Although live Christmas trees are more expensive than cut trees, the investment provides many years of pleasure rather than only a few weeks.

Christmas trees are available in two needle lengths. Spruce, Fir and Douglas Fir trees generally have shorter needles and are more compact. Pine trees have longer needles and less uniform shape.

Select a tree with a root ball sufficient in size to sustain the tree. The general rule is eight inches of root ball width per inch of trunk diameter. For example, if he tee trunk is three inches wide the root ball should be approximately 24 inches wide. Make sure the root ball is properly secured with burlap and twine or wire mesh. Also look for a reasonably straight trunk and a symmetrical shape to the branches.

When bringing a live tree home, it is important to place it in a heat reduced area like a porch or garage for one to three days before moving it inside. A quick and drastic change in temperature could harm the plant.

While the tree is still in the garage or porch trim it to look like a typical Christmas tree. Remove large, ungainly limbs to create a symmetrical cone shape.

When trimming the tree at this time, select the most centrally located and upright top branch from which to hang a star or angel. Remove half the length of the other top branches to give a cleaner appearance and to maintain a strong single trunk as the tree grows.

Once the tree is moved inside, pick a location with strong indirect sunlight but away from open heat registers which can cause the plant to dry out quickly. The tree should be left inside for only three to seven days.

When you first receive the tree, place it in a tub or basin. Tear up old newspapers and soak them in water. Ring out the excessive water and pack the wetted newspaper loosely around the root ball of the tree. This will keep the tree’s roots damp. Do not place the tree directly in water which could drown the plant, cause the root ball to deteriorate, or become so heavy it will be difficult to move outdoors.

Once the holidays are over, remove all decorations and tinsel and move the plant to the reduced heat area for another one to three days.

While the tree is in this area, finish pruning it to help set its shape for future growth. First remove any crossed or excessivve branches. Then even up he outline. Removing these branch tips gives the tree a nice bushy shape as it grows older.

Dig the hole for the tree in early December before the ground freezes which usually occurs during the holidays. Prepare the soil by breaking up large clods and adding fertilizer, peat or humus. Then put the soil back in the hole and cover with a generous six inch layer of straw for insulation. At planting time, remove the straw, open the hole and plant in the normal way, staking the tree if necessary.

Once the tree is planted, water it thoroughly even if it is freezing outside. Ice acts as an insulator. Continue to water weekly or until the soil is frozen.

By selecting a well formed, live Christmas tree, trimming it for the holidays, and pruning it correctly before planting, you will create a beautifully shaped plant which you can enjoy for many years to come.

Article by Fred Hower, “The Ohio Nurseryman.”
© The Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association. If you wish to reproduce articles in quantities of 10 or more, use an article in a class or training session, or reprint an article in a publication (print or web), you must obtain explicit permission from the ONLA.

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