The holidays are all about celebrating family, friends, and traditions. So what better way to elevate those celebrations than to replant a live Christmas tree? “If someone wants the experience of having a live Christmas tree, it takes a lot of pre-planning in different climates,” says Therese Olson, co-owner of Lowest Creek Tree Farm in Eleva, Wis.
Therese and her husband, Tim, have owned and operated the tree farm, which incorporates the business of growing and selling Christmas trees, for nearly 40 years. She says they have been getting more and more requests in the past few years for live trees for Christmas.
Can You Replant a Christmas Tree?
Yes, you can replant a Christmas tree. The type of Christmas tree will play a role in whether you can replant it, however. Unfortunately, you can’t replant a cut Christmas tree because it doesn’t have the roots intact. However, you can certainly replant one that still has its root system.
If you have a cut tree, don’t worry. There are many Christmas tree recycling options. Check out 6 Ways to Dispose of That Old Christmas Tree for ideas.
Two Ways to Plant Live Christmas Trees
Not every homeowner gets excited about plastic Christmas trees. To get into the spirit of Christmas, some homeowners prefer a real Christmas tree in their home. However, they don’t want to allow it to go to waste after purchasing it. So here is what a few may do with the Christmas tree once they’ve used it for Christmas.
- One way is to plant a living evergreen tree in their yards and eventually — years later — cut it down as a Christmas tree.
- The other is to put your living Christmas tree in their home and decorate for the height of the holiday season. Then, you can plant the tree afterward, depending on the climate and the optimum time to transplant it.
Remember, you can’t plant a freshly cut tree with no roots. So, purchase or rent a tree that has a root ball so that you will be able to replant it after the holidays.
Three Live Tree Options: Transplant, Potted, or B&B Tree
Many tree farms or local nurseries offer a few different types of live Christmas trees for sale:
Transplants: The Charlie Brown-Style Tree
Transplants usually measure 18-24 inches high and cost about $3.50 to $6. They are available in spring and fall. However, they take 12-14 years to mature to a typical Christmas tree height. “Make sure to consider the sunshine available to the tree, and don’t transplant a tree in a place [where] it won’t grow to a mature size,” she says. Most firs and pine trees need a lot of sunlight.
Potted Trees: Larger but not too Heavy
Evergreens are 3-4 feet high in a pot. These all need to be replanted before the ground freezes. These small trees can cost $15-$40, depending on the variety and size, Olson says.
Some people have a tradition of placing a live Christmas tree in their homes for a short period. Olson also says that should only be five to seven days at the maximum. The trees should then be placed in an unheated garage or other draft-free outer building in the cold zones so they remain dormant until spring. Those living in warmer climates can plant the tree after Christmas.
Ball and Burlap (B&B) Trees: Large and Heavy
Ball and burlap (B&B) trees are a third option and include the root ball along with the tree. These start around $100 range from about 5 to 6 ½ feet. Any larger and they’d be too difficult to maneuver.
Challenges of Using a Live Christmas Tree
The North Carolina State Extension notes that large living Christmas trees may not survive for several reasons:
- Transplant shock: Larger live trees suffer a more considerable degree of transplant shock than smaller ones.
- Drying out: While in the home, they could dry out between watering. Even one occurrence of drying out during the holidays can stop a tree from surviving once you replant it outside.
- Too warm for too long: People keep trees in their houses for too long (more than a week), and the tree loses its cold-weather strength.
Keep Trees Cool When Indoors
Find a cool spot for your tree. “Only leave [it] in your home preferably near a cold location, not in front of a heat register. Then you should also insulate the pot to withstand cold temperatures, or the root ball will freeze,” she adds. “Then, the tree is dead.”
You can also take the live potted tree and put it on your deck or porch, insulate it with rocks, put lights on it until spring, and plant it in the yard. You can also protect it by placing the tree in a larger pot with straw and Styrofoam or burlap around the ball.
Selection of Live Trees
Olson explains that the fir, balsam, and Fraser are the most popular in the Midwest. “The Fraser fir from North Carolina is the Cadillac of Christmas trees and holds its needles,” she adds.
Choose Balsam for its Scent
“People love the balsam because of its strong pine scent. It’s the traditional Christmas tree and is planted all over,” she adds.
Don’t Replant a Fraser
The North Carolina Extension says that although the Fraser is very popular as a cut tree, it is not recommended as a living tree to be replanted. It is native to rich soils at elevations of 4,500 feet or higher.
Opt For a Small Container Tree
In addition, smaller containerized ornamental conifers can be purchased at many garden centers. They come in various varieties, including dwarf Alberta spruce, Norfolk Island pine, Italian stone pine, and Lawson cedar.
Don’t Forget To Read Tree Tags
Read the tag on the tree with the plant to check if it can be grown in your hardiness zone. Also, if they are greenhouse trees, they might not have any winter hardiness to survive once planted in the ground. Just ask the experts at your local Extension service or nursery.
How to Plant a Live Christmas Tree
So how do you plant a live Christmas tree? Here are a few steps to ensure that your tree successfully gets back into the ground.
Step 1: Till The Area
Till an area about four to five times the size of the root ball at a 6-inch depth. The planting hole should be smaller or slightly shallower than the container size or root ball. It’s OK to keep the natural burlap on the ball but remove treated burlap and nylon plastic.
Step 2: Break Up the Roots
If the tree is rootbound, break it up or divide twisted roots on the outside of the root system. The soil should be level with the top of the roots.
Step 3: Add Mulch
Add about 3 inches of mulch, such as wood chips or straw, over the planting area to protect it and keep it moist. But don’t put too much mulch around the tree, which may cause crown rot. Also, keep mulch several inches away from the trunk. If placed properly, mulch helps protect the roots, allowing them to continue to grow, and helps prevent rapid fluctuations in soil temps.
Step 4: Use Stakes if Necessary
If it’s windy in that area, use stakes and ties to keep it straight.
Step 5: Enjoy Your New Tree
“There’s nothing to compare to a natural, fresh Christmas tree,” Olson says. “It’s an experience for the whole family. It doesn’t matter what size or what variety. It’s just the tradition of many families.”
Wait about a week or two before replanting a Christmas tree back in your yard. But don’t take the Christmas tree directly from the interior of your home and plant it outside. This is because your live tree may be exposed to many heat sources, such as fireplaces and radiators, which will make the tree too warm to put back into the cold ground.
Instead, place it in a cool place such as the garage, basement, or shed so that it can acclimate to the cold for up to one week. Then proceed with planting it in the ground. Depending on the type of tree, it can get pretty big. So make sure you plant it in an area that allows it to grow.
Yes. There are many companies that rent live Christmas trees. These are potted trees (firs, cedars, spruce, pine, and redwood, for example) you can use for the holiday. Many companies will even deliver and pick up the tree, saving you the hassle of making the trips yourself.
Even after renting these trees out several times, you won’t have to fear that they will end up in landfills. Many eco-friendly Christmas tree companies rent trees out for several years until they become too big to use as Christmas trees. Then, they plant them in nearby forests.
Unfortunately, you can’t. While it does seem like the most economical approach to keeping your tree, it is not a good idea to replant it more than once. Once you purchase your tree and replant it, you should leave it in the ground to allow it to grow.
Would You Like a Professional to Replant Your Tree?
DIY Christmas tree replanting isn’t as simple as digging a hole somewhere on your property and planting it. Many tools and steps are necessary when planting trees, and when it is not done correctly, this could damage the tree or even cause injuries to you, your loved ones, or guests.
If you don’t have the time to replant your Christmas tree or prefer a professional to do it, contact a local tree care specialist to get the job done right.