Choosing a live Christmas tree over a cut one can be a rewarding, environmentally friendly decision. Not only do you get to enjoy a beloved holiday tradition, but you can replant the tree when you’re done and enjoy it for years to come.
Check the root ball for damage. Move the tree gently side to side and be sure the root ball moves with the trunk as you do this. The base of the trunk should not move around inside the root ball, which is indicative of damaged roots. If this is the case, you should not attempt to plant your tree because it is unlikely to survive.
2 Limit the amount of time your tree is indoors. Buy your living Christmas tree as close to Christmas as possible, and plant as soon as possible afterwards. The longer your tree stays inside, the more it’s exposed to drying conditions that will weaken it.
- You'll have the best chance of success if you plant it within 6 weeks of bringing the tree home.
- Consider lightly decorating the tree, rather than covering it with lights and ornaments, to minimize the wear and tear before you move the tree to its outdoor location.
3 Keep your tree in a cool spot. Near a window is best so it can still receive light and cool air, but keep it out of direct sunlight. Avoid putting it near a heating vent, fireplace, or stove.
4 Keep the soil moist. Daily watering is necessary to keeping your tree healthy. Try putting ice cubes on top of the root ball daily to achieve a more gradual and steady watering as they melt.
5 Move your tree to a sheltered outdoor space. Allow your tree to acclimate back to the cold after spending 1-2 weeks inside your warm home. Place it outside, in a cool sheltered spot like a front or back porch and leave it there for about a week.
- Continue watering it daily during this time.
6 Choose an open, sunny planting spot. Research the type of tree you have and its growth potential. Make sure it won’t outgrow the spot you choose for it. Look for a sunny spot that’s several feet from your house or any fencing since roots and limbs could eventually cause problems for these structures.
Christmas trees tend to thrive best at higher altitudes, and they may not be as suited to an urban area.
Digging the Hole
Dig the hole as early as possible in the season. In colder climates, the ground will freeze if you wait until Christmas to dig the hole, so plan ahead and do this in the fall. If you’ve waited too long to dig and the ground is already frozen, try pouring boiling water onto the spot and then digging.
Dig wide but not deep. Using a shovel, dig a hole twice as wide as the size of the root ball to give the roots a chance to spread. But don’t go any deeper than the height of the root ball, since you don’t want it too far below the soil level. Having it slightly higher than the soil around it will help with drainage.
Save the soil you’re digging up. Don’t dispose of any of the dirt you dig out of the hole. You’ll be using this later to fill the hole back in. It can be left outside under a tarp or placed in a garage or shed.
Planting Your Tree
Remove root ball coverings. The root ball of your tree may have been wrapped in burlap or plastic, so be sure nothing remains wrapped around it when you’re ready to plant.
Place the tree in the hole. This may require two people depending on the size of your tree. Try to get it as close to centered as possible inside the hole you dug. Hold it upright so it doesn’t fall over before you can fill in the hole.
Fill the hole back in. Shovel the soil you dug out of the hole back into the empty spaces around the root ball of the tree. Tamp the soil gently, but don’t pack it in tightly.
Water the newly planted tree. Moisten the soil around the tree with a hose or watering can. You do not need to use any sort of fertilizer – just plain water will do.
Mulch around the tree. Add a couple inches of mulch around the base of the tree as an insulating layer. You can also gather old leaves and place them on top of the soil for a similar effect.
Monitor soil moisture. Observe the tree for the rest of the winter season. If your winter conditions are dry, occasionally water the tree to keep moisture near the roots. Once the spring growing season begins, water the tree regularly if you aren’t getting a lot of rain.
Stake your tree to keep it upright. Place one or two stakes around your tree – away from the roots but still within the mulched area. Tie the tree to the stakes using a flexible material like canvas straps. The stakes can be removed after about a year.
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