Pros And Cons of Living Christmas Trees
by Elaine Christen
Every December we get lots of calls at Huckleberry Nursery asking about living Christmas trees. People love the idea of a live tree but are not sure how to go about obtaining, then caring for one. First, let’s discuss the merits of a live tree.
The most obvious advantage is, live trees don’t turn into a giant, elaborately decorated bundles of tinder. They smell wonderful, and come with the warm feeling of the nurturing of life and the promise of spring renewal. Once planted, they grow through the years and remind us of Christmases past. These are all compelling reasons to go live, but success can be elusive.
Any plant that normally grows outside needs special treatment to survive indoors in a warm, very dry environment. An evergreen tree, taken from its naturally cool, damp habitat, quickly goes from its dormant state to an active state, which means it is transpiring (this is plant-talk for breathing). In this situation, the tree is practically panting. Despite one’s best intentions, the aforementioned bundle of tinder might result.
Other disadvantages of live yule trees are: they are seldom perfectly shaped, full trees. They are usually on the small side, or if large, they are really heavy thanks to the balled and burlaped roots. This is not to discourage the use of live trees, but just the facts needed for an informed decision.
Here are a few steps that will improve the survival rate of your live tree:
- Choose the right species. Spruce tend to do the best, while firs are a little more finicky.
- Acclimate the tree in a cool indoor place (like a garage that stays above freezing) for a week or two before bringing indoors.
- Spray the tree with an anti-transpirant such as Wilt-pruf.
- Position the tree away from heat sources like heater vents, fireplaces, or groups of electronics.
- Keep the thermostat set below 68 degrees.
- Use cool lights. LEDs are perfect for live trees.
- Plan on keeping the tree indoors no longer than ten days.
- Water the tree with ice cubes, for constant, cooling moisture.
- Re-acclimate the tree for two weeks.
- Permanently plant or temporarily heel-in the tree to a spot that was dug before the ground froze, using soil reserved in a non-freezing spot, or in the case of heeling in, bark or straw. Stake if necessary, water well and pray.
While it takes planning to be successful with a live Christmas tree, it is rewarding, and worth a try. If you decide to go with a cut tree, that is perfectly OK too. Those trees are grown to be harvested and support an industry and a lot of families. Either way, enjoy the one of the most treasured symbols of the season.
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Huckleberry Nursery wishes you, and yours, the happiest of holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year.