Home and Garden

Eco-friendly Christmas tree ideas

Bringing a live tree into your home may seem weird. But real trees have real benefits:

  1. They’re eco-friendlier than fake trees. Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) — the “grinchiest” plastic — that’s used to make most artificial trees.
  2. It’s indoor forest bathing! They smell amazing. And breathing in natural phytoncides — wood essential oils — can help fight cancer.
  3. Contact with nature reduces stress and blood sugar levels and makes people happy.

Five Christmas tree options

01

Real

Buy local. Support farms that reduce or don’t use pesticides and herbicides, and tree lots that donate part of the funds to community causes. Or, cut your own with a provincial permit. (In many provinces, hydro rights-of-way have to be kept clear. This is a win-win way to meet that mandate.)

02

Indoor potted pine

Buy a Norfolk Island pine to keep indoors year-round (and in your home or work place). This is a great choice for small spaces!

03

Rent

You order it. They deliver it. You enjoy it. They pick it up! Find a company near you.

04

DIY

Make a tree from items you already own — books, scrap paper, metal coat hangers, felt, etc. Search online for ideas.

05

Potted

If you have the space, start a Christmas tree forest! Keep the tree inside for a week (two max). Water generously. Put it outside until the spring thaw, and then plant it.

Rescued owl perched on a Christmas tree

Did you know?

Some wildlife shelters accept old Christmas trees to enhance injured creatures’ habitat. Or, get your tree to the curb for recycling or chipping day so it can be used as mulch in city gardens or on a forest trail.

Photo: Paul Steeves via Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C.

How to plant your Christmas tree

Live trees don’t come with an instruction manual. Prepare your tree for indoor festivities AND a life outside! Here’s a list of common pitfalls, tips and tricks to help you plant a Christmas tree forest.

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.

Most replanted holiday trees don’t survive or thrive because:

  1. The species isn’t adapted to the local climate (moisture, elevation, etc.).
  2. Big trees suffer more transplant shock.
  3. While inside, it dried out too many times.
  4. Inside too long, it lost winter hardiness.

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.

How do I get the tree ready for indoor life?

To reduce the shock of the warm house, leave it in a cool, slightly damp area (garage, shed or basement) a few days before bringing it inside. 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. Pack it 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 (e.g., vents, electric baseboards, fireplaces and wood stoves).

How do I get my indoor tree ready for planting outside?

  • Keep it 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 reintroduce 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?

Don’t fertilize live 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.