How to plant a living Christmas tree that’ll last for many holidays

Choose your tree carefully — some of these beauties grow awfully big.

PLANTING A LIVING Christmas tree in the garden is a great way to commemorate a special holiday. If you want your tree to be long-lived, however, you’ve got to take steps to keep it from breaking dormancy in your home.

The first step is to gradually acclimate the tree to increased warmth by keeping it in an unheated garage for a couple of days before bringing it into the house. When you move it inside, place the tree in a watertight container, and surround the rootball with sawdust or mulch to hold moisture and to help keep the tree upright. Water enough to keep the rootball moist at all times, but don’t let it sit in water.

Locate your living Christmas tree in a bright spot, but away from heat sources such as a heater vent or TV, and decorate with non-heat-producing LED lights.

Set the thermostat below 70 degrees, and keep the tree inside for no longer than seven to 10 days.

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When you take the tree out of the house, if temperatures are mild, plant it in its permanent location as soon as possible. If the ground is frozen, keep the tree in an unheated garage, and wait to plant it until temperatures moderate. If, while in the house, your tree breaks dormancy and begins to grow, you’ve got yourself a big houseplant. It can’t be safely planted outside until conditions warm up in the spring.

Choose your tree carefully. Trees sold as living Christmas trees are specially grown for that purpose. Unlike trees routinely sold as landscape trees, living Christmas trees are sheared to promote thick growth and to give them the traditional Christmas-tree shape. The other difference is that trees sold as living Christmas trees are field-grown and dug only days before they are brought to the nursery or tree lots, while landscape trees are generally container-grown.

During the years I directed grounds care at Seattle University, we planted a number of trees that had been displayed as living Christmas trees. I found that spruces and pines were the easiest to transplant and usually could make the transition from Christmas tree to landscape specimen with few problems.

Some of the true firs, on the other hand, were less likely to survive when planted into the garden after the holidays. If you want to use a noble, grand or white fir for your living Christmas tree, choose one grown for use as a…

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