Photo: How to plant your Christmas tree

A live tree will only last inside for a week to 10 days. (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

One day I'll plant a Christmas tree.

Until then, I'll keep decorating my trusty Norfolk Island pine that gives my family the gift of clean air all year round.

But if you have the space, you can start your Christmas tree forest this season. NOTE: Try this if you plan to keep your live tree inside only for a week to 10 days AND you're diligent at watering plants.

Four reasons most replanted holiday trees don't survive or thrive:

  1. The tree species isn't adapted to the local climate (moisture, elevation, etc.)
  2. Tree size — big trees suffer more transplant shock
  3. Tree thirst — while inside, it dried out too many times
  4. Trees on display inside too long lose winter hardiness

Prepare your tree for indoor festivities AND a life outside!

What should I look for in a tree?

  • Fir, pine and spruce are best (ask your local nursery)
  • Long, full branches
  • A large root ball that's not frozen

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How do I get the tree ready for indoor life?

To reduce the shock of the warm house, a few days before bringing the tree inside leave it in a cool, slightly damp area (garage, shed or basement). Keep the root ball covered with straw, peat moss or an old blanket. Water often — even add ice cubes!

What do I use for a tree stand?

Choose a container that accommodates the root ball, then pack with sawdust, peat moss or shredded newspaper. Drape a cloth over the root ball to keep moisture in.
Place the tree near a window away from heat — vents, electric baseboards, fireplaces, and woodstoves.

How do I transition my indoor tree for planting outside?

  • Keep the tree outside — exposed to minimal sunlight and winter wind
  • Pack paper bags of leaves or straw bales tightly around the root ball
  • Periodically add snow to the root ball to prevent drying out

When the soil isn't completely frozen...

  1. Dig a hole about one-and-a-half times larger than the root ball. Store the dirt in the garage (so it doesn't freeze) until planting day.
  2. Gently re-introduce the tree to the cold for a week or two before planting. Keep it out of the wind, maybe in the garage.
  3. Remove root ball coverings (e.g., burlap).
  4. On a mild day, place the tree in the hole and backfill. Cover the hole with several inches of mulch and water. NOTE: To prevent suffocation, don't plant the tree deeper than it was in the nursery pot. The top of the root ball should be one to two inches above ground level.

What about fertilizer?

Do not fertilize live Christmas trees in winter. They're dormant. Fertilize in the spring.

Do I need to stake the tree?

Yes. Stake to support it from strong winds so it can establish roots.

Have you ever planted a Christmas tree?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

December 21, 2015

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Feb 05, 2016
10:27 AM

A Rescue plan for trees…up cycle plastics (bags,containers, etc) into artificial Christmas trees. The sales from these used to rescue our forests.

This would also re-purpose these plastics that are clogging landfill,lakes, rivers and oceans until we get a better plan.

In addition, the faux trees recycled after use,

For all you do…Thank-you.

Jan 13, 2016
11:23 PM

I’d love to see this excellent Christmas Tree guide next November. If I save notes, I’ll forget I have them.

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