In this age of environmental concerns and so-called “green” living, planting a living Christmas tree is an excellent alternative to the traditional cut evergreen. A living Christmas tree is simply a potted evergreen or an evergreen tree that is ‘balled and burlapped’. You can purchase a potted evergreen and use it in your home as a Christmas tree, then take it outside and transplant it. Balled and burlapped trees are impractical to use in the home as a Christmas tree but you can purchase and plant one outside and decorate it for the holiday season with lights, bulbs and other Christmas decorations. In either case, you can plant the tree in a properly prepared site and care for it from year to year, watching it grow to a majestic height. To properly plant a living Christmas tree follow these simple directions.
Transplanting a potted evergreen
- Potted plants come in a variety of containers. Everything from metal cans to plastic and cardboard containers are used to grow potted evergreen trees.
- Cut the sides of a metal container in a couple of spots or have the nursery do it before you take the tree home.
- You can gently tear away a cardboard container from the tree’s root ball.
- Tap the sides and bottom of a plastic container against a hard surface to loosen the root ball and help it to come free of its container.
Preparing the hole for the living Christmas tree
- Dig a hole in your desired location that is almost as deep as the root ball is high and at least twice as wide as the root ball.
- If the soil from the hole (backfill soil) is markedly different from that forming the tree’s root ball, you should add a soil amendment to the backfill soil before returning it to the hole. You can use peat moss, enriched sawdust or garden bark to help the garden soil stay moist.
- Form a small plateau in the bottom of the hole.
Planting the balled and burlapped tree
- Place the tree in the hole on the prepared plateau.
- If needed to keep the tree from tipping over, drive a stake into the bottom of the hole near the root ball.
- Backfill the hole tamping the soil gently as you place it in.
- The root ball should project above the hole at least 2”.
- Mound the dirt above the surrounding ground slightly.
- Form a moat around the base of the tree to accept water.
- Water the tree well.
When choosing the location for your living Christmas tree, take into consideration its full grown size and shape.
Keep the surrounding soil moist but not soggy wet for a year or two.
Monitor the tree for pests, fungus growths and insect infestations and treat them promptly.
Do not fertilize the freshly planted tree. Wait for the roots to become firmly established before feeding the tree with fertilizers.
Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995
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