Living Christmas Trees

Red Christmas Baubles

The idea of planting a living Christmas tree as part of your landscape, or keeping it in a pot to use from year to year, is ecologically sensible. To do this, though, may require more planning and attention than you realize. Many varieties sold for living trees are going to be giants quite soon. Think carefully about how you are going to manage this. Be aware that the tree may not survive the experience.

Trees to be used in this fashion can be purchased at reputable nurseries, often with a burlap wrapped ball of heavy soil, so you will need to provide a pot to keep your choice upright. You will also need to take into consideration whether moving that heavy container into the house is going to be workable. Try not to wish for a very large tree.

You may have difficulty finding “just the right tree” because living trees are not usually sheared into the classic Christmas tree shape. Be imaginative, and perhaps choose a variety that looks entirely different than you expected.

Locate the tree away from heat sources and drafts, the cooler the better. It may have plenty of moisture in the soil to remain damp while indoors, but protect the surfaces under it anyway, because it will probably have moisture condensing on the bottom of the container.

Plan to keep the tree indoors only a week or at the most ten days. The indoor temperature could cause it to break dormancy, and be damaged when moved out. Use cool lights to avoid foliage damage, and decorations that can be completely removed easily.

Prepare the site for the tree to be planted beforehand if possible, and plant the tree as soon as weather permits, using standard planting procedures. Mild and rainy is best. Plan to water during dry periods for the next year. Expect some yellowing or dropping of the older foliage to occur due to the stress of having been indoors.

You might find an interesting plant to keep in a patio pot and bring in that will be suitable for a few years. One winter our son had a Hollywood juniper for his Christmas tree in his room. Dwarf spruces and firs are often found already decorated in small pots in department stores. Plants already growing in pots are likely to suffer less, but return them to the outdoors as soon as possible anyway.

Handled carefully, a living tree can be a very nice choice.

Happy Holiday Gardening,

Karen Brown

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