How to make a Christmas tree look fuller – 8 easy tips for a quick transformation

Ensure yours is a worthy star of the show. Here’s how to make a Christmas tree look fuller

Christmas tree look fuller
(Image credit: Future)

A beautifully decorated tree is the centerpiece of the holiday decorations inside your home. But whether yours is real or artificial, one problem you might encounter is how to make a Christmas tree look fuller.

Whichever color theme you select for the tree, and whether your decorations are traditional or more modern in style, if the tree itself looks uneven or a little spindly in places, or is simply skinnier than you’d like, your Christmas tree ideas are not going to pack the decorative punch they should, however well you dress it.

But it’s a problem you can remedy, and here we’ve put together the techniques you need to make a Christmas tree look fuller so yours appears both generous and magical this year.

How to make a Christmas tree look fuller

There are a number of tactics to call on when you’re wondering how to make a Christmas tree look fuller. But before you start, make sure you can work safely and have a step ladder to hand if the tree is a tall one. You might also want to don gloves if yours is a real tree to avoid skin irritation.

1. Fluff the branches

Christmas tree ideas with scented decorations made from dried oranges, apples, pine cones and cinnamon sticks

(Image credit: Alun Callender)

The number one strategy when it comes to making a Christmas tree look fuller is to fluff the branches. This is important whether the tree is real or artificial as the branches can become squashed during transport or, for artificial trees, during storage.

The goal of fluffing is to make the tree as wide as possible and therefore fuller. Put the tree into position first, but make sure to fluff and shape before adding any decorations. 

It’s important to work around the whole tree separating each branch so it fans out to occupy the largest possible area. If necessary, gently bend individual branches of a real tree to make the best overall shape, too. A fresh tree will have pliable rather than brittle branches.

2. Add reflective ornaments

Christmas tree ideas with clear glass and silver baubles and silver streamers

(Image credit: Michael Sinclair)

Ornaments can be employed as part of the solution.

Choose plain versions in hues such as silver, gold, and white, and add them on the inside of the tree. These aren’t meant to be the main attraction but they will do the job of filling in any gaps, creating depth and reflecting the light with the result that the tree will look more substantial.

3. Count up lights

Christmas tree with straw decorations, red baubles and gold lights

(Image credit: Future)

Lights are an essential part of the decorations but they can also help out when the issue of how to make a Christmas tree look fuller arises.

What’s crucial is to use them in sufficient numbers – a minimum of 100 lights per vertical foot (30cm) of the tree is a good ready reckoner.

Rather than working solely around the edges of the branches, position the lights so they shine from the inside of the tree as well to give the impression of depth and therefore the look of a fuller tree.

Put the lights in place before adding ornaments, or other decorations, as these will get in the way. Once the string lights are around the tree, switch them on to check they’re shining from the tree’s interior as well as around it, and adjust their position as necessary for a balanced look.

4. Boost foliage

Christmas tree topper trend

(Image credit: Future / Tom Leighton)

Whether the tree is real or artificial, if it doesn’t appear generous enough, adding extra Christmas foliage ideas is a sound solution. Use dried or realistic artificial foliage, tuck it into any gaps.

It doesn’t matter that the foliage is different to that of the tree; different textures add interest to a real tree and a natural element to a faux one. Need to cluster elements? Use floral wire to hold the sprigs together.

Once the holidays are imminent even fresh foliage and blooms can be added to the tree to round out the shape and dress it appealingly.

Don‘t neglect the potential of Christmas tree picks either. Designs with white or red berries, colored leaves, or clusters of balls will fill out the tree and catch the eye.

5. Design to a theme

Christmas tree topper trend

(Image credit: Future / Jan Baldwin)

Choosing a theme will make a Christmas tree look fuller as well as giving it a professional designer’s touch. Working within a color palette, and choosing a more rustic, traditional, or classic twist for all that dresses the tree gives it an appearance that’s complete.

Don’t stint on combining different elements of tree decor to achieve a full look: ornaments, garlands, the tree topper, ribbons, and bows can all be part of the mix.

As you hang ornaments on the tree work from the top to the bottom stepping back to survey the results and adjusting as necessary. Thinking of a diamond shape can be helpful when hanging ornaments to fill the tree evenly, and put larger ornaments towards the center of the tree with smaller versions on the end of branches.

6. Go for garlands and ribbons

Christmas wall decor ideas with layered foliage garlands in a living room

(Image credit: Simon Bevan)

When the question is how to make a Christmas tree look fuller, garlands are a brilliant answer. Draped around the edges of the branches, they’ll add to its width so it’s a more substantial presence.

Foliage-style garlands are a subtle way to make the tree fuller, but consider, too, brightly colored versions to make an impact.

Ribbons and bows attached to its branches are another route to a more generous tree. If you want to shape ribbons garland-style on the tree, opt for those with wired edges that will hold the outline you give them. 

7. Play with scale

How to decorate a Christmas tree

(Image credit: David Brittain/Emily Brittain Delgardo)

It can feel like the right solution is to scale down ornaments and hanging decorations so the tree itself looks bigger, but incorporating larger versions fills the space and gives the tree a greater presence.

Size up on individual pieces, but consider, too, clustering together ornaments of different sizes. If you’re adopting this approach, go for odd numbers – a group of three is impactful.

8. Finish the tree high and low

Christmas tree ideas with silver, white and gold decorations in keeping with the neutral farmhouse living room

(Image credit: Tim Young)

For a tree of maximum fullness, pay attention to both the top of the tree, and the base.

Pick a tree topper with good scale for the tree; a version that’s too small will detract from a full appearance. If the tree is of maximum height for the room, consider a bow-style tree topper that will still make a statement but doesn’t require space above the top of the tree. 

And once you’ve employed all the strategies that make the tree look fuller, finish it with a tree skirt or collar. It will conceal a spindly trunk or the legs of a stand that will make the effect unbalanced.

Are you supposed to water your Christmas tree?

Watering a real Christmas tree is essential if you want it to look its generous best for the holidays. If it’s short of water it can drop its needles, undoing the efforts to make it look fuller. 

The National Christmas Tree Association (opens in new tab) recommends a resevoir-style stand providing 1 quart (0.95l) of water per inch (2.5cm) of stem diameter. Check daily and fill as necessary so the level of water does not fall below the base of the tree, the experts advise. 

To keep the tree in best condition, make sure it is positioned away from heat sources like fires and vents, as well as out of direct sunlight, in addition to keeping the water in the stand topped up.

How do you fill an empty spot on a Christmas tree?

If you’re left with a few empty spots on the Christmas tree, blooms, berries, and foliage sprays can be great fillers. Fresh versions are an option, but silk flowers, artificial leaves, and berries in gold, silver, or red for a more natural look, can add what the tree is missing.

‘You might consider using these fillers to introduce a contrasting color to set against the palette you selected for the tree and make these extras really pop,’ says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens. ‘If that’s the case, you’ll want to use them throughout the tree so the color contrast appears considered – the tactic won’t work if the new hue just appears in one or two spots.’

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.