19 Live Christmas Tree Alternatives (Houseplants & Indoor Trees)

Christmas trees are great, but they’re not for everyone. If you’re not feeling like setting up a traditional Christmas tree, you don’t have the space, or you’re just not able to this year, don’t worry!

There are a lot of live alternatives to traditional Christmas trees that can bring the same magic without the yearly hustle of buying, setting up, and throwing out a live tree. Live plants are also great alternatives to fake Christmas trees.

The best alternatives are your existing houseplants, potted office plants, or other common potted plants you can get that you’ll then be able to keep as decorative plants throughout the rest of the year.

Here are some of the best live Christmas tree alternatives you can try this year, broken down into succulents, indoor-friendly trees, winter flowering houseplants, and other potted plants.


Desert Rose

1. Desert Rose

Size: small-medium

Flowering? yes

Toxic to pets? yes

Indoor growing requirements: Water when soil fully dries out (once every 3-4 weeks over the winter), place near a window

Desert rose is a very unique houseplant! Although it’s a succulent, it looks more like a tiny tree. This plant has a fat central stem that produces a few smaller stems. Bright green leaves grow in bunches at the end of every new stem.

The desert rose drops most of its leaves to grow new ones, so it has sparse but healthy leaves. There will always be a little clump of 5-8 leaves in varying sizes at the end of each new branch.

Desert rose is a flowering plant, but you probably won’t see flowers if you’re growing it in an area that’s cold over Christmas. If you have warm Christmases, you might be blessed with some blooms to celebrate the season!

potted desert rose with 3 open flowers

I’ve got one of these living in a pot in my garden. It’s one of my all-time favorite plants because it’s just so unique looking and it’s very easy to care for. Plus, the flowers are GORGEOUS.

A small desert rose plant would be a cute tabletop Christmas tree. If you can get your hands on a medium-sized potted desert rose, it would work well for a small living room or office.

The main thing to consider with this plant is that the sap is toxic when ingested. If you’ve got a child or animal that won’t stop nibbling on your plants, it might be best to skip the desert rose.

Aloe Vera

2. Aloe Vera

Size: small-medium

Flowering? Occasionally

Toxic to pets? Mildly, but only if a lot is ingested (unlikely!)

Indoor growing requirements: plenty of space in a pot with drainage, water only when soil is fully dried out (once every 3-4 weeks, but check the soil), give some direct sunlight if indoors

Aloe vera is already a popular plant to keep at home, whether you’re growing it indoors or outside. It’s got a lot of purported health benefits, it’s easy to care for, and it’s got a pretty cool look to it.

The reason aloe vera can be a good Christmas tree is that it has wide, sturdy leaves that work really well to hold up lights, tinsel, or ornaments. The best aloe vera plants for the job will be on the larger side, though you can use a healthy smaller aloe vera for a tabletop tree.

I’ve actually used a large aloe vera as an alternative Christmas tree before. Here’s what mine looked like with ornaments:

Christmas aloe vera! circa 2018

Although my hubby wasn’t a fan, I loved it! It had a certain charm to it, and it held the ornaments like a champ. The only downside was that our cat had an easy time turning the ornaments into her own personal playthings. On the upside, you can plant aloe vera in almost anything that works as a planter!

Christmas Cactus

3. Christmas Cactus

Size: small-medium

Flowering? Yes

Toxic to pets? Mildly, only if a lot is ingested

Indoor growing requirements: give partial access to direct sunlight, water sparingly when soil is fully dry

Although Christmas is in the name, this plant would make a very non-typical choice for a Christmas tree alternative. That’s not to say it would be a BAD choice though!

Christmas cactus plants (AKA Schlumbergera) are succulents that grow out and hang down. Their branches have a bit of structure to them, so they could easily hold onto a few ornaments.

When in bloom, a Christmas cactus has vivid pink flowers on the growing ends of all its branches. The good news is that you might get some blooms around Christmas since this plant will bloom indoors during cold winters. Bright pink blooms are like free ornaments to liven up your tree!

A Christmas cactus Christmas tree is about as non-traditional as it gets, but I think it would be fantastic as a centerpiece on your coffee table or dining table, or as a fun holiday tree in a small apartment or dorm room.

Jade Plant

4. Jade Plant (large)

Size: small-medium

Flowering? Rarely

Toxic to pets? Mildly, if ingested

Indoor growing requirements: prefers a few hours of direct sunlight or a lot of indirect light, water only when soil dries out

Jade plants are a great option if you’re nervous about keeping a houseplant alive. Even without a green thumb, you’re unlikely to kill a potted jade plant unless you’re trying to!

These plants are a bit petite. If you want a tree alternative to fill a larger space, you’ll want to look for a medium-large sized jade plant. A small potted jade plant would be fantastic in an apartment, dorm, in your bedroom, or even on your desk at work.

Jade plants don’t flower often, so you probably shouldn’t expect to get any flowers while you’re decorating. Regardless of whether it has any of those lovely little white flowers or not, jade plants make excellent holiday trees for a few of your favorite decorations.

Indoor-Friendly Trees

Norfolk Island Pine

5. Norfolk Island Pine

Size: medium-large

Flowering? No

Toxic to pets? Mildly, if ingested

Indoor growing requirements: Consistent sunshine (lots of indirect light, or a few hours a day of direct light per day), water once every 1-2 weeks when soil dries, sitting away from heating or cooling air vents

Even if you’re not using this potted tree as a Christmas tree, it’s a pretty stunning plant to have in your home. Norfolk pines are simultaneously sturdy and whimsical, with long up-turned branches and soft, delicate needles.

They have a vibrant green color and a few defined lines of symmetrical branches from top to bottom. If you want it to look a little more traditional, you can prune the branches to give them more of a sloped shape. Either way, this pine is as close as you can get to a traditional Christmas tree in a pot!

Larger potted trees work well in your living room, sitting near a window. Medium-sized trees can be perfect in the corner of a smaller living room or on the coffee table or dining table. A small one would be a cute tabletop Christmas tree that sits on your desk, kitchen counter, or wherever you’ve got the extra space.

Palm Trees

6. Palm Trees

Size: medium-large

Flowering? No

Toxic to pets? No (true palms), some palm-like plants may be toxic to pets (i.e. sago palms which are not true palm trees)

Indoor growing requirements: Varied, check the requirements for the individual palm you want

I’ll admit it, palm trees are a REALLY broad category. The thing is, most potted palm trees would make fantastic Christmas tree alternatives, and I don’t want this entire list to be made up of only a bunch of different types of palm trees!

My sago palm

A few varieties that would work particularly well would be:

  • Parlor palms
  • Majesty palms
  • Fishtail palms
  • Finger palms (rhapis)
  • Areca palms
  • Chinese fan palms
  • Pigmy date palms
  • Cat palms
  • Sentry palms
  • Bamboo palms
  • Yucca
  • Christmas palms

Something like a sago palm (not a true palm tree) would also work, but it’s worth noting that these are very toxic to pets while most true palms are not.

Many palms can grow very well indoors as long as you put them in a large enough container. Palms make a perfect option if you’re celebrating Christmas in a warmer climate, or for anyone who wants a Christmas tree alternative that blends in perfectly as a houseplant for the rest of the year.

Depending on the size of the palm, these work really well in living rooms, tucked into a corner near the window. Most palms are a bit too large for a table or windowsill, so make sure you have some space on the floor for it.

A unique way to decorate a Christmas palm tree would be to wrap light or tinsel from the bottom to the top of the trunk and hang ornaments off the leaves.

Rubber Plant

7. Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica)

Size: small-large

Flowering? Occasionally

Toxic to pets? Mildly, only if ingested

Indoor growing requirements: bright indirect light all day or diffused direct light, keep soil moist but not wet, mist or wipe leaves with a damp cloth every few days for best growth

Rubber plants are a little more particular than some of the plants on this list, but they’re still easy enough to grow and they make a lovely addition to your home all year round. During Christmas, the shiny leaves of a rubber plant work well to complement a few bright, dangling ornaments and lights.

rubber plant

The dark color of the leaves and their wide shape provide a great contrast for sparkling ornaments. There’s enough space on the leaf stems to support some pretty heft ornaments, but you might need to get creative with smaller ornaments or anything that doesn’t dangle.

A larger rubber plant works well in a big pot on your living room floor, or in a pot stand near your entryway. Small ones sit comfortably on a tabletop in a smaller pot. Work with the space you have to display your plant wherever you’re able, as long as it works with the rubber plant’s preferred lighting.

Umbrella Tree

8. Umbrella Tree (Schefflera)

Size: medium-large

Flowering? Rarely indoors

Toxic to pets? Mildly, if ingested

Indoor growing requirements: prefers bright indirect light, water heavily when the soil dries out, keep the plant in a humid area away from air vents

The wide leaves of the umbrella tree make it a great houseplant, but also a lovely decorative plant for hanging your ornaments! These little trees are simple to care for indoors at any time of the year.

Umbrella trees are fast-growing. Once Christmas passes, you can keep it around for years and watch it grow every time December comes around again. Even when it’s small, the branches of an umbrella tree should be robust enough to hold up regular ornaments, some lights, and tinsel.

Smaller umbrella trees are great tabletop Christmas trees for smaller spaces. As your plant grows larger and needs a bigger pot, it will fit perfectly in a living room or entryway, as long as there’s some light getting to it.

Dragon Tree

9. Dragon Tree

Size: medium-large

Flowering? Rarely

Toxic to pets? Yes, if ingested

Growing requirements: give lots of indirect light, prefers humid air, water only when the soil is dried out once every week or two. When in doubt, underwatering is better for this plant than overwatering

You don’t have to have a green thumb to care for a dragon tree. These funky trees look great in your home all the time and would make a fun alternative Christmas tree as well!

dragon tree

Admittedly, it’s a big shift from a traditional Christmas tree with its big poofs of leaf clumps and tall, skinny trunks. That’s part of the fun though since you can decorate in such a unique way! Wrap colorful ribbons or lights around the trunks, hang sparkling stars inside the leaf clumps, drape tinsel between clumps, or find another way to turn your Dragon tree into a sensational holiday.

When Dragon trees are smaller, they work well on tabletops, pot stands, or in a tall plant pot on the floor. As they grow, Dragon trees thicken up and turn into really awesome centerpieces for a home or office, especially when they’re draped with Christmas cheer.

Money Tree

10. Money Tree (Guiana Chestnut)

Size: small-medium

Flowering? Almost never as indoor plants

Toxic to pets? No

Indoor growing requirements: prefers well-draining soil, bright indirect light, and thorough watering once a week or when the soil starts to dry out. Place the pot away from air vents or other windy areas.

Money trees, also called Guiana Chestnut or Malabar Chestnut, are a type of evergreen tree with long, broad leaves and a distinct circular leaf clump. When sold as houseplants, there are usually a few plants in the same pot with the stems braided together.

potted money tree

Even without the stems braided, money trees are a beautiful addition to your home. They make great plants to decorate because of their thick trunks and long-reaching leaf stems. When they’re braided, you have even more opportunities for decorating!

Most potted money trees in homes are small, but they can grow large if you care for them for a few years and give them a big enough pot to grow into. When you wrap them up in lights and ornaments, they’ll make fantastic holiday trees that quickly adapt back into being an everyday houseplant.

Meyer Lemon Tree

11. Meyer Lemon Tree

Size: medium

Flowering? Yes

Toxic to pets? Only the lemons themselves are mildly toxic to pets. Leaves and trunk are safe.

Indoor growing requirements: prefers warm temperatures, lots of direct sun, and watering once a week or so

If you’re looking for a tree that’s got a little more structure to it, a potted dwarf Meyer lemon tree is a great option. These trees do well indoors and are the easiest citrus trees to grow in pots. They can even flower and grow fruits indoors if they’re well cared for!

potted lemon tree

While you may not have any lemons growing over Christmas, these trees make a great base for ornaments, lights, tinsel, and the works. Meyer lemons are small to start, but they’ll steadily grow into pretty large potted trees.

With plenty of strong branches and beautiful waxy leaves, dwarf Meyer lemon trees look great in a kitchen or by a large window in the living room. They need a large pot, which gives you an extra place to decorate with standing décor or a nativity set on the soil itself.

Ficus Benjamina

12. Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina)

Size: medium-large

Flowering? No

Toxic to pets? Yes, if ingested

Indoor growing requirements: can live in direct light or bright indirect light, very forgiving with underwatering but likes to have water when the soil dries out most of the way through

This is another plant that I’ve got in my own potted plant arsenal. From the second I saw it I fell in love with this plant! Mine is variegated, meaning the leaves have whiter edges with green inside, but there are also non-variegated varieties that have fully green leaves.

The leaves of the weeping fig are shiny and smooth. They have graceful branches and sturdy trunks, but they never get too tall. When potted, they normally get about 3-4 feet tall at most if given the soil space to expand.

During the holidays, throw some lights and ribbons on the branches or place a few colorful bobbles around the stems. There are some sturdy branches inside to hang heavier ornaments on as well, so don’t worry about flexibility!

Winter Flowering Plants

Flowering Maple

13. Flowering Maple (Abutilon)

Size: medium

Flowering? Yes

Toxic to pets? No (possibly toxic to rabbits, but not known to be toxic to cats or dogs)

Indoor growing requirements: likes cooler temperatures, bright sunlight, and watering once every 3-4 weeks

As far as indoor plants go, this potted tree is super unique. Its drooping flowers come in shades of red, orange, yellow, or pink. They have broad petals that wrap tightly around each other in a closed-off circular shape, facing downwards. Pair that with the dark green, pointy maple leaves and you’ve got a really cool looking plant!

flowering maple leaves

If you care for your flowering maple well, it might still have flowers on it by the time Christmas rolls around. That would make a lovely canvas for you to add your own creative décor onto!

When potted, these trees tend to branch out. They sit in large pots and once they get to be about 2-3 feet tall, they grow out to the sides. These spreading branches make wonderful perches for ornaments, lights, tinsel, and whatever else you like.


14. Azalea

Size: medium-large

Flowering? Yes

Toxic to pets? Yes, if ingested

Indoor growing requirements: prefers a comfortable room temperature, likes moist soil that doesn’t dry out fully, needs a well-draining pot, and prefers a bit of direct light in the morning or bright indirect light all day

Azalea is a beautiful bush plant that grows flowers all over. Although most people plant it outside, it also thrives indoors in a pot. The flowers can be a bit messy when they finish blooming and fall off. If you don’t mind sweeping it up every now and then, you’ll enjoy a gorgeous flowering houseplant that doubles as an excellent holiday tree!

potted azalea

Put your azalea plant on a table near a window, or on your desk in a brightly lit office. If you keep it well-watered and give it enough sunlight every day, it’s likely to flower more regularly and keep its flowers for longer. Allowing it to dry out will stress the plant and prevent it from flowering.

Azaleas give you a lot of opportunities to decorate, especially if you’re graced with flowers around Christmas time. To increase your chances of getting flowers, allow your potted azalea to stay a little on the cooler side, around 60-65F (15-18C).

Crown of Thorns

15. Crown of Thorns

Size: small-medium

Flowering? Yes

Toxic to pets? Yes, if ingested or if the sap sits on skin too long

Indoor growing requirements: Likes bright direct sunlight, watering once a month or so, err on the side of underwatering rather than overwatering, likes containers that allow for air pruning roots

Potted crown of thorns

Crown of thorns is technically a succulent, but I wanted to include it in this section because it’s a frequent flowerer that thrives indoors under the right conditions. Although the sap in a crown of thorns plant is toxic, you may not have to worry about it too much as the plant itself is covered in prickly thorns, so it’s unlikely that pets or kids will try to take a bite out of it anyway.

If you want your crown of thorns plant to flower as often as possible, you need to give it plenty of direct sunlight. The more like it gets, the more likely it is to keep producing its beautiful red, orange, or pink flowers.

You can get really creative with decorating a crown of thorns. Flowers and leaves all grow out of the top of branches, forming clumps of green leaves and bright flowers with a thorny stem at the bottom. Tie some bows underneath the flower clumps, drape tinsel between clumps, hang a few ornaments, or decorate around the base of each plant.

Other Plants


16. Rosemary

Size: small-medium

Flowering? Not indoors

Toxic to pets? No

Indoor growing requirements: needs lots of bright light, prefers soil to stay moist not wet, thrives in cooler temperatures not heat

If you’ve ever wanted a plant to both decorate and serve with Christmas dinner, rosemary should be right up your alley!

potted rosemary

Rosemary is a little fussy with watering since it loves moist soil and doesn’t like to dry out too much. But, if you can handle a little extra watering, you’ll enjoy an awesome, edible houseplant for the holidays.

For a holiday tree alternative, choose a larger rosemary plant with at least one strong central stem. This will give you more flexibility for what you want to hang, drape, or wrap around the plant. Smaller plants won’t be able to support as much weight, meaning fewer ornaments.

ZZ Plants

17. ZZ Plants

Size: small

Flowering? Rarely

Toxic to pets? Yes, if ingested

Indoor growing requirements: bright indoor lighting or indirect sunlight, watering every 2-3 weeks when soil dries out

potted zz plant

Unlike a lot of potted plants, ZZ plants can thrive under fluorescent lighting just as well as they do with sunlight. If you need a little holiday plant for your desk at work, you might be in luck with a ZZ plant!

These classy plants have beautiful, waxy leaves growing off a few main shoots. There are usually multiple plants combined together in the same pot to give it a fuller appearance. The shine from the underside of the leaves mixed with the deep greens on top make this one of the most elegant houseplants around.

As a shorter plant, this is a great alternative to a Christmas tree for small spaces. If you just want something small and subtle or don’t have the space to spare, a small ZZ plant can fit perfectly on a table, desk, or counter.

Spider Plant

18. Spider Plant

Size: small

Flowering? Rarely

Toxic to pets? No

Indoor growing requirements: allow soil to dry out between waterings, give it regular sunlight, and keep it around room temperature

potted spider plant

Although they’re not a typical choice for a holiday tree, spider plants can be a good creative alternative you may already have around your home. The main plant itself won’t be very useful for decorating with Christmas ornaments, but the little plants that hang off the sides are perfect.

Tie ribbons around the little poofs, attach some hanging lights to the edge of the pot or hang a few lightweight ornaments to dangle down alongside the trailing plants. If you put it in a hanging basket inside or move your outdoor baskets indoors for the winter, you can even hang long dangling ornaments off the side of the basket.

Spider plants are not what you might consider at first when you’re looking for a Christmas tree but give them a chance! If you need a holiday tree in a pinch, try this gem.

Triangle Ficus

19. Triangle Ficus

Size: small-medium

Flowering? Rarely indoors

Toxic to pets? Mildly, if ingested

Indoor growing requirements: needs bright natural light, water only when soil is mostly dried out, plant in well-draining soil

The star of the show here is the heart-shaped leaves. That’s what makes this plant really shine! The leaves are variegated, so they have whiter tips and edges with vivid green on the inside. Pair that with their waxy sheen and you’ve got the recipe for a gorgeous houseplant you’ll enjoy all year round.

When it’s small, a triangle ficus works well on a tabletop. Larger ones are great on the floor, especially as they get taller.

Drape some lights or tinsel, hang a few ornaments, and voila! You’re set for the holidays.

Final Thoughts

Traditional Christmas trees aren’t your only option for a live Christmas tree. A lot of common houseplants can make awesome holiday trees.

potted Christmas tree

Let this list of plants serve as inspiration. Even if you can’t get a Christmas tree or if you don’t want to support that industry this year, you can still enjoy a living Christmas tree with a little creativity.

The best part? You don’t have to throw it out in January! It’s the Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

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