Caring For Live Xmas Trees

1. Since you are intending to plant this live tree in your yard, make sure it is a species that is adapted to your climate. Sometimes live trees are shipped outside of their natural area and may not be appropriate for growing in your yard. Any good garden center should be able to tell you if the tree you have in mind is adaptable.

2. If your area is cold enough for the ground to be frozen after Christmas, you should dig the hole for your live tree before the holiday; fill it with leaves to keep it from freezing.

3. When you get your tree, store it in an unheated but sheltered area such as a garage or porch, out of the wind and sun. Do not expose your tree to freezing temperatures at any time.

4. THIS IS IMPORTANT - Your live tree should not be kept inside your heated home for more than ten, and seven days is better, so plan accordingly.

5. Water is critical to keeping your live tree free of stress. The root ball or soil should be kept slightly damp but not flooded. Wrap the root ball or the balled tree in a plastic or is some kind of tub while it is in the house and can still be watered.

6. Decorate the tree carefully, and do not use any lights that give off any heat.

7. When you do take the tree outside again, take it back to the sheltered area first for a few days and then you can move it out into the cold cruel world.

8. Plant your tree. Remove the burlap and strapping being carefull to dislodge as little dirt from within the root system as possible. Earth removed from the original hole should be back-filled around the root ball. Mulch heavily over the top of the planted root ball to prevent it from freezing too quickly. Water so the soil is moist but do not flood the tree or it will die. For more information see the file on Planting Shrubs

9. You may wish to stake the tree to prevent wind tipping or damage during that first growing season.


For a little bit more info here is a column I wrote recently:

Watering Cut Christmas Trees

There are a few tricks to making sure your cut Christmas tree does not get dry and begin to (drop)needles before New Years. The critical step in setting up a cut tree is to first saw about a half an inch slice off the bottom of the trunk jest before setting the tree in its holder.  The tree cannot absorb water in the holder if that slice was not taken first.

 A common mistake is to cut the slice, set up the tree, put water in the holder and then go for a day or two before checking to see if there is still water in the tree’s holder.  A tree that has been cut for a few weeks is going to suck in over two gallons of water in the first few hours after cutting the slice and mounting the tree.  That is one reason to have a tree stand that will hold at least a gallon of water.  On the first day of setting up the tree, check the water level every hour or two.  Once the tree quenches that initial thirst, it will use several quarts of water each day that it is in the house. 

 If you did not cut the slice off the bottom of the trunk or if you have left the tree stand get dry for more than a day, that tree cannot absorb water . No one wants to take a decorated tree out of the stand in order to cut another slice.  However, there is an easy way to solve this problem.  On the Internet you can buy a watering device that gives the tree water using an intravenous type system ($8 at After you drill a hole into the base of the tree, a special nipple is inserted into the hole and then attached to a flexible hose that is connected to a jug of water.  Your tree can now drink again.

 There are two more steps to making sure your Christmas tree lasts as long as possible.  Cut flowers are kept longer when you add a citrus powder to the water; these packets of extender are available in flower shops.  You get the same effect if you add a half a can of 7Up or Sprite (not the diet versions) each time you add water to the tree holder. 

 Most garden centers and home centers sell an anti-transpirant product such as WiltPruf.  This material is sprayed on evergreen shrubs such as azaleas or rhododendrons to leave a thin wax-like coating over the surface of the leaves which slows down the transpiration of water over the winter months.  The same benefit is accrued when you spray your Christmas tree with an anti-transpirant product.  Using both these tricks will add a week or more to the time it takes for the needles to begin falling off the tree. 



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