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How to care for your living Christmas tree

A living Christmas tree can be enjoyed for many years.
A living Christmas tree can be enjoyed for many years.

Q: I’d like to have a living tree for the holidays. How do I care for it?

R. Rudolph, San Simeon

A: Although the Christmas tree — a symbol of holiday cheer — has been a common sight in American homes for less than a century, the tradition of decorating the home with “greenery” has been around for thousands of years.

Used as a reminder that abundance will resume in the spring or simply as a decorative touch that brings solace during the cold, color-wanting months of winter, many cultures throughout the world continue this joyful custom. Modern times bring novel variations, and a living Christmas tree is one such choice for the eco-conscious who want to enjoy their tree for years to come.

When purchasing a living tree, choose appropriately. Norway spruce, Colorado spruce, Douglas fir and noble fir are generally sold in local nurseries. If you are going to plant the tree in your garden, be aware of its future height, width, pruning and irrigation needs.

Many evergreens grow quite large, so care must be taken to find a location that allows roots and branches to grow unfettered by nearby concrete, overhead power lines and underground utilities. A smaller tree, even a pruned bush, such as the oft-seen rosemary plant, are good options for those with a smaller yard. On the other hand, you may prefer to keep your tree in a container and bring it back inside next year.

While the holidays are in full swing, it is best if the tree is kept indoors for a short period of time — seven to 10 days. During its indoor visit, the tree should be kept adequately moist and not be allowed to dry out.

In addition, do not place the tree in a drafty area or near heating vents.

After the holidays, bring your tree outside. In order to avoid undue stress on the tree, put it in a shed or garage during the night for a few days. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and amend the soil as necessary. Water thoroughly and celebrate!

Andrea Peck is a UCCE Master Gardener.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo call 781-5939, Arroyo Grande, 473-7190 and Templeton, 434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 781-5939.

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