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  • Barbra Davis

How to Decorate a Tropical Christmas Tree

Updated: May 4, 2022

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and one of the best parts of Christmas is decorating the Christmas tree. When we moved to Florida, though, the decorations I always loved just didn’t seem to fit any more. When I think of Christmas, it brings to mind visions of drifting snow, a crackling fire in the fireplace and frost-painted windows. That just didn’t fit the 78 degree temperatures, palm trees and tropical foliage dotting my lawn. So how could I decorate for Christmas, but do it with a more tropical flare?

Whether you had the same experience, or just want to try a new decorating theme for the holidays, consider trying some or all of these decorating ideas with tropical flavor. Grab a frosty pina colada, put on some glorious Christmas music and get started.

Natural shell ornaments

Basic Ideas First off, the surfing Santas and flamingos in red hats don’t really appeal to me. Yes, those are often considered “tropical” Christmas items, but they just seem a bit tacky to me. I much prefer decorating with natural materials and subtle colors to achieve a soft, tropical look.

You could use the internet to do a search on tropical Christmas decorations, but the aforementioned Santas and flamingos would likely appear at the top of the list. Instead, consider searching for sea shells, tropical silk flowers , sand dollars and starfish. These can all be incorporated into wonderful and inexpensive decorations.

Tropical decorating usually involves pastels shades in cool tones like the blue of a tropical sky, the mossy green of the ocean and the soft pink of sea shells. You may like to add a few hot shades like the bright yellow of a tropical sun or the deep orange of a sunset over the Gulf.

The tree itself can be a traditional emerald evergreen, but a soft white version reflects the tropical colors better and can make them really stand out. You might also like to try an artificial palm tree as a tropical alternative Christmas tree. First Step Begin by choosing Christmas lights in one or more of those tropical colors: blue, yellow, orange, green and pink. I like a combination of colors, but using all one color can produce a very striking tree. Use enough lights to give the tree a soft glow, but don’t overdo.

Now, the Ornaments For tropical ornaments, check your local dollar store or craft supplier for some clear glass ball ornaments. Carefully remove the metal tops and add some sand and shells. Replace the top, glue it in place, and hang it on your tropical tree. You have an instant beach! You might need to hang these on sturdier branches if they feel heavy. If you like, you can find colored sand in the dollar store and use it instead of the natural color.

Consider sea shell or sand dollar garlands for the tree. Simply string the shells or sand dollars on clear fishing line and drape on the tree. If you prefer to add some color, buy a pretty pink or aqua ribbon and attach the shells along the length of it before draping it on the tree. Sand dollars can also be painted with a Christmas sentiment or simply coated with pastel glitter to produce a pretty ornament. Same goes for shells. A light coat of glitter brings out the natural shapes without interfering with the natural colors. For hangers, glue on a pretty ribbon or some lace.

Shells, sand dollars, sea horses and other pretty tropical things can be glued to wood or metal ornament blanks to produce unique ornaments, too. You might like to add some tropical color to the tree by scattering silk hibiscus or plumeria blooms throughout the branches. If you are in a rush, check out my website for some cute ornaments with a tropical twist: (You’ll find other cute ornaments on the etsy site, too.)

Top it Off Perfectly The top of the tree is a focal point, so our tropical version should have a unique tree topper. Why not choose an angel made from shells, or perhaps a large, natural-colored starfish. Either can be attached with string, or you can hot glue a hair clip to the back to keep it centered. I like to be sure a single light from the light string is attached under the tree topper to illuminate it when the tree is lit.

The Last Step Finally, no tree is complete without a tree skirt to cover up that ugly tree stand. For a tropical-themed tree skirt, check a local fabric store or Walmart and choose a fabric in cool tropical colors that coordinate well with your tree decorations. You could also choose fabric with some sort of tropical print if you can find it (it may even be on sale this time of year!). You’ll need about 4 yards of whichever fabric you choose.

To create an easy and simple tree skirt from the fabric, just wrap it loosely around the base so that it completely covers the stand, leaving with extra fabric at the end. Either drape the extra fabric nicely so the pattern shows in the front, or add some fishing net over the cloth to give it yet another tropical touch. Finally, pin the fabric or net to the back of the stand to secure it.

Now, step back and admire your work.

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