Living Potted Christmas Trees

Is it practical to use trees growing in pots as Christmas trees so they can be planted later outside in the landscape?

Yes, living trees and other plants can be decorated with Christmas ornaments and later be planted outside. This can become a family tradition where parents and children point to trees growing in the landscape and say, “that was our Christmas tree in 20XX.” This is especially effective if the whole family is involved in the process of selecting, decorating and planting the tree.

When you are selecting a living tree for decoration, broaden your thinking to include plants that might not normally be considered to be “Christmas trees”. For example, I used a large Benjamin fig tree as a Christmas tree when there was no available space for a Christmas tree and the Ben fig was already there and taking up space.

Many of the trees normally used as Christmas trees are forest giants which grow to 50 feet or more. If you select one of these, make sure you have a space big enough to accommodate it

Three of the best selections for traditional looking tall Christmas trees are Blue Spruce and Noble or Frazier Fir. Smaller size trees that would be better adapted to most landscapes include Juniper, Arborvitae, Vanderwolf Pine, Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Hinoki Cypress and Mountain Hemlock. The last 3 are my favorites.

For good success with living potted trees it is important to observe the following procedures:

  1. Keep the tree inside for no more than 14 days. 7 to 10 days is best.
  2. Water the tree to keep the soil moist while inside.
  3. Use only miniature lights for decoration which give off less heat.
  4. Water the tree and plant it outside as soon as possible

If the tree breaks dormancy and begins to grow it will probably not survive. However, if it does start to grow, you can keep it inside all winter if you have a large south facing window.

You can often find Camellias already starting to bloom in full service nurseries this time of year. Camellias with their dark green, glossy foliage make good indoor Christmas decorations, with or without ornaments.

A tropical tree called a Star Pine is often available at this time of year in Big Box stores. It is a good house plant and looks nice decorated as a Christmas tree. Many other indoor plants can also be decorated for Christmas.


Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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