About Live Christmas Trees

Some things you need to know about which live tree to buy, how to light your live Christmas tree, how to recycle your live tree, or how to keep a live Christmas tree for planting.

What is the best live Christmas tree?

My honest opinion is that the best live Christmas tree is one that is planted firmly in your yard already. If it’s a tree that’s already established and well-watered, it stands a much better chance at survival than one brought indoors and subjected to heat and dry air. I say this because I have killed more than one live tree over the years, and I also killed a nice holly bush outdoors with too many hot lights. Now, having said that, if you persist in your desire to purchase a live Christmas tree and keep it for replanting, here are some things you should consider:

Keep your live Christmas tree alive until planting.

Put the live Christmas tree in a shaded spot out of the wind. You might consider buying an anti-dessicant (available at home supply or garden stores) to protect the needles and branches from drying out. Water the root ball well, and cover it with something heavy, like an old blanket or burlap, to further protect the tree from drying out. Drying is the biggest danger your live tree faces. When you bring it indoors, decorate it with cool lights (LED work well) and plan to only use the tree for a few days–preferably less than a week. Keep it in a large waterproof tub and keep the root ball wet. DO NOT place your tree near a heat vent or other source of warmth.

When you move your live Christmas tree back outdoors–and if the ground is frozen so that you cannot plant it right away–reverse the procedure and keep the tree in a protected area for a few days. As soon as the ground is workable, plant the tree so that the soil is even with the top of the root ball and water well. It may also be necessary to water the tree periodically throughout the winter if there isn’t enough precipitation. If the tree is planted in a windy spot, consider providing stakes as an anchor for the live Christmas tree until it takes root.

Live Christmas Tree with LED Lighting
Live Christmas Tree with LED Lighting



Lights on a live Christmas tree.

First, stay away from those large old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs–you know, the ones that get really hot. Heat is the enemy of your tree. The tiny mini-lights are probably OK, especially for a few hours a day.  But the new LED lights are not only very economical, they practically give off no heat at all.  For that reason, I give them a hearty green thumb up. (Now, for Heaven’s sake, keep your electrical cords away from the wet root ball and away from children and pets!)



recycle your live Christmas tree
recycle your live Christmas tree

Recycle your live Christmas tree.

Whether you bought a live Christmas tree with a root ball, or just a live tree that was chopped off, it’s still useful. We’ve talked about replanting the live Christmas tree that came with its roots tucked in the root ball. Now let’s look at ways of recycling that chopped off live Christmas tree:

  • Cut the branches and lay them in window boxes or planters outdoors. The branches will provide color and interest for weeks.
  • Use branches to protect your dormant plants, or to cover those spots where you planted spring bulbs. It’s important to protect the soil from that constant freeze/thaw cycle if possible.
  • Tie some branches around a bird feeder. Birds love natural foliage, which all too often is missing entirely in the winter.
  • Do you have a trellis that’s looking really bare this winter? Weave some of the branches in and out of the trellis for a splash of natural green that lasts for weeks. Don’t be surprised if you see redbirds playing among the needles.

© Wade Kingston

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