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Gardener's Notes

Live Christmas trees can be planted outdoors with care in Northeast Ohio.

By: Emily Roesly for Cleveland.com / March 2019

Q. It has always bothered me that my family has cut down trees to celebrate Christmas. Besides buying an artificial tree, is there any other option?

A. Yes, there is. What better and more reverent way to celebrate than by using a live tree? I have seen smaller potted Christmas trees (such as Norfolk Island Pine Araucaria heterophylla ) sold in stores. They can be used as houseplants after the holidays and can grow to be as grandiose as any traditional Christmas tree. It also is possible to buy a live tree and plant it after the holiday, but this involves some care.
 

  • First, the tree must deal with an extreme temperature fluctuation after being indoors and then being planted outside so late in the year (typically, fall and spring are the best times to plant trees). If you decide on a live tree:

  • Pick a suitable planting site as soon as possible and dig a hole.

  • Move the dug soil inside and fill the hole with straw. Your live tree should have a nice, solid root ball wrapped in burlap.


  • If you get your tree weeks before Christmas, store it in a cool place such as a garage until just before the holiday. Make sure the roots stay moist and don't freeze.

  • Once you move the tree indoors, place it in as cool a place in the house as possible and keep it indoors for no longer than 10 days. The less time the tree spends in the warm home, the better chance it won't break dormancy and will survive once it is planted outside.

  • After the holidays, move the tree to the garage to help it get acclimated to the cold, outdoor weather; a sudden move outdoors could shock and harm it. On a mild day, remove the straw and plant the tree, replacing the dug soil and adding mulch. The warm soil, fresh mulch and lots of water will help ensure that the soil doesn't freeze too quickly around the roots and will help your tree make it through the winter.

 

A company in Portland, Ore., offers a Christmas tree "rental" service in which a person can pay to have a live potted tree delivered and picked up from one's home. The trees are then donated to local plantings, which increases the overall quality of life there.

 

Some other more-artistic ideas I've heard of include tastefully decorating a branch from a deciduous tree, building a tree-shaped pyramid out of green gift-wrapped boxes, and stringing lights or cards over a tree-shaped wire frame.