Live holiday trees

Q. We are thinking about getting a live, not cut, holiday tree this year. 
What do you recommend?

A. It’s not too early to think about the holidays if you are considering a living balled- and-burlapped or container holiday tree this season. Successful transition of the tree from indoors to the home landscape requires advance preparation.

It’s best to dig the tree’s planting hole in November, before the ground freezes. Choose a well-drained location in full sun for the tree’s eventual home. Keep the tree’s mature size in mind when determining placement. Once the hole is dug, if freezing temperatures are predicted, move the soil into a garage or other warm location to prevent it from freezing over. The planting hole can be covered with a tarp over the holidays.

When planning your holiday events, be aware that a living balled tree should not remain indoors longer than seven to 10 days at most. It should be placed in a cool room, away from drafts and warm air vents.

When selecting your tree, take its size and weight into consideration. The weight of the root ball may make the tree difficult to maneuver. For example, a 5-foot balled tree can weigh up to 200 pounds. You may need to use a furniture dolly to successfully move a living, balled tree in and out of the house.

To reduce planting shock, allow the tree to spend a few days in a transitional place such as a garage before moving it permanently outdoors.

Once the tree has been planted, be sure to water it in well. This is particularly important as evergreens are prone to drying out over winter. Fertilization is not necessary. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch will be beneficial as mulch moderates soil temperatures and helps retain moisture. 

Please be aware that it is a bit risky this far north to utilize living evergreen trees indoors and that the seller probably will not provide a guarantee. However, good planning increases the chances that your living tree will survive after planting.

For suitable winter-hardy varieties, please contact Plant Information Service at 847-835-0972.