There are a number of different things to consider when planning for a living Christmas tree indoors. A living Christmas tree is an increasingly popular choice, especially among new homeowners and families with young children. Potted trees can be planted outdoors after the holidays to improve the environment, furnish food and shelter for wildlife and improve landscape aesthetics. Those who select this option can "have their cake and eat it too," because a live tree keeps on giving long after the New Year's bowl games have come and gone.
- Living trees can stay in the house for only a brief period. Longer periods in a home can lead to death of the tree. The most important factor in the tree's survival outdoors is the length of time it is left indoors. Warmth received indoors may cause the tree to "think spring," and become less cold-hardy once it is moved outdoors. The less time the tree is inside, the better its chances. Seven days is maximum; five is better. Some families have developed the tradition of bringing the tree indoors to decorate on Christmas Eve and planting it outdoors on New Year’s Day.
- Make sure that the tree will fit into your landscape. Most trees used as Christmas trees will eventually reach heights of 40 to 60 feet. Make sure and ask us if you need a "dwarf" variety so we can show you those.
- Select a species that is well-suited to growing in your area. The tree will be inside for a very short time compared to the time that you will have it in your landscape.
- Living trees are very heavy. They will be even heavier, since it is necessary to keep the roots constantly moist. Be sure that you can manage to move this much weight around without damaging either the tree or yourself. Live trees may be decorated, but with care. If lights are used, they must not give off any heat.
CARE OF THE TREE IN THE HOME
The high temperatures and low humidity levels in houses are stressful to trees. Follow these tips to give your tree the best care and help ensure success.
- Before moving the tree inside the house, help it adjust by moving it to an unheated but sheltered area such as a garage or porch for a couple of days.
- Keep the tree in the house for no more than 7 to 10 days.
- Locate the tree indoors in as cool a location as possible. Keep it away from heating vents, fireplaces and other heat sources. Use limited numbers of miniature tree lights.
- Provide as much natural light as possible.
- Place the root ball or container in a water holding tub. Fill the bottom two inches of the tub with gravel and place the ball or container on the gravel. This will keep the tree from sitting in water.
- Keep the root ball constantly and evenly moist, but not flooded. A handy technique for watering trees while indoors is to place crushed ice over the top of the root ball.
- A piece of pipe inserted vertically at the side of the tub provides an easy way to check water level in the tub. If there is water at the bottom of the pipe, you do not need to water the tree. You can check the water level by inserting a "dip stick" into the pipe.
PLANTING AND CARE After the holidays, readjust the tree to outdoor temperatures by placing it back on the sheltered porch or in the garage for several days. It is important to plant your tree as soon as possible after the holidays. Do not wait until spring if possible. (One way to do this is to dig your hole now, while the ground is still not frozen. Taking care to place a piece of plywood over the hole so no one falls in!) Select a planting site that has well-drained soil, full sun and that is appropriate for the mature tree’s size.
Plant your tree in a hole that is the same depth but at least twice and preferably three times wider than the root ball. Be sure not to plant the tree too deeply.
When purchasing the tree from us, it will be in a container, but when you remove it from the black plastic pot you will notice that it is in burlap with a string around the top of the root ball. When you are ready to plant the tree, carefully remove it from the black plastic pot, then gently set it down in the hole. Remove the string and carefully pull the natural burlap from the top of the root ball. Try to not disturb the roots as you pull the burlap away. You can leave the bottom 2 - 3" of burlap and then cut away the top part. Back fill with a good organic planting mix, we recommend Gardner & Bloome Acid Mix, G & B Planting Mix, or G & B Soil Building Compost. Add in some Gardner & Bloome Acid Loving Fertilizer and/or Dr. Earth Cottonseed Meal at the time of planting. This helps to reduce the soil ph. Keep your tree watered through the winter. Once a month, a good soaking should do it. Remember to spray down the tree with the hose whenever you have it on out in the yard. An evergreen can absorb so much more water through its needles and will love the extra moisture bath.
Apply 2 or 3 inches of mulch on top of the root ball. It is not necessary to fertilize until spring. I like to use a bag of the Gardner & Bloome Acid mix as top mulch about twice a year. This way the nourishing properties of this wonderful soil mix is constantly taking care of the roots.
If the work of bringing a live tree in and out of the house seems excessive, consider planting the tree directly outside and decorating it there. This can become an enjoyable occasion that is less stressful on both you and the tree. In this way, you can mark the tree with the year of its planting and have a reminder of every Christmas at your home. If you do not have space in your own yard for a living tree, you may be able to donate it to one of your local schools, the dog park, churches or local parks. We can assist you with locations that would be available for this. An evergreen is an asset in the landscape. One that can provide memories of Christmas past is a treasure.