How to Choose and Care for a Living Christmas Tree

How to Care for a Living Christmas Tree

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How to care for a living Christmas tree is quite timely now. Having a real tree in your home for Christmas is incomparable to setting up an artificial one. You can’t mimic that fresh, crisp smell. Plus, the look of a real tree brings more feelings of traditional, old-timey goodness. Don’t want an artificial Christmas tree this year and don’t want to chop down a live one? Try bringing a living tree inside. Then, let this beautiful specimen continue to thrive as you celebrate the holidays and beyond.

How to Care for a Living Christmas Tree - Step One: Choosing the Right Tree

How to Care for a Living Christmas Tree

The first thing you’ll need to decide is which species of evergreen to go with for your living Christmas tree. You can pick from several varieties. These include pine, fir, spruce, cypress, juniper, hemlock, or redwood. You’ll want to ensure you’re choosing a type of tree that can comfortably grow outdoors in your area year-round. You’ll eventually be moving this ornamental Christmas piece outside to carry out the rest of its days. When purchasing a tree, check the plant’s tag to see its hardiness range. This will tell you which USDA zones in which it can survive.

Most tall evergreens develop a root system that gets too large to be contained in a pot for an extended period. Or they get too tall to be allowed to remain indoors. However, there are a few species that you don’t need to move outdoors after the holidays. The Norfolk Island pine and the dwarf Alberta spruce can both be grown indoors year-round as a houseplant. So, you won’t need to move it outside once the Christmas ornaments come down. 

Provide these trees with plenty of sunlight and turn them about a quarter turn every week. This will ensure even light exposure. Ensure they get ample water throughout the year, especially in the summer months. And trim any broken or dead limbs as needed. With proper care, these types of plants can become a permanent fixture in your indoor garden. You can decorate them yearly when the temperature drops and Christmas music starts up.

Grow Your Own

Grow your own

You can grow your own living Christmas tree from a seed or purchase a small sapling. Growing a tree can take several years. However, if you’re willing to invest the time and energy, your efforts will reward you. You’ll have a Christmas tree grown by your own hand. A potted evergreen can be brought in every year for the holidays and placed back outdoors after Christmas. Once they get over 5 feet tall, they will need a permanent home in the ground. Basically, their roots system becomes too demanding for the confines of a container.

Raising an evergreen in a container can be a lot of work. For one thing, they require a great deal of water for their thirsty roots. Plus, as your sapling grows larger, you’ll need to repot it to give the roots space to expand. It’s possible to plant your tree in the ground and then dig it up when it’s time to bring it indoors. However, this may reduce your tree’s lifespan, as it’s very disruptive to the root system. Whether in a pot or the ground, leave your tree outside until as close to Christmas as possible. Then, keep it indoors for about 10-12 days at the most. After that, get it back outside into its natural space.

Buy a Pre-Grown Tree

How to care for a living Christmas tree

You don’t need to go through years of raising your tree from a tiny sapling just to enjoy the experience of a living Christmas tree. Buy a pre-grown tree and allow it to live outdoors in its container until it’s time to bring it inside for the festivities. Unless you’ve purchased a species that does well indoors, like the Norfolk Island pine or the dwarf Alberta spruce, you’ll need to move it back outside within 10-12 days and eventually transplant it into the ground. 

Ball and burlap

You can buy living trees in two different ways. Field-grown trees, also known as ball and burlap, are grown on a lot, harvested, then sold. During the harvest, some of the tree’s roots are usually damaged, which could affect your tree’s health. On the other hand, container-grown trees will have their entire root system left intact and will generally take to transplanting much more readily. However, if you’re looking for a more massive tree, you’ll most likely need to go with the ball and burlap option. Container-grown trees are more limited in how large they can grow.

When selecting your tree, keep in mind that a smaller tree will be less expensive and easier to maneuver within your house. They’ll keep growing when you transplant them outside, so don’t be turned off by a smaller tree if you’re hoping for a large tree to add to your yard. Run your hand through the branches when tree shopping and ensure there aren’t a ton of needles dropping off the tree. The root ball should not be loose, and the trunk should not move back and forth independently of the root ball. It’s essential to select a healthy tree to ensure the transplanting stage goes as smoothly as possible after the holidays.

How to Care for a Living Christmas Tree Indoors

As previously mentioned, your tree should only remain indoors for 10-12 days. Before bringing it inside, you’ll need to give it a couple of days to acclimatize to warmer temperatures. You can place it in an enclosed space, like your garage or on a covered porch, before bringing it into your warm home. Once inside, put your tree in a sunny spot but keep the root ball shaded and moist. The space your tree is in should not be overly warm or dry. Place it far from fireplaces, stoves, heaters, or vents. Using a humidifier near your tree can help prevent it from drying out. 

If you’ve purchased a tree wrapped in burlap, place the root ball in a container and fill it with mulch to help the roots retain moisture. The roots of an evergreen tree are greedy, and your tree is in a much warmer environment. Therefore, it’s going to require a regular supply of water to avoid drying out. Water your tree daily, but not to a point where the roots become soggy.

Transplanting After the Holidays

Transplanting

When the holidays are over, it will be time to bring your tree back out into nature. You can give it another couple of days in an enclosed space to allow it to acclimate to the cooler weather. If you live in a frigid climate and there’s a chance the ground will be frozen, be sure to dig the hole you’ll plant your tree into in advance. You can store the removed soil in your garage or under a tarp to prevent it from freezing. The hole should only be as deep as the root ball and twice as wide to allow the roots to spread out. Mix a little compost with the soil you’re adding back to give the roots some much-needed nutrients. 

If you’re transplanting from a pot, you can slide the plant out of its planter and then loosen the root ball a little. Depending on the size of your tree, this may be a 2-3 person job. If transplanting from burlap, natural burlap can be left in the ground under your plant, as long as it’s pulled away from the roots enough to give them room to expand. Entirely remove any mesh wire, treated burlap, or synthetic burlap. 

Add some mulch over the soil, such as shredded bark or wood chips, to keep the roots concealed, the soil moist, and the area free from nutrient-stealing grasses and weeds. Give your newly transplanted tree plenty of water within the first year or so as the root system becomes established.

How to Care for a Living Christmas Tree - The Wrap-up

Unless you have a massive yard and plan on planting a forest in it, you may not want to have a living Christmas tree every year. It can be something special you do every few years, which makes the experience even more extraordinary. To create the most beautiful memories, get a living Christmas tree for the years marking the most special occasions. Your first year of marriage, your baby’s first Christmas, or the first year in a new house. Then, when you transplant your tree outside, you’ll be able to look at it forever and reminisce about that significant milestone and the wonderful Christmas you celebrated that year.

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