A living tree is one that makes the season bright, but also adds beauty to the landscape long after the holiday is over.
Before investing in a living Christmas tree, there are a few things to keep in mind about its care:
1. Buy a tree that fits both inside and outside the house. A smaller tree will be more manageable for moving into the house for the celebration and then outside for planting. In addition, smaller sized trees will take less time to get established in the yard after planting.
2. Select the planting site and prepare a planting hole for the tree before the ground freezes. Dig a saucer-shaped hole that’s at least three times the size of the root ball. The hole should be shallow (no deeper than the root ball) and wide. Planting too deep slows root growth and can harm the tree. Be sure to reserve the soil to fill in the hole at planting time.
3. Locate a cool spot to store the tree after getting it home. Keep it in its original container in the garage or on a sheltered porch or patio until it’s time to move it indoors.
4. Unlike a cut tree, a living Christmas tree can be indoors for just a short amount of time. Plan ahead to move the tree indoors for 5-7 days around the holiday. Then move it back to the garage.
5. Place the tree in the coolest room in the house. Avoid placing it close to the fireplace and keep it away from furnace vents that cause hot-cold temperature swings.
6. Water wisely to keep the soil moist. One easy method for watering is to put the tree’s container in a larger container, like a metal tub. Elevate the tree off the bottom of the container with a layer of gravel to keep roots away from sitting water.
7. After the holiday is over, allow time for the tree to get re-acclimated to the outdoors before planting. Place it back in the garage or cool, sheltered spot for a few days. Then take it outside and plant.
CSU Extension gives all the best practices for tree planting in the Garden Notes called The Science of Planting Trees. Be sure to remove any burlap or wire baskets before backfilling the hole and watering in the tree.
Keep your new tree watered through the winter, at least once a month or more frequently if the weather is dry and warm with a lack of snow cover.
A living Christmas tree may need a little extra TLC, but it’s one of the best ways to keep the holiday spirit alive throughout the year.
By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardener since 2005