Plant a Living Christmas Tree

R. L. Rhodes
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Difficulty: Intermediate
Duration: 1 hour

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Introduction

STEP 1: FIND THE RIGHT SPOT

Be sure to choose a spot that will accommodate your tree not just now, while it’s still young, but also years from now when the tree is full-grown. In particular, you’ll want to think ensure that its branches won’t eventually interfere with adjacent plants or structures, and that the roots won’t press against foundations and utilities or buckle nearby sidewalks. Our plant guide can help you figure out the dimensions of most full-grown evergreens.

Step 1

STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR MOMENT

Time is of the essence when it comes to a living tree. Giving it the best shot at getting established and surviving the winter, you’ll want to start the process of moving it out of the house as quickly as possible after the holidays. Trees that remain indoors too long will have a more difficult time acclimating to the cold.

Step 2

STEP 3: MAKE THE MOVE

If you followed our tips on caring for a live Christmas tree during the holidays, then you were likely careful to introduce your tree gradually into the warmer climate of your home. When moving it back out into the cold, you’ll want to reverse that process. Start by moving it to a cooler part of your house, then into a sheltered but unheated area, like a garage. Give a day or so in each space, allowing it to acclimate to the difference in temperature. Finally, you can move it out into the unsheltered cold of your landscape.

Step 3

STEP 4: PREPARE THE HOLE

Hopefully, you’ve planned ahead by preparing a hole for your tree—especially if you live in a region that’s already experiencing freezing weather. If not, you may be in for a chore, so get started while your tree is transitioning from warm to cold. As with planting any tree, much depends on providing the best possible hole for planting, so dig at least a foot wider than the spread of the roots. For the best drainage, dig the pit several inches deeper than the roots, and raise a pedestal of soil in the center of the pit floor. Be sure to keep the temperature of the soil you removed above freezing, keeping it in a sheltered spot if you’re going to leave the hole empty overnight.

Step 4

STEP 5: PLANT THE TREE

Plant as usual, adding soil amendments as necessary. Providing a bed of mulch around the newly planted tree will help protect it from steep drops in temperature. As long as you’re not in the middle of a freeze, water the tree well—winter winds can be particularly dehydrating to young trees. In the weeks following, check in on the tree daily to make sure it’s settling in without problems. For the remainder of the winter, you may want to keep the trunk wrapped in burlap or landscape fabric to protect it from sun scald.

 

Materials

  • Mulch
  • Uncut evergreen tree

Tools

So you’ve made this past Christmas one for the scrap books by celebrating around a live Christmas tree. Now it’s time to transition your tree into its new home in your landscape. But planting a tree in early or mid-winter requires diligence even beyond the usual routine, which is why we’ve rated this project for intermediate landscapers. The entire process is a more deliberate that your average planting, but more than that, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your tree after its planted to make sure that it doesn’t falter while getting established in its new plot. Here are the steps you’ll need in order to get your tree safely to spring.

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