Yesterday morning I was sitting near the window of my favorite little coffee shop in the heart of town. As I was sipping a warm and frothy hot chocolate, there came a “tap tap tap” at the window and one of my friends and her little girl were waving at me – I motioned them to join me.
“Sure is cold outside!” my friend said as her greeting.
“Hi Mistoor Wems-a-wola.” said the cute little blonde with pretty blue eyes.
“Hi sweetheart – are you and Mommy having fun today?”
“Yes! We are kwissmas shopping and we are going to get a weal kwissmas twee!
I looked up at the little girl’s mother and asked, “A living Christmas Tree, huh?”
“Yes, but I’m not sure that we can keep it alive. I’m so happy we found you here today. Do you think it’s a good idea?”
As we sat and chatted for a little while, I told her of an old Irishman I had met years ago. This old fella was full of all kinds of plant knowledge. Although I had always enjoyed the adventure of hunting for and cutting a fresh tree, this plantsman was an advocate for living Christmas trees.
“They’re a little more work,” I remember him telling me, “but the benefit is that you get to plant another tree in your garden when the season is over.”
Knowing where your new tree will live after Christmas is helpful in choosing the right tree for both your holiday, and your landscape. One of his tricks was to dig a hole as soon as you decide where your tree will live out its life. He emphasized that it could freeze hard any day – so be prepared. Dig your hole as you would for any tree you would plant in your landscape, and then fill it with mulch bags, or straw, and take proper precautions so you don’t create a safety hazard.
He recommended taking a family trip to the nursery as early as Thanksgiving. The nursery should still have the best selection of living trees at that time. Enjoy your tree on your patio or deck until just a few days before Christmas – it is important that a living tree stay inside for only 3-5 days. If they are in a warm house any longer than one week, they could break dormancy and greatly reduce their chance for survival outdoors.
Place the tree so that it is away from any heat vents, fireplaces or other direct heat sources. After the holiday, if the weather is temperate, (upper 30’s – 50’s) go ahead and plant – making sure to water thoroughly. If the weather is frigid, take the tree into a cold garage or enclosed patio to ‘harden’ it back off for a few days prior to planting. If the weather conditions absolutely do not allow for planting a tree, keep it protected in a cold garage, shed, or against the homes foundation until it can be properly planted. Don’t let the roots dry out while you are waiting for adequate planting conditions.
Containerized trees will be the easiest to handle and the cleanest to maintain in the home. While the tree is inside, keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet. Using ice cubes as a form of drip irrigation can work quite well. Be sure to place a saucer under the container to catch any drainage.