little boy next to a Christmas tree

Christmas tree envy in your small space?

Everywhere you look this time of year, you see Christmas trees. Stop by the grocery store, and there they are, outside where the pumpkins used to be. Drive down any road in your town, and you’re likely to see them on the corner lots. And you’ll have to step around them to get into your local greenhouse these days. But what if you live in a small space? Do you have to forgo a Christmas tree? Absolutely not! We have some great ideas to bring that Christmas tradition into your tiny apartment and ward off the holiday blues.

What’s the big deal with Christmas trees anyway?

All over the world, before Christianity came along, people in the Northern hemisphere found ways to get through the dark days and long nights of wintertime. It seems like having greenery around us has always been a human desire, practically a necessity. So back in those early days, people often brought evergreen boughs into their homes. They did it for a variety of reasons. Some believed it would ward off evil spirits or illness. Others did it to celebrate the winter solstice and hopes for a strong sun god and abundant crops in the spring.

And believe it or not, many Christians in the United States originally thought the idea of a Christmas tree (introduced by the Germans) was a pagan symbol, and would not have such a thing in their homes. But Queen Victoria made the Christmas tree popular in England at the end of the 19th century, and by the beginning of the 20th century, most Americans had them in their homes.

Norfolk Island Pine aerial view in a pot

Size does not matter (really!)

While it’s fun to go to tree lighting ceremonies and admire the trees in our friends’ and families’ homes that stretch all the way to the ceiling, there’s no reason to have Christmas tree envy. When giant trees became popular in the U.S., the Europeans were still happy with trees that were only about four feet high. And in this day of minimalism, that seems perfect–maybe a little on the side of too large!

So while the debate over real vs. fake Christmas trees rages on in other circles, plant lovers have the advantage of bringing something living into their home without hurting the environment.

Christmas tree-like plants

A great plant for your home all year long, the Norfolk pine not only makes a great houseplant, it is also as close as you can get to having a real Christmas tree in your home. Decorate it for the holidays, and voilà! You don’t even have to rearrange your apartment. Not really a pine or a tree, a Norfolk pine is a bit more like an orchid. It is a tropical plant, and as such requires high humidity and bright, direct sunlight, and watering only when the soil feels dry. They are readily available this time of year, so grab yours now.

Need an even smaller option? Another option that not only smells good, but can also go into your holiday dishes is a rosemary topiary. You can buy these now, too. All you have to do is keep it growing and sprinkle it with some tiny ornaments. Be sure to take some precautions to ensure its survival. Wrap it up before you transport it from the place you purchased it to your home. Check the roots and the soil, as you may need to repot it at home. It will want bright light and some humidity, and you will probably need to trim it to help it keep its Christmas tree shape. If you notice that the leaves are drooping, give the whole pot a soak in the sink. You can keep growing your rosemary after the holidays, but you may have to cut it way back. (Dry the leaves and season your food with it all year long!)

woman holding evergreen boughs in the snow

Evergreen décor

So you don’t want the plant maintenance, or you are looking at an extremely small space? Do it like the pagans did. Buy or gather evergreen boughs and drape them over doorways. Put them someplace far from heat registers and mist them every other day or so. Put evergreen cuttings in a vase and hang mini-ornaments on them. Make a wreath (many greenhouses have classes on that these days). Or, an idea we like from Architectural Digest–make a hanging wreath by stringing several differently-sized wreaths together in descending order and hanging them from a hook on your ceiling.

Christmas impact in a small space

With all these ideas for living greenery during the holidays, you may well be the envy of those with giant Christmas trees. You may want to try more than one for maximum Christmas impact. And after you have your space looking cozy and festive, share your holiday spirit by throwing a small holiday party, complete with rosemary cocktails. Happy holidays!