In order to have a living memory of a particular Christmas, displaying a live Christmas tree not only perks up the season, but provides a tree for your landscape. There are many people who hate to buy a cut tree then turn around and throw it out and many more who do not want an artificial tree.
Select a tree that is right for your climate, soil and light conditions. Be sure to select a tree variety that is hardy to two zones colder than your climate. Most nurseries will tag and hold trees until you’re ready to bring them home.
Once you have picked out your live Christmas tree, here are a few hints on how to care and maintain it during the holiday season:
1. Gradually introduce your living tree from outside to inside over three or four days via the garage or enclosed porch. A tree that is dormant and exposed to immediate warmth will start to grow. You want to avoid any quick resumption of growth.
2. While the tree is introduced into the house using your porch or garage, check for critters and insect egg masses as the tree acclimates to an inside environment. Remember that you will need to reverse the process to plant the tree later. Now is also the time to dig a hole for permanent placement in your landscape – digging later may be hampered by freezing soil.
3. Visit your nearest lawn and garden supply store. Purchase a spray with an antidessicant or antiwilt product to minimize needle loss. This particular product will not only reduce needle loss, it will contain the loss of valuable moisture lost to a climate controlled home.
4. Try to locate your tree in the coolest part of the room and away from heating ducts. This will work with the anti-wilt product to keep the tree moist and prevent the loss of valuable moisture that is needed to survive.
5. Place the tree in a large galvanized washing tub including root ball. This tub stabilizes the tree and ball and confines water and needles into a more manageable and cleanable space. It will also contain any mess you might have and limit problems associated with a live tree living inside the home.
6. Stabilize the tree in the tub in a straight and vertical position using rocks or bricks. Water only in the tree’s tub container if not a balled-in-burlap tree. Directly water balled-in-burlap tree that fits snugly in the tub container.
7. If balled-in-burlap, fill empty space around and on top of the ball with mulch to retain as much moisture as possible. Then water your tree as often as necessary to moisten the roots but not soggy. Never over water beyond moist.
8. Leave your tree inside no longer than 7-10 days (some experts suggest only 5 days). Never add nutrients or fertilizers as that may initiate growth which you don’t want to occur in a dormant tree.
9. Carefully introduce tree back outside using the reverse procedure and plant into the pre-dug hole in the landscape.
You can skip the galvanized tub and stabilization steps if the tree comes packed in a plastic bucket. Remember to protect floor and carpet from water by using a pan. Anti-desiccants and anti-wilt products are sold under the names of Wilt Pruf or Cloud Cover.
Christmas lights do not pose a serious threat to plants; depending on the types of lights and how you use them, however, they can cause some minor damage. Large bulbs can create enough heat to actually burn leaf surfaces, so use only light strands that come with tiny bulbs.