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Living Christmas Trees

Living Christmas Trees

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Our guest this morning is Loren Nielsen, owner of Wasatch Shadows Nursery in Sandy.

While fresh cut Christmas trees are always very popular a growing number of households are opting for something a little different. They are making a choice to have a living Christmas tree. Live Christmas trees have consumer appeal because with care they can be added to the home landscape after use as a Christmas tree.

It is very important to select the right tree for your landscape and plant it the right place. One common mistake is to buy a tree that will eventually get very large such as a blue spruce and then plant it in the only unfrozen soil in the landscape, right next to the foundation of the house. The tree quickly outgrows its site and must be discarded

When choosing a living Christmas tree, here are a few tips to increase the odds of having it live and thrive in the landscape after Christmas. Plan ahead; and prepare the site for planting before Christmas. Just like all tree plantings, select the species to match the site.

For most conifers, good soil drainage and adequate space and sunlight are required for optimal growth. Pick conifer species that do well in the landscape. Some common species used for living Christmas trees are Scotch and Austrian pines, Blue and Norway spruce and Concolor and subalpine fir.

The weight of the ball presents special challenges. A typical root ball may weigh more than 100 pounds and is large and bulky. Take special care to make certain that you select a tree that you can move and position without great difficulty.

Living Christmas trees are sensitive to warm dry conditions. Because the weather outside has been cool the trees have gone into a more dormant state. After they are brought indoors they quickly start to deacclimate and the warm temperatures may cause the dormant tree to break buds. They will even start to grow.

For that reason it is best to keep the trees indoors for about seven days. Avoid keeping them in the home for any longer than ten days and should not be kept inside for more than 10 days.

Condition the tree before bringing it into a heated room. Leaving the tree upright in an unheated shed or garage for a couple of days will help acclimate the tree and reduce the transition from cold to warm conditions.

After the acclimation period bring the tree indoors and place it in a cool location away from direct sunlight. Keep living trees out of the sunlight and keep them away from heat sources such as wood stoves, fireplaces, heater vents and televisions.

Living Christmas trees also need water, although they will not need as much as cut trees. Before moving the tree inside, moisten the root ball. Keep it moist but not wet while it is inside the home. It is also very important that the tree be placed in a leakprrof tub or saucer to prevent soil and water from staining the floor.

Decorate with care and avoid heat producing lights, flocking or artificial snow. Use cool lights and only burn them for short periods of time to avoid excessive drying on the tree. Be careful to avoid causing damage to the tree with heavy ornaments or decorations.

After the season is over move the tree back out in just the opposite way that it is brought indoors. This allows it to adjust to the outdoor temperature before it is planted.

Ideally, you dig the hole before winter weather sets in. If you did that and have covered the backfill so it is not snow-covered and frozen planting is a simple matter. More than likely the ground may be frozen or so wet that the tree cannot be planted immediately. Protect it until it can be cared for correctly.

Place the tree in a sheltered area so it does not freeze and thaw repeatedly. Because the roots of a plant are must more susceptible to cold temperature than the top of the tree make certain that the root ball is heavily mulched with snow, compost or straw.


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