different direction from the ones immediately around it. Fanning the sprigs out in this way opens up the branch and mimics the way the tree would grow in nature.'

'Don't pay too much attention to making sure every branch is uniformly spread - some variety will help achieve a natural look,' agrees Luke. 'Consider adding a kink in the end of the branches too for a realistic touch - this will also help baubles sit on them more easily.'

Fake Christmas tree branches are almost always made of wiring, so you can tailor the look of your tree to you heart's desire! If your tree is in a living room corner, it's a good idea to bend some branches forward so that your tree looks less sparse at the front (after all, no one will see the back!).

5. Don't forget the innermost branches

An artificial Christmas tree decorated with silver baubles and lights

(Image credit: Balsam Hill)

By now, your Christmas tree is probably starting to take shape. You might feel happy with how it looks after fluffing the most visible branches, but for extra depth and dimension, don't forget the smaller inner branches closer to the trunk. 

'As you move away from the trunk towards the front of the branch, you may also find some separate sprigs that shoot off from the main branch,' Mac says. 'Ensure that these are also fanned out.' If you do this for every branch, big or small, you'll have a tree that looks abundant with foliage. 

'Don't just think of fluffing as spreading the branches horizontally,' Luke notes. 'Some of the worst case gaps will be between levels of branches, especially where two pieces of your tree join together. Bend the branches down and up, too.' This will make your artificial tree look closer to the real thing - the perfect addition to your Christmas living room decor.

6. Fill in gaps with additional decor

An artificial Christmas tree in a living room

(Image credit: Balsam Hill)

Finally, if your tree is still looking a bit sparse (perhaps you've lost a few branches over the years, or maybe it has a slimmer branch style), don't be afraid to fill in the gaps with some complimentary decor. 

'Consider adding foraged foliage in to make your tree feel a little more full,' says Luke. 'For a tree that will last all season long, dried branches or flowers like gypsophila - the perfect addition to a white Christmas tree - can make the tree feel super full and luxurious.'

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.