When should you take Christmas tree down? 12th night date - collection, recycling and garden uses explained

While taking your Christmas decorations down marks the end of the festive season, it can still have several uses in your garden or further afield

We are set to wave goodbye to Christmas 2022 this week, as Twelfth Night is set to fall over the coming days.

The traditional endpoint for Christmas celebrations falls hot on the heels of the New Year, giving us just a short window to enjoy our festive displays before putting our decorations away for another 11 months.

While the festive season is almost at an end, there are several things to look forward to over the coming weeks. Later in January we have Chinese New Year, while Pancake Day is only just around the corner.

But first, we have to confront the pressing question of what to do with our Christmas trees after we take them down. Real trees have a number of uses in the garden and beyond, but knowing what to with them is not always obvious.

So, what can you do with your tree once the festivities are over? Here’s what you need to know.

Christmas trees can have several uses after Christmas Day (image: Adobe)
Christmas trees can have several uses after Christmas Day (image: Adobe)
Christmas trees can have several uses after Christmas Day (image: Adobe)

When is 12th night 2023?

While tradition dictates that you have to take your tree down by twelfth night, there is no hard and fast rule about when you should end your Christmas celebrations. After all, the date marks a religious feast day in Christianity and has only come to involve trees since Victorian times.

But if you are someone who likes to follow traditions, you should take your decorations down by 6 January (although Twelfth Night could be on 5 January depending on when your countdown starts).

What can you do with your Christmas tree?

There are several different things you can do with a live Christmas tree after the festive season ends. Here are three easy ideas:

  • Re-pot or plant it

If you want to attempt to keep your Christmas tree alive until next year, it is possible to do so - but, if you bought it in a pot, it may only last for another two to three years at best.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommends moving the tree from its pot into a larger garden container to allow it to keep growing. You may have to do this annually until the tree fully matures - but, you should be prepared for it to grow quite a lot larger if you do this.

If your tree has already been cut away from its roots, it will only last for around four weeks before dying. These trees cannot be replanted.

Christmas trees can keep growing in your garden (image: Adobe)
Christmas trees can keep growing in your garden (image: Adobe)
Christmas trees can keep growing in your garden (image: Adobe)
  • Use it in your garden

Christmas trees can have several uses in the garden. If you have a shredder, you can put your tree through it to create woodchips that can be left to rot and then used as mulch.

Alternatively, if you chop up the tree roughly and stack the trunk and branches by a shed or wall, it can become a wildlife shelter for bugs or small animals, also known as a ‘wildlife hotel’.

Another use for Christmas trees is to use them as frames and supports for creepers or climbers. The thin trunks and twigs most Christmas trees have are ideal for this sort of thing.

  • Give it to the local council

If you do not have much garden space, or cannot find another use for it, you should give your tree to your local council. Local authorities usually organise collection points for real Christmas trees in January as part of their garden waste schemes.

To see if your council offers this service, you should visit their website. When dropping off your tree, make sure it has had all of its tinsel and decorations removed, and is no longer in a pot.

Trees that are recycled in this way often come to be used as woodchips that you might see used in your local park. Garden centres and nature reserves also accept real Christmas trees, which they can then repurpose as frames for young climbing plants, or to create nesting space for birds or small animals.