Caring for and Planting Live Christmas
Copyright © 2011 by McGroarty Enterprises
Holidays are all about traditions, especially the
Christmas holiday. One Christmas tradition that some families observe is
to purchase live Christmas trees that can be planted in their yard once
the holidays are over.
Although it is more costly to purchase
live Christmas trees than it is to purchase cut trees, live Christmas
trees will provide a longer period of enjoyment than a cut tree and they
will enhance your landscape for many years to come. Unfortunately, live
Christmas trees donít typically come with instructions and many people
make serious mistakes when handling a live tree and they end up killing
the tree and losing the money spent on it.
Live Christmas trees
are typically sold with the roots balled in burlap. The entire rootball
is wrapped in burlap and bound tightly. Do not unwrap the burlap from
the roots before bringing the tree in the house. The burlap will not
only protect the roots until the tree can be planted, but it will also
contain the soil around the roots and prevent your live tree from
becoming messy while it is performing its role as a holiday decoration.
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Decorating with live Christmas trees requires some
forethought. Before you take the tree into the house, or perhaps even
before the tree is purchased if you live in a very cold climate, you
should prepare a hole for the tree where you expect to plant it after
the holidays. Soil that is removed from the hole can be placed in a
wheelbarrow and parked in the garage or in an enclosed porch where it
wonít freeze solid. Youíll need that loose soil for backfilling the hole
when you plant the tree out, and the job will be much easier if the soil
isnít frozen. Make sure to dig the hole before the ground itself
Live Christmas trees should be kept indoors for as short
a time as possible. Spending too much time in the warm indoors can
confuse the tree and cause it to break dormancy, resulting in shocking
the tree when it goes back outside. If you like to put up your Christmas
tree the day after Thanksgiving and leave it up until after New Yearís,
then live Christmas trees are not a good choice for you.
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Live Christmas trees will not fit a typical Christmas tree
stand, of course, but the rootballs of most will fit into a large washtub
or a really big olí bucket. The rootballs of live Christmas trees should
be kept moist while in the house, but the tub or bucket should not be kept
full of water. The rootball shouldnít be allowed to dry out, but by the
same token it shouldnít be kept soggy all the time either. After placing
the rootball into the tub, wet it thoroughly, but do not water again until
the water in the bottom of the tub is almost gone.
As soon as
possible after Christmas, live Christmas trees should be moved outdoors
and planted. If you didnít get around to preparing the planting hole
before the holidays and now the ground is frozen, donít fear. You can
still keep the tree alive until it can be planted in the spring by packing
bags of leaves or bales of straw tightly around the rootball. Keep the
tree in an outdoor area where it will receive minimal sunlight and be
protected from the harsh winter wind. Throw some snow onto the rootball
occasionally to keep it from drying out.
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If you did prepare the planting hole before the holidays,
try to plant the tree immediately after the holiday hoopla has ended. The
tree should not be stored above ground during the winter if it can be
avoided. Itís not a good idea to store it in your garage either, as it is
likely to dry out in there. The best place for live Christmas trees is to be
is planted in the ground, even if the ground was frozen as soon as the hole
was dug. Just set the tree in the hole and backfill the hole with the loose
soil you saved in your wheelbarrow.
If the reserved soil has become
frozen into chunks, it should be thawed out and broken up before using, or
not used at all. Backfill the hole only with small soil particles so no air
pockets are left around the rootball. If the soil is frozen and canít be
thawed, you can either purchase and use a bag of potting soil from a garden
center, or just set the tree down in the hole and backfill it later as soon
as the weather permits.
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It is not necessary to unwrap and remove the burlap from
around the rootball before planting live Christmas trees if the burlap
is made from a natural material. However, if nylon string has been used
to bind the burlap, the nylon string should be cut and removed as it
will not decompose and would eventually choke the roots. No matter what
sort of string was used to wrap the burlap, it should be removed from
around the trunk of the tree. Cotton or sisal twine can be left around
the rootball, but removed from the trunk. If the burlap itself is nylon,
it should be cut in many places or removed entirely from the rootball.
If the ball is wrapped with a wire basket around it, some experts
recommend loosening the basket but leaving it on the rootball, while
others say the wire would eventually choke the roots and should be
removed. My take on this is to remove anything from around the roots
that will not decompose.
When planting live Christmas trees or
any other tree, be careful to not plant the tree too deeply. Planting
too deeply is the Number One reason why plants do not survive when they
are brought home from a nursery. Trees should not be planted any deeper
than they were planted in the nursery pot. The top of the rootball
should be one to two inches above the ground level. If you have heavy,
wet clay soil, trees should be planted even higher, with a bed built up
around the rootball. Planted too deeply, plants literally suffocate. But
plant them a bit higher and build a bed around the raised rootball and
you will be providing good drainage for your live Christmas trees.
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Do not fertilize live Christmas trees at the time of
planting. Your tree will be dormant and cannot utilize fertilizer until it
wakes up in the spring. Fertilize it with an organic fertilizer in the
spring. If you have compost available, go ahead and mix some in with the
soil while planting the tree, but any fertilizer added at this time will
only wash away over winter.
Itís always a good idea to stake trees
when they are planted. If they are constantly being rocked back and forth
by the wind they will have a difficult time establishing their roots in
their new home.
Armed with this knowledge, go ahead and start a new
family tradition by decorating live Christmas trees in your home and
planting them in the backyard for many more years of enjoyment.