Using a Living Christmas Tree With the Intention to Replant

Low Angle View Of Tree Against Sky
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Some people really hate to buy a tree only to turn around and throw it away. You may be one of them. Displaying a potted living Christmas tree can perk up the season and can provide a tree for your yard or landscape a few days after the holiday, to commemorate an extra-special season. A containerized Colorado blue spruce is especially good for preserving if you live in an area where it thrives. Your local nursery can advise you on the type to purchase for your landscape.

It is not hard to keep a potted tree alive long enough to plant, but you need to be careful in following these recommendations exactly to improve the tree's survival chances. For one, it can be inside only from four to 10 days. You also need to expect to give the tree several days of your attention before and after bringing it inside. 

Advance Prep

Local nurseries will have potential conifers that can be purchased several months in advance for delivery near Christmas. If you live in a climate where the ground freezes, you need to dig a planting hole during moderate temperatures because the tree needs to be planted shortly after Christmas. No matter the climate, you'll want to know where the tree will go to ensure that it will thrive (with the proper soil, sun, etc.).

Caring for a Living Christmas Tree

Your tree will come in a container with soil or as a bare-root tree that is balled in burlap (b-n-b). If it's a b-n-b tree, you'll need mulch and a bucket to bring it indoors. But first, you start in the garage.

  1. Gradually over time, introduce your living tree from outside to inside. Take three or four days using the garage or enclosed porch for acclimatization. A tree that is dormant and exposed to immediate warmth will start to grow. You want to avoid any quick resumption of growth. You'll also need to reverse the acclimation process exactly to plant the tree after the holiday celebration.
  2. While the tree is on your porch or garage, check for insects and insect egg masses.
  3. Visit your nearest lawn and garden supply store and purchase a spray, such as Cloud Cover or Wilt Pruf (buy from Amazon) with an anti-desiccant or anti-wilt chemical to minimize needle loss. Use it while the tree is in the garage. This particular product also prevents the loss of valuable moisture for the tree coming into a climate-controlled home. 
  4. When finally taking the tree inside, locate your tree in the coolest part of the room and away from heat ducts, to keep the tree moist.
  5. Place the tree in its container in a large galvanized tub or a comparable item, keeping the root ball intact. Stabilize the tree in the tub in a straight and vertical position using rocks or bricks. This tub confines water and needles into a more manageable and cleanable space. It will also contain any mess you might have and limit problems associated with a live tree inside the home. 
  1. If it is a b-n-b tree, place it in a smaller container inside the tub, if it doesn't fit the tub snugly. Fill any empty space around and on top of the root ball with mulch to retain as much moisture as possible. 
  2. Water your tree in its container directly as often as necessary to moisten the roots, but do not get them soggy. Never overwater beyond moist.
  3. Leave your tree inside no longer than seven to 10 days (some experts suggest only four days). Never add nutrients or fertilizers, as they may initiate growth, which you don't want to occur in a dormant tree.
  4. Carefully introduce tree back outside using the reverse procedure of keeping it in your garage for a few days, and then plant it in the ground.