The Q&A Archives: Planting a Christmas Tree

Question: How do I plant a live Christmas tree after Christmas?

Answer: Ideally you should have dug and prepared the hole for the tree before the ground froze. If your ground is still not frozen, follow the steps below for digging the planting hole.

When you have this tree inside, be sure that you keep the root ball moist so the tree doesn't dry out. Then, as soon as possible after Christmas, slowly acclimate the tree to the move to the great outdoors. Place your tree out into the garage, or some other cool, protected environment for a few days. Then put it in a very sheltered spot in the garden, where the soil is well drained, and where it will not be exposed to either wind or harsh sun. Protect it from heavy snow with burlap or a lath cage. Then cover the root ball with leaves or some other form of mulch to protect it from the elements.

Leave it there until you can dig freely in the soil. Conifers prefer well drained, acidic soil. Dig the planting hole the same depth as the root ball, but wider--2 to 3 feet wide if the soil is good, bigger if the soil isn't great. The tree should be planted only as deep as it was in the nursery. Start by filling the planting hole with water and let it seep into the ground before putting the rootball in the hole. Cut any cord or wire off the burlap around the roots. After placing the rootball in the hole, make a few big slashes in the burlap to allow the roots to emerge. Fill in the hole with about half of the soil and water again. When the water has drained, put the rest of the soil in and pack it well. Water the tree as needed to keep the soil from drying out, but take care not to overwater. After planting, keep the tree top-dressed with plentiful leaf mulch.

You may have heard that trees should be pruned at planting time, but that's not the case with your Christmas tree--pruning can stunt the growth of the newly planted tree. After a few years of constant growth, you can deal with pruning--but that's a whole new story!

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