PLANTING A LIVE CHRISTMAS TREE
PLANTING A LIVE CHRISTMAS TREE
No longer merely a holiday decoration, Christmas trees can now be replanted to provide year-round decoration!
Several varieties of pine, fir and spruce are sold balled and burlapped or in containers for use as Christmas trees, and can replanted after the holiday season. In areas where winter weather makes replanting difficult, the tree may be kept alive through the winter and replanted in the spring.
When replanting Christmas trees, care should be taken to keep the trees alive and healthy. A good location within the site should be chosen so as to best showcase the tree, keeping in mind the eventual size of the tree.
Following are some characteristics to consider when choosing a planting site:
|Tree||Comments & Approx. height in 20 yrs|
|Austrian Pine||Long, dark green needles; 40 ft tall; wind and salt resistant|
|Eastern White Pine||Soft blue-silver to green; 40 ft tall needles, windburns|
|Scotch Pine||Short green needles;40 ft tall; bark, prone to insects|
|Balsam Fir||Very short dark green needles, 30 ft tall open form|
|Douglas Fir||Yellow to blue green needles 40 ft tall; dense form|
|White Fir||Short, soft silvery blue 25 ft tall green needles, tolerates moderately heavy soils|
|Blue Spruce||Short stiff, sharp blue green 40 ft tall green needles, full sun|
The hole in which the tree is to be planted should be dug before the ground freezes.
The hole should be 2 inches wider and 6 inches deeper than the estimated root ball. The hole should be covered with boards to prevent accidents, underneath which the soil should be spread with a foot thick layer of straw to prevent freezing.
When choosing a Christmas tree in a nursery, look for a single, straight trunk and well-colored, firm needles. A smaller tree is a wise choice, as trees which stand under five feet transplant most easily. Plants with frozen soil balls should be avoided; their roots may suffer damage when they thaw out and then refreeze again. Plants with frozen root balls should be planted at once instead of being brought inside.
The tree should be kept outdoors until close to Christmas, and may be brought inside no sooner than the day before. The soil should be kept wet at all times, before and while the plant is indoors. The tree should be planted outdoors immediately after Christmas. Minimal decoration is advised, and electric lights should not be used on the tree, as they may cause the plant to break dormancy, leading to partial or complete death when planted outside.
At planting time, all containers, ropes or burlap should be removed from the tree (as well as all decorations). The newly planted tree should be watered well, insuring adequate moisture and the removal of all air pockets from the soil. The tree should be watered again during all thaws, especially in dry winters. An anti-dessicant will prevent moisture loss by coating the needles with a thin layer of plastic. When planted, the tree should be staked at two or three points, securing the tree from movement caused by the wind which will break new roots.
In climates where the ground is too frozen for planting, the trees may still be kept healthy until the springtime. Placing the tree in its container in a sheltered location outdoors will allow it to grow without exposure to direct sun or the west wind. The soil ball should be kept warm with a foot thick covering of straw or some other mulching material.
Nancy J. Butler Department of Horticulture Michigan State University