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Caring for a Living Christmas Tree

by Sherri Allen

Living Evergreen Christmas Tree

Take proper care of your living Christmas tree to ensure its success in your garden.

The Christmas season brings with it many decisions to be made. Among them is, "What type of Christmas tree should I put up?" This year, consider a living Christmas tree. Not only will you enjoy it through the holidays, but a living tree can be planted in the garden to enhance your landscape and spark wonderful memories for years to come.

To allow your living tree to thrive in your garden, you must provide it with a small amount of special care. The following tips from the National Christmas Tree Association will help ensure your living tree's success:

• The adaptability of the species should be considered. Many species are shipped outside of their natural area and may not be adaptable to other areas. Check with a reliable nursery or extension forester.

• Keep in mind that living trees are VERY heavy and bulky. A six foot tall balled and burlapped tree will weigh as much as 250 pounds.

• Protect the tree from the elements. The tree should be stored in an unheated, sheltered area such as a garage or porch, out of the wind and sun. Do not expose the tree to freezing temperatures at any time.

• The tree will need adequate water. The root ball or soil should be kept slightly damp but not flooded. Wrap the root ball of a balled tree in plastic or place in a tub while it is in the house.

• Living trees may be decorated, but with care. If lights are used, they must not give off any heat.

• Avoid extreme temperature changes. Do not remove the tree directly from a warm house out into freezing temperatures. Instead, move to a sheltered area first for several days.

• Plant the tree as soon as possible. If the ground is not frozen, the tree may be replanted. The spot to be dug should be mulched to prevent freezing.

• Do not remove the burlap and strapping (unless it is plastic). This keeps the root ball solid and secure. In the instance of a plastic cover, cut the cord and roll down the plastic at least half way prior to planting. Tap the tree container of a potted tree and remove prior to planting. Do not attempt to remove soil from the root system. Earth removed from the original hole should be backfilled around the root ball. Mulch heavily over the top of the planted root ball to prevent it from freezing. Water only as needed: a flooded tree may not survive.

• Provide support for the tree. Stake the tree to prevent wind tipping or damage during the first growing season.

For more information about living Christmas trees, visit the National Christmas Tree Association's website at

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Image Credit: National Christmas Tree Association