Living Christmas Tree Care Guide

Take care of your living Christmas tree so that it will thrive when the holiday is over.

Living Fir Christmas Tree

Living Fir Christmas Tree

With proper care, living Christmas trees can last well after the holidays.

Photo by: Photo by Debbie Wolfe

Photo by Debbie Wolfe

With proper care, living Christmas trees can last well after the holidays.

The idea of bringing a living tree into the home to use as a Christmas tree is tantalizing to gardeners. Using a live tree gives you the flexibility to choose from a much wider array of tree species that simply are not available as harvested trees. If you are thinking of using a live Christmas tree, there are a few things you should consider before proceeding.

First, most trees that are grown to be planted do not necessarily look like "Christmas trees;"their shape is less uniform and their branches may not be as dense or stiff. Second, you will probably need to go with a much smaller tree than you would if you used a cut tree because the weight of the root ball is significant and normally anything much taller than five or six feet is not manageable. Also, it is a good idea to start sourcing your live tree well in advance of the holiday season if you have a particular species in mind because garden centers and nurseries often have a reduced selection of "plantable" trees while they are selling cut Christmas trees. If this sounds doable then a living Christmas tree will work for you.

Once you choose your tree, you will want to bring it in right away...Don't do it! The shorter the duration of its stay indoors, the better. Keep it to five days or fewer in the house so that it does not become completely acclimatized to the conditions inside your home. A longer stay could lead to a break in dormancy which would cause problems when it's time to go back out. If the conditions outside are consistently below forty degrees, transition it into the home by keeping it in an unheated room, basement or garage for a day before bringing it in the house.

Water it well before it comes in so that you can avoid watering while it's inside. The tree's location should be similar to a good location for a fresh cut tree: no direct sunlight, and keep the tree away from heat vents. This will help you avoid watering. If it is inside less than three days, you will almost definitely not have to water it; but if it's going to be more like five days you may have to. Plan ahead. If you think you may have to water it, place it in a saucer that will catch the drain water and elevate the container an inch or so so that it will not sit in the drain water. If and when you water while the tree is indoors, use only a pint at a time and stop watering when it starts to come out the drain holes in the bottom of the container.

Most standard decorations are fine to use on living Christmas trees. The best lights to use are LEDs because they generate far less heat than incandescents, and won't dry out the foliage. Do not spray fake snow, adhesive glitter or any other adhesive sprays on living Christmas trees, as they may clog the pores on the foliage, damaging it. When it's time to take the tree out, transition it the same way you did when you brought it in. Water the tree well as soon as you get it outside. If conditions are really cold, you may want to take it a step further by putting it outside during the day and bringing it into an unheated room for the night, for two or three nights before leaving it outside permanently. If the ground is not frozen, plant the tree as soon as possible after transitioning it outside. If the ground is frozen, plant the tree when the ground thaws and keep it well watered in the meantime.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Recycling Your Christmas Tree

Gardening expert Felder Rushing gives tips on reusing Christmas trees.

You Can Now Order a Real, Full-Size Christmas Tree on Amazon

Yes, it's true. Amazon is selling three types of real, full-size trees that you can order in your pajamas from the comfort of your home.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree: 20 Inspiring Ideas

Dress (your Christmas tree) to impress.

Christmas Tree Decorating Tips

Spruce up your holiday tree with these ideas from lifestyle expert James Farmer.

How to Make Sweater Christmas Tree Decorations

Use scraps of sweaters, Styrofoam cones, toilet paper rolls, sequins and pompoms to make adorable tabletop tree decorations. 

What You Should Know About Your Christmas Tree

HGTV Magazine says ‘If your spruce could talk, it would give you these pined-for tips and tricks.’

13 Faux Christmas Trees for Small Spaces and Beyond

If you're looking for a fun alternative to the classic evergreen, consider this list an early Christmas present.

How to Make Mini Ugly Sweater Christmas Tree Ornaments

Your Christmas tree can also wear an ugly sweater with these adorable, tiny sweaters on dollhouse coathangers. 

How to Set Up a Christmas Tree

Avoid a holiday headache by following these easy steps to set up your fresh-cut Christmas tree.

Create a Designer Christmas Tree

Add panache to your holiday decor and give your tree an updated look with these designer Christmas tree ideas.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.