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Caring for Live Christmas Trees

Having a live evergreen tree allows you to enjoy it during the Christmas holiday and for many years thereafter. Here are a few steps to keep your tree healthy and thriving.

Steps to Success

  1. Plan ahead so you can plant the tree immediately after Christmas.
  2. Prepare the planting hole that you will use immediately after Christmas by digging a hole in late October or early November. It should be at least least twice as wide in diameter and the same depth as the root ball of the tree you'll bring indoors at Christmas. Place the soil from the hole into a wheelbarrow and mix in peat moss, composted cow manure, and bone meal. Store this mixture in a place that won't freeze. Fill the hole with bags of leaves or straw so that snow and ice will not accumulate. Depending on the location, you might need to cover the hole with boards for safety.

  3. Understand that live Christmas trees can only be indoors for a few days.
  4. Store your tree outdoors in a protected location and keep it moist. A week before you plant to bring it indoors, move it into an unheated garage or porch to help it adjust to being indoors. Place the tree in a large bucket and keep it well watered. Consider spraying the tree with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt-Pruf to keep the needles from losing excessive moisture. Bring the tree into the house ideally just a few days before Christmas. Evergreen trees must not be inside for more than seven days.

  5. A cool indoor temp and generous watering is key.
  6. The room should be kept as cool as possible (65 degrees F or less). Water well! The entire root ball must be kept very moist -- but not sitting in pooled water. Place the tree away from direct sun and heat sources.

  7. Get that tree in the ground ASAP
  8. Take the tree back outside as soon as possible, ideally on a mild day. If the weather isn't ideal, keep it in the same unheated space as before until the time is right. Place it in the hole you prepared in the fall, keeping the top of the root ball level with the ground. Loosen the burlap around the top of the root ball and roll the burlap back a bit. For potted trees, simply remove the tree from the pot. Fill the hole halfway with soil mixture you set aside in the fall -- and water well. Add the rest of the soil mix and tamp it down well. Then mulch around the tree. You can also spray the tree with an anti-desiccant again if it's a mild day.

  9. What if you didn't plan ahead in the fall?
  10. If a hole is not readily available for your tree, you should put the tree outdoors in a place well protected from wind and sun. Mulch the root ball heavily with straw or bark mulch and water on mild days.

live Christmas trees
A live tree makes a lovely indoor display, but it requires a little extra effort.

Last updated: 7/24/19

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