5 Expert Tips for Decorating an Outdoor Christmas Tree

Including why you shouldn’t use regular ornaments outdoors.

The Christmas tree in your living room isn't the only one you can decorate this season! Outdoor Christmas trees are becoming more popular, and we're not just talking about putting lights on the trees in your front yard (although we fully support that, too!). Holiday retailers are now offering artificial Christmas trees that are meant for the outdoors, so you can sprinkle some Christmas cheer on your front porch, back deck, or your front yard!

But there are a few things to consider before you haul your tree out onto the front steps. We talked to Kim Tokarski, senior merchant at Frontgate, about the best ways to decorate a tree outdoors (including what to look for when you're shopping). Here are her best tips.

outdoor christmas tree
Courtesy of Frontgate

Find the Right Tree

There are several factors to consider when choosing an artificial tree, but the most important thing to look for when you're shopping for an outdoor tree is the phrase 'indoor/outdoor use' on the box or label. "There are special UV applications for Outdoor-specific trees that prevent fading and protect against elements like wind and moisture that could damage the tree," Tokarski says. These trees are a bit more expensive, but they are designed to be used outdoors for several seasons (unlike a live Christmas tree you'll have to throw out in January). She recommends this 6.5-foot Norway Spruce Outdoor Tree ($959, Frontgate) that comes pre-lit (the lights rotate between nine colors) with a six-foot cord and all the materials you need to secure it outdoors.

Make It a Team Effort

Just like two Christmas trees are better than one, having two people to put up and decorate the tree is preferable in terms of safety. Tokarski recommends recruiting a partner to help get the tree outside and to spot you on the ladder if you need to climb up to string outdoor lights or hang ornaments on a taller tree.

Pick the Right Location

You can place an outdoor tree on your front porch, the patio, or even in the yard! There are a few things to consider when deciding where to put your outdoor tree, though: If it's a tall tree, make sure the area is close enough to an outlet that you can run an extension cord ($5, Target) to the tree for lights. You'll also want to be sure the area is level and safe to set up a ladder if you have a large tree. And if the tree is on the small side, be sure to place it in an area where it'll be protected from the wind.

Decorate Appropriately

Even if you have leftover ornaments after finishing your indoor decor, it's not a good idea to use them outdoors. "Not only will the cold weather potentially crack them, but the special details that come on indoor ornaments—like beading, glitter, and the paint itself—can be easily damaged by the elements," Tokarski says. "It is best to use shatterproof plastic ornaments for outdoor tree decorating, and all decorations, toppers, and lights should be labeled indoor/outdoor safe."

Secure the Tree

Don't risk your perfectly decorated tree tipping over in the breeze! Tokarski recommends securing the tree with a stand and stakes (which often are included with an outdoor-specific tree). You can also use sandbags ($23, The Home Depot) for smaller trees, or place them in a large decorative pot with sandbags inside.

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