Here are some tips on growing living Christmas trees from Clemson University
Living Christmas Trees
Balled-and-burlapped or container-grown Christmas trees can be planted out as landscape trees after Christmas. This way of enjoying a Christmas tree is practical in South Carolina, where the mild late-December or early-January weather is ideal for tree planting. With care and planning, your Christmas tree will serve as a living memory for many years.
There are a number of different things to consider when planning to use a living Christmas tree indoors.
Living trees can stay in the house for only a brief period, no more than 7 to 10 days. Longer periods in a home can lead to death of the tree.
Make sure that the tree will fit into your landscape. Most trees used as Christmas trees will eventually reach heights of 40 to 60 feet.
Select a species that is well-suited to growing in your area. The tree will be inside for a very short time compared to the time that you will have it in your landscape.
Living trees are very heavy. They will be even heavier, since it is necessary to keep the roots constantly moist. Be sure that you can manage to move this much weight around without damaging either the tree or yourself. Container-grown trees are usually lighter and easier to handle.
SELECTING A HEALTHY TREE
Living Christmas trees can be purchased at many nurseries and garden centers and at some retail lots and choose-and-cut farms. Choose your tree early before for the best selection. You can store the tree in your yard until ready to bring inside, if you keep it moist, with the root ball covered with mulch.
Look for trees with healthy, well-colored needles. Avoid those that show brown tips, are yellowing or shedding. Container-grown trees should not be rootbound. Check to see that the root ball of a balled-and-burlapped tree is firm. Trees with loose or pancaked root balls are unlikely to survive. After purchase, be especially careful to avoid injury to the tree’s root system. Do not carry the tree by its trunk or drop the tree on its root ball.
CARE OF THE TREE IN THE HOME
The high temperatures and low humidity levels in houses are stressful to trees. Follow these tips to give your tree the best care and help ensure success.
Before moving the tree inside the house, help it adjust by moving it to an unheated but sheltered area such as a garage or porch for a couple of days.
Keep the tree in the house for no more than 7 to 10 days.
Locate the tree indoors in as cool a location as possible. Keep it away from heating vents, fireplaces and other heat sources. Use limited numbers of miniature tree lights.
Provide as much natural light as possible.
Place the root ball or container in a water holding tub. Fill the bottom two inches of the tub with gravel and place the ball or container on the gravel. This will keep the tree from sitting in water.
Keep the root ball constantly and evenly moist, but not flooded. A handy technique for watering trees while indoors is to place crushed ice over the top of the root ball.
A piece of pipe inserted vertically at the side of the tub provides an easy way to check water level in the tub. If there is water at the bottom of the pipe, you do not need to water the tree. You can check the water level by inserting a "dip stick" into the pipe.
PLANTING AND CARE
After the holidays, readjust the tree to outdoor temperatures by placing it back on the sheltered porch or in the garage for several days. It is important to plant your tree as soon as possible after the holidays. Do not wait until spring.
Select a planting site that has will-drained soil, full sun and that is appropriate for the mature tree’s size.
Plant your tree in a hole that is the same depth but at least twice and preferably five times wider than the root ball. Be sure not to plant the tree too deeply.
Remove synthetic burlap completely since it can cause root girdling. Remove natural burlap from the top of the root ball, to avoid drying out the root ball. Remove containers from container-grown trees and cut and loosen any encircling roots.
Remove at least the top portion of wire tree baskets after the root ball is in the planting hole. Fill the hole around the freshly set tree with the loosened, unamended soil from the planting hole. Backfill around the root ball in stages, gently firming in each layer of soil. Water well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Apply 2 or 3 inches of mulch on top of the root ball. It is not necessary to fertilize until spring.