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So You Want a Living Christmas Tree

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There is a lot to consider when deciding if a living Holiday tree is right for you.  Here are things that must be thought about before purchasing the tree that is perfect for you and your landscape.

  • First, decide on the species.  There are many living trees available around the holidays but not all can truly reside outdoors in all climates, some nurseries sell plants that are not true to a zone they live in, so do some research on your own to be certain the tree can survive the all seasons where you plan to plant it.
  • Double check the size of the mature tree.  Many trees are very young when we use them as trees.  They will grow to be 40 to sometimes 60' tall.  Can your landscape handle the size of your selected tree?
  • Living trees should be kept in the container they were purchased in, at least until early spring when it can be planted.  The tree will be under stress from being indoors and adding more stress by planting immediately could cause more harm then good.  Never leave them in their containers more than 2 years though because most holiday trees are fast growing and will quickly outgrow their pots and become root bound.
  • Keep the tree inside for the smallest amount of time as possible.  It is best not to exceed 10 to 15 days.  Keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and heating vents that could dry out the tree forcing it to release too much moisture from it's needles and cause new growth that will not survive when placed outside after the holidays.
  • Water the tree regularly. A drip pan will be needed to avoid damage to your floor.  If possible fill the drip pan with gravel or rocks so the extra water can aid in humidity for the tree.  My favorite way to water a living Christmas tree is by using ice cubes. Dump about 30 ice cubes on top of the soil, as the ice melts it will slowly water the tree with cool water that will help convince the tree to stay dormant.
  • Decorate the tree with LEDs or small, cool bulbs.  Never use artificial snow or anything that will clog the pores of the tree.
  • When the Holidays are over, slowly move your tree outdoors.  First move it to a cool porch for a few days, them perhaps to a colder shed or garage for a week, them finally outdoors.  This allows the tree to slowly acclimate to the colder temperatures.  Don't forget to continue to water it. 
  • Research some of these varieties commonly used as living Christmas Trees to see if one of them may the a good fit for you: Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens); Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara); Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii); Alpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa); White Fir (Abies concolor) and Korean fir (Abies koreana).
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