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Planting A Live Christmas Tree


A potted Christmas tree is a great idea in many ways, but it’s far from foolproof. The idea of purchasing a live Christmas tree, with its roots and dirt all seemingly snug in a wrapped burlap ball, is appealing, especially if your landscape would benefit from a tree or two. But it’s not all that simple. First, choose a tree that will grow in your USDA growing zone; otherwise, it will not thrive. A beautiful Douglas fir will grow well in USDA Zones 4 to 6, and they like shade or partial sun. The location on your property will take some thought, though, as these trees can get 120 feet tall.

In addition to the planting zone and light, envision the space the tree will need as it matures so that you can accommodate a live Christmas tree on your property. For example, blue spruce may eventually need a 20-foot diameter circle at full height—probably not a great idea if your backyard only measures 50 x 50. These trees also are not a good choice for planting too close to your house’s foundation or a patio. Soil type is a factor for a live Christmas tree, too. That blue spruce will grow in clay soil if that’s what you’re burdened with, but many other types of potted Christmas trees will not be happy. If you’re determined to get the live Christmas tree to plant after the holidays, be aware that:

 A potted or burlap-covered Christmas tree is more expensive than a cut tree, possibly twice as expensive.

 Transporting the tree can be a challenge. They can weigh over 200 pounds because of the dirt and roots, and they are awkward to move about. You’ll want a pickup (drive slowly, so you don’t damage the tree), a couple of strong arms, and a dolly of some type.

 You should limit the amount of time the tree spends in your warm house. No more than a week or so to ensure its health. Position it in as cool a spot as possible (not next to the fireplace or a heater!). Store the tree in a cool place like the garage until it’s time to bring it in the house. Then repeat that garage layover on the way out to help it acclimate to the move from the warm house to the outside.

 Be sure you water the tree, just like a cut one, keeping the soil moist (not soggy).

 Prepare the hole for the tree before the ground is frozen. Dig down about 12 inches (approximately the ball’s height) and twice the ball’s diameter, probably around 4 feet. Be sure you have plenty of loose soil to fill in that hole. Water the tree, then cover with mulch. Consider staking the tree to keep it upright, especially if you’re in a windy area.

Finally, if you’re determined to DIY planting a live Christmas tree, be sure you try to choose a tree that looks healthy at the nursery. The tree should be green, of course, with minimal needle loss. The all-important root ball should be large, moist, and, when you wiggle to the trunk, the root ball should feel secure in the wrap. It shouldn’t wiggle about because if it does the roots may not be all that healthy.

Posted on January 22, 2021

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