Caring for Your Living Christmas Tree

Choosing the perfect tree is a time honored family Christmas tradition but going out into the forest to cut one isn’t the only option. Cut trees provide a wonderful aroma in your home during the time you have it set up and for many, it’s the most traditional of the choices. Artificial trees are great for those in apartments, or those who don’t wish to deal with the needle drop or sap provided by live or cut trees. The third choice is a living Christmas tree which is one that’s potted and you can plant out once you are finished using it for the holidays.

Living Christmas trees are a popular choice for homeowners. They can bring joy and a wonderful fragrance to your holiday celebrations, but keeping them indoors successfully does take a little special care.

Once you have purchased your tree and brought it home, acclimate it on a cool porch for about five days before putting it into your home. Never leave your live tree in the house more than four or five days because if you do it will begin to think it’s spring and break dormancy. Generally the fewer days inside, the better.

Keeping your tree fresh and hydrated in our high, dry climate, especially if you heat with a woodstove can be a challenge. There is a wonderful product we like called Wilt Stop and we highly recommend you treat your tree with it before placing it in your house. This is a natural spray made from pine resin that helps to seal moisture in the tree to keep it from drying out while it’s indoors. Live trees are just like cut trees in that you need to be sure to keep it watered regularly while it’s inside. You do not want to let your tree dry out!

Once the holiday is over, acclimate your tree again for about five days on a cool porch after removing it from the house to let it adjust to the temperature change. Once moved back outside the tree can then be planted or left in the pot until spring.

If you had the foresight to dig your hole before the ground froze, it can be planted right after Christmas. Once in the ground, again it’s important to keep it watered, especially if the natural precipitation is low. Newly planted trees need water, even through the winter months. A general rule of thumb is to water it each holiday or about once a month. Pick a warm, sunny day and give it a good, long drink. Even if we have snow, the moisture content is often low, so supplemental watering is a must if your tree is going to survive happily.

Making the choice to keep your tree inside more than five days means that you will be living with it for the rest of the winter. Place it in an unheated sunroom or perhaps a garage or patio with big windows until it’s time to move it back outdoors. This will help it to transition successfully once it is time to move it outside and plant.

If you have kept your tree indoors throughout the winter months, plant it outside only after danger of frost has passed. Since it will have broken dormancy, it will not be acclimated to colder temperatures and will need to be protected until warmer weather arrives.

No matter what your tree of choice is – artificial, cut, or live, it seems like any holiday celebration wouldn’t be complete without that most revered of holiday symbols- a Christmas tree. The beauty for me has always been that it never seems to matter what color lights you use, how you decorate it, or what is under it on Christmas morning, in the eyes of a child the tree always seems ten feet tall. Merry Christmas!