Live Christmas Trees: What you Need to Know

A fragrant evergreen tree inside one’s home is one of the most beloved and recognizable Christmas traditions. Twinkling lights and shining ornaments bring festivity and merriment to dark cold December days.

For those that don’t want to deal with fallen needles or just can’t bear the thought of cutting down a beautiful tree, bringing a live tree into the living room is a new twist on this holiday tradition. These are a little bit more work, and do require a bit more planning, but are well worth the effort. Treat them much the same way as a cut tree; don’t put them near heat registers or in front of a southern-exposure window, and make sure the root balls stays moist if it happens to thaw at all. Keeping the room that the tree is in a bit cooler will help ease the transition back to the outdoors.

Small potted trees and larger live trees in burlap-covered root balls can be brought inside the house for only three to five days, and it is best to keep a close eye on the buds. If the tree warms up enough that the sap starts flowing and the buds break, it is in for a bit of a shock when it goes back outside. This generally will not kill the tree, but it will take a year or so for it to recover and produce new growth again. Remember that live trees are heavy, especially the larger sizes. The floor where the tree is going needs to be sturdy, and protected from moisture by a large tray or tarp, before the tree is placed. There will be some melting and thawing happening while the tree is inside, and nobody wants mud on the rug…

When Christmas is over, return the tree to the outdoors, put it in a sheltered but sunny spot, and bury the pot or rootball in snow to keep it insulated. It is important to make sure the root ball stays frozen all the way till spring when the world warms up on its own. Freeze-thaw cycles are what damage tissues and roots, and a lone root ball stands more of a chance of thawing than one surrounded by snow or other insulating material. Don’t try to keep the tree inside through the winter; they need more sun than can be found in most homes.

In the spring, when the world warms up, dig a hole in a sunny spot, mix in some good compost, and plant your Christmas tree! Be sure to give it plenty of water, and you will be able to enjoy it all year long!

A safe and happy holiday to everyone out there!