How to Choose and Care for a Living Christmas Tree

Updated on September 13, 2019
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

A small tabletop living Chritmas tree.
A small tabletop living Chritmas tree. | Source

Many people today are choosing to use sustainable practices. Instead of artificial Christmas trees, which contain materials that could be harmful to the environment, or cut trees that die and are discarded at the curb after the holidays, they are choosing living Christmas trees.

What Are Living Christmas Trees?

Living Christmas trees are trees that are not cut. They are sold at the local nursery and intended to be planted in your yard after the holidays. They are sold two ways, either containerized or ball and burlap. Containerized trees are trees that are growing in large pots. Balled and burlap are trees which have been carefully dug from the ground. A large “ball” of soil that contains the root system of the trees is wrapped in burlap and secured with rope or plastic straps around the trunk.

A living Christmas tree serves are a reminder of a special time as it grows in your yard.
A living Christmas tree serves are a reminder of a special time as it grows in your yard. | Source

Why Choose a Living Christmas Tree?

Some people choose living Christmas trees because they are concerned with pollution and sustainability. Other people use them to mark important events like the purchase of a home or the birth of a child. Each tree in the landscape then has a special meaning for that family in the years to come.

How to Choose a Living Christmas Tree

Choosing a living Christmas tree takes a little advance planning. First you have to decide where you want to plant it after the holidays. Coniferous trees need full sun so pick a sunny spot. You also have to take into consideration how large your tree will be when it is full grown. I’m sure you have seen those houses which are being eaten by an enormous pine tree that was planted too close to the structure when the homeowners planted it. Give your tree plenty of space for it to grow and stay healthy. Crowding your trees by buildings or other trees can result in diseases or pest infestations that could kill your tree.

Head out to your local nursery in the fall to pick out your tree. If you wait until December, there won’t be as many trees to choose from. Most nurseries are willing to hold your tree until the holidays, so go early for the best selection. They will also be selling only those trees that will grow in your growing zone so you don’t have to worry about whether or not the tree you choose will survive in your climate. They can also help you choose a tree that will fit in the space in your yard that you have chosen.

If you live in an area where the ground freezes in the winter, dig the hole where you plan to plant your tree before winter. The hole should be twice as wide as the root ball of your tree. Leave the soil that you have dug out nearby, covered with a tarp. You will be using it to fill in the hole when you plant your tree. Fill the hole with leaves or mulch and then mark the hole with a large stake so that no one will fall into it.

It's a good idea to dig a planting hole before the ground freezes.
It's a good idea to dig a planting hole before the ground freezes. | Source

How to Care for Your Living Christmas Tree

When you bring your tree home from the nursery, it will be dormant. Dormant means that the tree is not actively growing. It’s kind of like hibernation for animals. It is how trees and other plants survive the cold winters that would otherwise kill off any new foliage or flowers. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want your tree to break dormancy. If it breaks dormancy and begins growing in your house during the holiday, it will die when you plant it outdoors in January.

First you want to acclimate the tree to the warmer temperatures indoors. Store your tree for a week in an unheated porch, garage or shed. You will need to check it daily to make sure that the root ball is not drying out. Water it sparingly if the soil starts to dry. The plant may be dormant, but the roots are still very much alive and need water.

After a week, you can bring it indoors. Set it up in a room that is cool or near a cool window. Water as needed using ice cubes, rather than room temperature water. You want to keep the tree and its roots as cold as possible. Another thing that you can do to keep your tree cool is to use light strands that have tiny bulbs on them rather than larger bulbs which will throw off more heat. Only use the lights a few hours a day at most.

Living Christmas trees should only be kept indoors for 7 to 10 days. After that, they will have warmed sufficiently to break dormancy which will cause them to die when you plant them outdoors after the holiday.

Place your living Christmas tree in a cool room or by a cool window.
Place your living Christmas tree in a cool room or by a cool window. | Source

How to Plant Your Christmas Tree

After ten days, it will be time to start acclimating your tree to outdoor temperatures again. Move it back into the unheated porch, garage or shed for a week. Then you can clear out your pre-dug hole and plant your tree.

If your tree is in a container, you need to remove it. Don’t pull on the trunk. Instead tap on the bottom of the container. My own experience is that tapping is not enough to loosen the root ball from the container. What I do is tap the bottom of the container and then (carefully) tip my plant or tree on its side and gently roll the container back and forth on the ground. This will definitely loosen the soil enough so that the tree will come right out. Place it in the center of the hole making sure that the surface of the root ball is even with the edge of the hole. If your hole is too deep, fill it in until the root ball is even with the edge. If your hole is too shallow, you will need to somehow dig it deeper. Fill in the rest of the soil that you dug out in the fall. Tamp it down to get rid of the larger air spaces. It should be firm, not like concrete. Then water well.

If your tree is balled and burlap, it’s actually easier to plant it. If the burlap is plastic, remove it by cutting the rope or tie that is holding it to the trunk and discard it. If the burlap is made from natural jute, you can leave it on. It will decompose naturally in the soil. But you must remove the rope or plastic straps that are holding it to the trunk. If you leave them on, they will strangle the tree and kill it. Carefully lower the root ball into your pre-dug hole. Make sure that the top of the root ball is even with the edge of the hole. Just like a containerized tree, if the hole is too deep, you need to add soil and if it is too shallow, you need to make the hole deeper. Fill in around the root ball with your reserved soil. Tamp it down and water well.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Caren White

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

        Caren White 

        11 months ago

        Heidi, I agree but I also like the idea of having a tree growing in my yard as a reminder of a special occasion.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        11 months ago from Chicago Area

        I love the idea of a living Christmas tree, but it does have its drawbacks due to the special handling. Emphasizes (as you have) the need to think carefully about this purchase and planting. Happy Holidays!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, holidappy.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://holidappy.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)