Planting a living Christmas tree can be a wonderful family tradition as well as a great way to improve your home landscape. What you don’t want is to spend a lot of money on a living Christmas tree and then have it die soon after planting, or have to cut it down because it has grown too large for its location.
Does Your Landscape Need A Large Evergreen Tree?
Before you buy a live Christmas tree, you should make sure you have space in the landscape for it. Most trees used as Christmas trees eventually get big, often more than 50 feet tall and 20 feet wide. These are not trees to plant 10 feet from the house, or right next to the driveway. If you have a small yard and still would like to have a living Christmas tree, explore the possibility of donating the tree to a local school or church for their landscape.
About a month before the holiday period, visit your local nursery or garden center and inquire as to the types of evergreens available as living Christmas trees. Decide which type of evergreen would be best for your location and your landscape.
Select Location and Dig Hole First
Well before it’s time to plant your living Christmas tree, locate the spot in the yard where it will be planted, and dig the planting hole. If you wait until the day of planting to dig the hole, you may find yourself faced with frozen or wet soil. With a living Christmas tree you can’t afford the luxury of waiting until the weather is better, you have to get the tree out of the house and into the ground quickly.
The planting hole should be at least 24 inches in diameter and approximately 15 inches deep. You may have to make the hole larger if the root system of the tree needs more room. The hole can be covered with a board until the planting day. If the soil is heavy, with lots of clay, mix in a liberal amount of organic matter, such as compost, leafmold, or peat moss. The additive should be mixed with the existing soil in a three to one ratio, three parts original soil and one part additive. If the soil is relatively easy to dig and not compacted, it’s best not to add any additives to the soil.
Buying the Tree
As soon as you get your new living Christmas tree home, check the soil ball and make sure the soil is moist; if it’s not, place the root ball in a tub or large container that has several inches of warm water in the bottom and allow the root ball to soak up water for an hour or two. Until you’re ready to bring the tree into the house, keep it in a cool, shady, windless location.
Using an Anti-transparent
One smart method of preventing the needles of your living Christmas tree from drying out too rapidly is the use of an anti-transparent spray. Ask your local garden center for an anti-transparent product and follow the label directions for spraying your new living Christmas tree. The anti-transparent will retard the evaporation of moisture from the tree’s needles.
Bring the Tree Indoors
The warm, dry air inside a house in winter is not a favorable environment for an evergreen tree. There is a danger that the warmth of the house will stimulate the tree to start growing and make it unable to withstand the cold when it goes outside. Therefore, once you bring the tree inside, don’t place it in a location near a heat source, such as a radiator, fire place or heat duct. Also, limit the time the tree is in the house, no more than 7 days. If the temperature in the house is greater than 70 degrees F., reduced the time the tree is indoors to only 5 days.
During the trees stay indoors, check the condition of the soil in the root ball and make sure it stays moist. If the soil begins to dry out carefully pour several cups of warm water on the top surface of the root ball.
Planting the Tree
As soon as you remove the decorations from the tree, move the tree outside and plant it. -If the weather conditions, such as a heavy rain or snow, do not allow planting, take the tree outside and place it in a shaded location protected from the wind. As soon as possible, place the tree in the prepared planting hole, making sure the top of the root ball is even with, or slightly above, the top of the planting hole. Position the tree in the most favorable orientation and begin filling the planting hole with the prepared soil. When the planting hole is half full, loosen the burlap from around the root ball and fold it down so it is below ground level. Finish filling the planting hole with soil.
If your living Christmas tree is potted, rather than a ball and burlap tree, carefully remove the pot. If the roots are in a tight mass on the outside of the rootball, use a knife and cut or pry some of the roots loose so that they will grow out into the soil rather than continue growing in a pot-Eke configuration. Place the root ball into the planting hole so that the top of the root ball is equal with, or slightly higher than, the top of the hole.
After the planting hole is filled with soil, pack it firmly around the root ball with your feet. Using the remainder of the loose, prepared soil, build a small dike 3 to 4 inches high around the outer edges of the planting hole. This will help in keeping the newly planted tree watered. Add 3 to 5 gallons of water within the dike area and allow it to soak into the soil.
Post Planting Care
Mulch the area under the tree with pine bark, shredded hardwood, or another type of mulching material. During the remainder of winter and into the upcoming spring and summer, check the soil condition beneath the tree weekly and water well if the soil begins to dry out.
If your newly planted, living Christmas tree is located in an open location and subject to drying, winter winds, it is beneficial to erect a temporary windscreen around the tree. Burlap or heavy plastic, supported by a series of stakes, can be placed near the tree to lessen the impact of the wind.
The Best Types of Live Christmas Trees for Your Yard
The best, most adaptable needled evergreens for use as a five Christmas tree and later planting into the home landscape are the pines and the spruces. In general the firs are less successful in our area as landscape trees. Balsam firs in particular have problems with our hot summer weather. Remember, give all of these needled evergreens plenty of landscape space, most mature into LARGE trees.