How to make an artificial Christmas tree smell real – 4 designer tips for fragrant festivities

You don’t need a real tree for that pine fresh scent – here is how to replicate it

Christmas tree and garland in stylish, modern living room
(Image credit: Getty Images/izusek)

Many people swear by a real Christmas tree for their ability to make a home smell like fresh pine for the holiday season – but artificial tree lovers don't have to be left out. 

There are plenty of ways to make a home smell good for Christmas, from simmer pots to candles, but have you considered scenting your faux centerpiece to help make a fake tree more realistic

Here are four ways you can make a fake Christmas tree smell real for the big day. 

How to make a fake Christmas tree smell real

There are several benefits to scenting a faux tree as opposed to getting a real one. From not having to clean up Christmas tree sap and pine resin, to not dealing with ever-dropping needles as the tree dries out.

This is how to achieve the effortless fresh scent at home. 

Christmas decor by The White Company

(Image credit: The White Company)

1. Weave real foliage into a fake tree

If you want to make a house smell nice when sensitive to fragrance, then using real Christmas foliage woven into your fake tree is a great way to skip the artificial scents, recommends Carmela de Castro, luxury florist and owner of Orchid Republic Floral Boutique.

Carmela suggests hanging evergreen wreaths or seasonal floral arrangements that use real pine foliage so there's that natural scent around your home, but you can also merge garlands into your tree branches, making a Christmas tree look fuller at the same time.  

Carmela de Castro
Carmela de Castro

Carmela owns Orchid Republic Floral Boutique, an upscale florist in LA specializing in bespoke luxury flower arrangement. 

2. Use woody scented candles nearby

The most traditional way of scenting a home is, of course, to use the best candles, reminds Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight. ‘Give a fresh aroma to your home with woody-scented candles. These adorn your rooms and fill the air around with a holiday scent.’

Just be sure not to place them too close to your tree to avoid creating a fire hazard. 

Terra Australis scented candle | View at Net-A-Porter

Terra Australis scented candle | View at Net-A-Porter
This scented candle recreates the smokiness of a crackling campfire. Top notes give way to an earthy heart of Patchouli and Pine before maturing into a lasting woody base defined by Cedarwood, Fir and Gurjun Balsam.

Artem Kropovinsky headshot
Artem Kropovinsky

Based in New York, Artem Kropovinsky, founder of Arsight, has a decade of extensive and considerable global design experience. Prioritizing minimalism, sustainability, and authenticity, Artem, alongside his team of professionals, works on projects in the US and worldwide.

3. Use pine or fir essential oils

Essential oils are perfect for making a home smell good all the time due to their long-lasting strength. If you want your fake tree to seem more real, consider dabbing some spruce, pine, or fir essential oils in the ends of the branches, suggests Carmela de Castro, luxury florist. 

Be sure to put them on the higher-up branches if you have pets that like to try chewing on the lower sections. 

Winter Essential Oils Set | View at Amazon

Winter Essential Oils Set | View at Amazon
With pine, peppermint, and spiced scents, this essential oils set is perfect for making a home smell Christmassy, from scenting a fake tree to making the best simmer pot recipes for fall and winter

4. Hang scented ornaments

For a quick fix, you can hang Christmassy scented ornaments from your tree for another hidden approach to scenting your space, suggests Jacky Chou, principal designer and founder of Archute:

‘This is the perfect fun and festive way to make your fake tree smell real,’ he says. ‘You can buy some ready-made ones from a craft store or online, or you can make your own with some simple materials. For example, you can make pomander balls by poking cloves into oranges and drying them in the oven. These ornaments will not only smell amazing but also look beautiful on your tree. 

If you don’t want to change out your Christmas tree theme and are happy with your existing ornaments, you can use more subtle scent sticks, he adds. ‘These are small sticks that are infused with natural oils and can be hidden inside your tree branches. They release a gentle aroma that lasts for weeks and can be refreshed by flipping them over.’ 

Fir Scentsicles | View at Amazon

Fir Scentsicles | View at Amazon
These discreet sticks are perfect for scenting a fake tree. My family has been using the same set for over five years, and the scent is only just starting to wear off. 

Principal and Director at Archute
Jacky Chou
Principal and Director at Archute
Jacky Chou

Jacky Chou is the principal and director at Archute, an editorial magazine about architecture, home and garden. They have been referenced by The New York Times, Bustle, House & Home, Bloomberg, and Angi. Jacky also his own an online interior design company as well called Laurel & Wolf.

FAQs

How do you make an artificial Christmas tree smell fresh?

If your Christmas tree smells musty from storage, you can freshen it up by getting it out of the box and letting it sit open for a day or so in a spot with good air circulation, outside if the weather is nice enough. If this doesn't help, consider wiping the branches down gently with a scented multi-purpose cleaner to help remove any dust or bacteria that might be producing a bad odor.

How can I stop my artificial Christmas tree from smelling like plastic?

If your new Christmas tree smells like plastic, you can use a mixture of one part vinegar and two parts water to gently spray and wipe down the branches and pole to remove lingering odors. Be sure to test this on a small, inconspicuous area of the tree first to ensure it doesn't affect the color, and be wary around spraying a pre-lit tree – consider spraying a cloth and cleaning instead to protect the wiring.


While some people may argue there is nothing like a real tree, the benefit of a faux tree is the ability to personalize the scent, says Jacky Chou, designer. ‘The best way to make your fake tree smell real is to experiment with fragrance layering and see what works for you. 

'You can combine different methods and products to create your signature scent for your tree. You can also change it up every year to keep things interesting and fresh.’  

Chiana Dickson
Writer

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.