“Green” Your Holiday Tree

Karen O’Connor
Mother Earth Gardens

Buying a fresh-cut holiday tree that is grown sustainably continues to be a better choice than a buying a plastic one, but have you considered a living tree? The display of a living holiday tree means making the most of the season, because the tree stays with you or a loved one after the holidays. A living tree can be a beautiful part of a special holiday, but you need to prepare ahead of time to take advantage of the benefits of planting your own holiday tree.

Here’s how to plant your holiday tree:

Dig a hole before the ground freezes. Your planting hole should be at least twice the width of the root ball of the tree. The root ball can be estimated by measuring the diameter of the pot. Do not dig deeper than the root ball is tall-the top of the root ball should sit flush or a little above the soil line. Mix the soil you’ve dug out with compost, about half and half, and keep this mixture in your garage until ready to plant.

The tree should be purchased when they become available at a garden center, generally close to the holidays. Most garden centers sell hardy and native living evergreens that are the same or similar varieties as the fresh cut holiday trees on the lots. The grower/garden center will have removed it from the ground and will sell it potted. The trees are dormant in pots.

Gradually introduce your living tree from outside to inside over a few days in your garage or on an enclosed porch. Your tree is dormant and will soon start to grow if it is immediately warmed. 

While the tree is being slowly introduced into the house, check for unwanted visitors such as insects and eggs.

Purchase a spray with an anti-dessicant or anti-wilt product (Wilt Pruf) to minimize needle loss. This is a safe product made from pine and should be applied to help contain moisture while the tree is inside a dry winter home. 

Moisture is important, so try to put your tree in a cooler part of the house, not right on top of a heat vent.

Water your tree as often as is necessary to moisten the roots but not to cause sogginess.

Leave inside no longer than 7-10 days (some tree experts suggest only 4 days). No fertilizers, please, the idea is to keep the tree dormant.

Carefully introduce the tree back outside doing the same thing in reverse.

When ready to plant, after the holidays, fill with your soil/compost mixture, tamp the soil and water it lightly to remove air pockets. After filling the hole, the root ball of the tree should protrude slightly above ground level, to promote good drainage. Mulch well. When the ground thaws in the spring, resume watering as you would with any newly planted tree or shrub, and create a berm around your tree with mulch so the water slips back toward the roots.

Enjoy your beautiful new tree! 

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Mother Earth Gardens 
3738 42nd Ave. South 
Minneapolis, MN, 612-724-2296 

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