Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Care for Living Holiday Trees

Posted by: Jim Klett, Extension specialist, CSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Containerized blue spruce are ready for holiday decorations

It's December, and everyone is starting to think about the Holidays rapidly approaching.  You thought, "This is the year that I want to purchase a living tree to eventually plant in the landscape."  Many nurseries offer various species of trees for sale including pinyon, ponderosa, limber, Austrian, bristlecone and Scotch pines.  Other varieties include blue spruce, dwarf Alberta spruce, white fir and Douglas-fir.  Most of these potted trees are available from two to six feet tall.  However before making your decision on variety desired, decide where the tree will be planted after the Holidays.  Make sure you consider the mature height of the tree and weight of the potted tree.  The two most important factors for successful growing of a live potted tree are not to allow the rootball to dry out and avoid keeping the tree indoors too long.  Seven days indoors is a maximum time recommended, but five days is better.  It is also helpful to pre-dig the planting hole, as the ground can be frozen in late December and early January.  Store the soil backfill in the garage or outdoors in a plastic bag that it is less likely to freeze. 

One can also keep the tree in an unheated garage for a few days before bringing it indoors but frequently check the rootball to ensure it stays moist but not soggy.  After the Holidays, the tree can again be placed in the unheated garage for a few days before planting outdoors.  While the tree is indoors decorate the tree with small lights, which generate less heat and place away from sources of heat like fireplaces and heat vents. 

Following these ideas will help you be successful in planting your holiday tree in your landscape to enjoy and possibly decorate outdoors in future years.