Have a Green Christmas: Live Christmas Trees

Have a green Christmas celebration with a live Christmas tree that you can replant after the holidays.


| December 1991/January 1992



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Living Christmas trees are not only beautiful while decorating your house, but you can replant your tree for year-round enjoyment. 


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS EDITORS

It always seems like such a shame to throw out the lovely tree that meant so much to you during the holidays. But sometime after the Super Bowl and before Valentine's Day, your once spruced-up spruce inevitably must hit the curb before the last dried-up needle hits the floor. To celebrate a green Christmas, you can start by purchasing a live Christmas tree that you can replant after the holiday season. 

Live Christmas trees — ones with their roots intact in a burlap-wrapped ball of earth — not only remain beautiful throughout the season, unlike cut trees which tend to dry out rapidly, but can be replanted once they've decked your halls instead of becoming tree waste. By replanting Christmas trees, you not only have a permanent, living reminder of Christmas past, you also get the benefit of improving the value of your property, establishing a new windbreak, providing some welcome summer shade and eliminating tree waste.

Transplanting success starts at the tree lot or nursery. Most tree experts agree that fir, spruce and pine are all good candidates for post-holiday planting. Actually, almost any variety of tree — as long as its roots are wrapped in burlap — will adapt well to transplantation, except hemlocks. When choosing the actual tree, look for a healthy specimen with long, full branches and a large earth ball that's not frozen. While live Christmas trees can be more expensive than cut trees, remember that you're getting something that will last a lifetime instead of just a few weeks. 

Once you get your Christmas conifer home, you'll need to "break-in" your tree by leaving it in a cool, slightly damp area — such as a garage or basement — for three or four days to lessen the shock of the transition from outdoors to in. During this interim, keep the root ball covered with straw, peat moss or an old blanket.

When you're ready to carry the tree indoors, stand it in a large tub and pack sawdust, peat moss or even shredded newspapers around the trunk to help hold it upright. An old cloth draped over the earth ball will help the roots retain moisture. To hide the tub and its contents, simply drape a decorative tree skirt over and around it. Most horticulturists advise that you keep your living decoration in the house for only a week to 10 days — certainly no more than two weeks. Try to place it near a window and away from warm, dry air escaping from heating vents, fireplaces and woodstoves.

Most of the plant's roots will be close to the top of the earth ball, so be sure to keep that area moist at all times: An average-size tree will require about one quart of water daily while it's indoors. Decorate your living Christmas tree the same as you would a cut tree, but go easy on the electric lights — heat from even the tiniest bulbs will tend to dry out a conifer's needles.

keith karolyi
11/24/2010 7:55:42 PM

You can eliminate the heat problem from Christmas tree lights by using strings of LED lights. They emit practically no heat and use a tiny fraction of the energy even the smallest filament styles use. That way you can have the best of both worlds: lights for the holiday and the tiniest of energy footprints!






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