Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — If you want a traditional Christmas tree, but want a more sustainable option, consider a living Christmas tree. Sure, it involves a little more planning and effort, but the cost of the tree will add value to your landscape.
A living Christmas tree is a great option if you want a traditional evergreen but don’t want to cut down a tree just for the few weeks of holiday merry-making. Instead of contributing carbon to the atmosphere, you will be sequestering it.
Living holiday trees involve a little more planning and effort, but the cost of the tree becomes an investment in your landscape rather than money chucked out the week after Christmas.
1. Decide where the tree will be planted. (Next year you can plan ahead and dig a hole before the ground freezes). If you don’t have a yard or room in your garden, check with neighbors, family, neighborhood schools and churches. Someone will want your tree if you don’t.
2. Visit local nurseries and look for a high-quality tree with:
• Strong form with well-spaced, firmly attached branches
• A trunk free of wounds or damage
• A quality root system to support healthy growth
3. Choose one in a container, not burlap. This makes bringing it inside easier.
4. Slowly transition the tree into your home. Taking it directly into your home could be quite a shock to the tree. For three to four days, move it from the outdoors to the garage, basement, etc. and then to its final destination. Keep it away from heat vents, which will dry it out. You can purchase special sprays like non-toxic Wilt-Pruf to reduce drying. Spray the tree outside. (You won’t want that stickiness inside.)
5. Apply a good watering when the soil is no longer frozen and before you bring it in the house. When you bring it inside, make sure the tree's container is standing in a tray that can catch water. Depending on how warm your home is, the roots may need more watering. Do not let the soil dry out and don’t keep it inside the house too long or it will break dormancy. Seven to 10 days is best.
6. Decorate and get in the Christmas spirit with your living Christmas tree.
7. After Christmas, slowly transition the tree outside again in reverse order. Store it in a more protected place since the root system is more exposed to freezing temperatures than if it were planted in the earth. An unheated garage or south side of the house is a good option. If you can build a snow berm up, over, and around the container, the roots will be somewhat insulated from freeze/thaw that can be so damaging.
8. When you are ready to plant in the spring, refer to Trees Are Good for directions.
Rachel Broadbent-Alder has degrees in horticulture, botany and urban planning. As an ISA-certified arborist, she loves trees. As an advocate for local food, she gardens, has six chickens, cooks and eats locally.