UC Master Gardeners

Go green with a living Christmas tree

UC Master GardenerNovember 21, 2012 

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Fir tree

CRISTIAN BAITG — Getty Images/iStockphoto

There’s nothing like the aroma of a fresh Christmas tree to put us in the holiday spirit! Living Christmas trees are eco-friendly and can do double-duty: Bring your living tree indoors and decorate, and after the holidays it can be planted outside as part of your landscape. You won’t face Christmas tree disposal problems, and a living tree adds up to an eco-smart alternative to cut trees.

If a living Christmas tree makes it onto your holiday wish list, begin by selecting a sunny location where the tree will eventually be planted. Give this some thought, as evergreen trees can grow to be quite large. Some varieties may eventually top 60 feet! If you don’t have a suitable location, think about donating the tree to your local parks department, a nonprofit organization or a friend with a larger landscape.

When you visit your local garden or home center to select your living Christmas tree, look for a healthy, potted, landscape grade specimen in a 5, 7 or 15-gallon nursery container. Some of the more popular varieties sold locally include Douglas fir, Colorado spruce and deodar cedar. Norfolk Island pine is a good indoor living Christmas tree; however, it is unsuitable as an outdoor tree in much of San Luis Obispo County. When you bring home your tree, hose it off to remove any dust or small insects, water it well, and place it on a porch or in the garage for a few days.

Don’t keep your living Christmas tree indoors for more than 7 to 10 days, and don’t allow the soil to dry out.

Potted trees can’t handle lots of heavy lights or ornaments, so perhaps it’s time to invest in a few small LED light strings, too.

After the holidays and before planting your living Christmas tree outside, reacclimate it to the outdoors by putting it back in the garage or on a covered porch for a few days.

Enjoy the holidays and your living Christmas tree!

GOT A GARDENING QUESTION?

Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners at 781-5939 on Mondays and Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m. in San Luis Obispo; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon in Arroyo Grande; or at 434-4105 on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners Web site at http://ucanr.edu/sites/mgslo/ or email mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu.

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