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What is Christmas Tree Flocking?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Christmas tree flocking is artificial snow that's applied to a real or artificial Christmas trees. It can be made at home or purchased from a craft store, and can be applied at home, though some artificial trees come with it already applied, and nurseries may also provide professional flocking services. Despite safety concerns, Christmas tree flocking is generally fine for use around children and pets, and may actually make a tree less of a fire hazard.

Types

Many nurseries use Christmas tree flocking made from cellulose or cotton fibers, water, spray adhesive and, in many cases, a fire retardant. It comes in a variety of colors, and often has a sparkly material, like mica or glitter, mixed in to give it a more snow-like appearance. People can also make a homemade version by mixing corn starch, soap flakes, and water, or shaving cream and glue.

Application

When applying flocking at home, it's best for a homeowner to first put the tree in a sheltered place, like a garage, and put down a tarp or drop cloth. This ensures that the artificial snow will be able to dry properly, and makes clean up easier. It's also important to wear safety gear, including a mask, gloves, and goggles, since the mixture tends to fly around.

After setting up a work area, the person applying the flocking should wet a small section at the top of the tree with a spray bottle, and then dust the mixture on manually or with a sieve. She should continue to do the same thing on the rest of the tree, working from the top down to get a natural snowfall look. This process generally takes a few hours. The tree should then be allowed to dry completely, which usually takes three to five days, depending on the temperature, after which it can be brought into the house and decorated.

Pre-Flocked Trees

There are also pre-decorated trees available from nurseries, and many Christmas tree sellers have a custom flocking service for their customers. Some artificial trees also come with artificial snow already applied, either to smaller portions of the branches or to the entire tree — many are pre-lit as well. When purchasing this type of tree, it is important for shoppers to note that Christmas tree flocking on artificial trees can yellow over time. Storing the tree in a cool, dry place with low humidity can help to slow or prevent discoloration.

Safety

When making and applying Christmas tree flocking at home, people should never use flammable materials and always keep the mixture away from children and pets. Though most mixtures aren't poisonous, they can cause intestinal obstructions if eaten, and can irritate the respiratory tract if inhaled. People using commercial mixes should always follow the safety instructions and only use low-heat Christmas lights, since high-heat ones might melt the flocking and possibly cause a fire.

Using artificial snow may also increase the safety of a Christmas tree in general, depending on the material it's made out of. Latex-based mixtures may help seal moisture into the tree, preventing it from drying out as quickly and making it less of a fire hazard. As a general rule, Christmas trees should be kept well watered and away from heat sources to lower the risk of fire, whether they have flocking or not.

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Discussion Comments
By anon306546 — On Nov 30, 2012

We went around and around on this issue of having to water a flocked tree. The place where we got out tree clearly was "old school" and they stood up their trees with a massive spike in the center of the tree with two 2x4s, making a tee. This was supported with four 1x1 angled braces. They never intended this stand to come apart and the person who rang us up said that we should not water the tree, that it will make all of the flocking come off.

Well, all of the experts on tree care and fire safety are clear on this point: water all cut trees you bring into your house! The tree will not dry out as fast if it's flocked; that's a point that probably makes sense. However, it's still a cut tree, so you will still need to let it up-take water to provide the needles with moisture for as long as possible.

By anon237956 — On Jan 01, 2012

Flocked real trees still need water. Flocking does not seal anything it just decorates the needles.

The respiration of the tree still goes on. My tree drank over three liters of water in a week and a half.

By anon131893 — On Dec 04, 2010

How toxic is the flocking to pets? The ingredients are somewhat vague. My dogs eat everything. Even if I flock the top 2/3rds,some will flake off onto the floor.

By anon131400 — On Dec 02, 2010

where can i buy flocking so i can flock trees? i need different colors.

By anon131291 — On Dec 01, 2010

do i have to water an artificial flocked tree? just asking.

By anon131113 — On Dec 01, 2010

What they're saying is you cannot recycle the trees into paper if they're flocked. Chill.

By anon123839 — On Nov 03, 2010

I have read from several sources that you still must water a cut tree even if it's been flocked. The flock will help to keep in moisture so you might not need to water as often, but watering is still necessary!

By anon122387 — On Oct 27, 2010

You have to water all cut trees. The flocking is only ornamental and does serve as a flame retardant, but everything has to be watered. Keep them away from your fire places, air vents and returns. This dries them out faster. -- A real Christmas Tree Grower (and I flock trees.)

By anon57079 — On Dec 19, 2009

I bought a flocked tree this year and in two weeks it just droops and is falling apart. It was so beautiful when we bought it, but I'm really not happy with it now. They told us not to water it at all. Ugh! Won't even last till Christmas!

By anon54760 — On Dec 02, 2009

You have to water all real trees!

By anon54692 — On Dec 01, 2009

thanks. you have answered my question. I was wondering if you were supposed to water a flocked tree.

By anon53814 — On Nov 24, 2009

A flocked tree is not as huge a fire hazard as one that is not.

By anon21996 — On Nov 25, 2008

do you need to water a flocked cut tree?

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