It’s Christmas tree time and you are probably eager to purchase a festive fir ... but make sure to do a little groundwork before you buy.

For instance, measure your floor-to-ceiling space, taking into account the height of any stand below and the fairy or the star on the top.

Then look at the width. Will relatives be constantly brushing past the tree to reach a door or a sofa? If so, you’ll need to take that space into account and be prepared for some secateur work.

Of the estimated eight million real Christmas trees bought every year in the UK, according to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, the most popular is the non-drop Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana), originally from south Russia.

These are quite bushy trees and if you have a narrow space, it might pay to shop for a smaller type, like the Fraser fir (Abies fraseri), popular in the eastern United States. If space is really tight, you may opt for a small cypress which you can plant in a pot, then place on a side table or stand and decorate. Once Christmas is over, provided you have kept it well watered and away from radiators, you should be able to plant it in the garden when weather and soil conditions permit.

Andrea Blackie, garden designer and horticulturalist at, home to Britain’s biggest online plant selection, says: “If you don’t have the space for a full-size Christmas tree, you can get creative with other plants to make your home look festive.”

She recommends small evergreen shrubs that will fit into a tight space and can be decorated to look fabulous.

Common box (Buxus sempervirens), a shrub with small, glossy green aromatic leaves, can be clipped into cones or even bought in a cone shape then decorated.

Another alternative is a standard, such as a bay or a berried holly, into which you can secure baubles and ribbons to give them a festive look without taking up too much space.

They can be planted out once the festive season is over. Whatever you choose, remember that evergreens prefer the great outdoors, so don’t put them anywhere near a radiator and keep them well watered in a cool room.

If you can, leave it till the last minute to bring them inside.

If you are buying a traditional tree, saw off the bottom 5cm of trunk to open up its pores before you bring the tree inside and place it in a bucket of water until you are ready to house it.

When you bring it in, make sure you can keep it topped up with water, as a tree will drink half a litre a day.

Most Christmas tree stands have a space for water, or you could simply wedge it into a bucket.

When buying, make sure the tree is fresh – look at the colour; when it dries out it loses some of its green hue. The needles should feel moist to the touch.

Always put the tree on the ground to assess the size and shape before you buy. If it starts shedding some of its needles when it moves, it’s not the freshest.

It is also wise to shop around, or leave your tree-buying to the last minute, if you want a bargain, because prices vary hugely on location.

Once you have ticked all these boxes, and your tree is neatly in its place, get the decorations down from the loft, get the baubles on the branches, and enjoy.