Thursday, December 1, 2011

How about a live Christmas tree you can plant later?

By David Burton
University Extension

Planting a live Christmas tree outdoors can offer appeal and added value to the home landscape according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

However, before planting a living Christmas tree, some preparations and precautions should be taken to increase chances of tree survival.

“Be sure you have a suitable site for planting the tree. Heavy clay soils are not ideal for planting most evergreen trees because they will not tolerate wet feet,” said Byers.

As a result, some special soil preparation may be needed. The only practical solution is to create a berm or mound of topsoil to assure good drainage.

“It is also important to have enough space for the tree to grow. Pines or spruces should be planted no closer than 25 feet from other trees, unless they are planted in a row as a windbreak,” said Byers.

Byers also notes that full sun will help a good tree shape as it matures. Good air circulation will help reduce the incidence of needle diseases and blights.

The most popular Christmas tree species available locally are the Eastern white pine, Norway spruce, Colorado blue spruce and Alberta spruce.

According to Byers, there are also a few special precautions that should be followed to maximize the chances that the living Christmas tree will survive after planting.

For starters, don’t keep the tree in the house any longer than one week. Warm, low humidity environment in the house causes excessive moisture loss from the foliage and the soil ball.

“You may want to dig the hole prior to bringing the tree into the house. The hole should be about 2-3 times the diameter of the soil ball, but no deeper,” said Byers.
He also recommends covering the excavated soil with a tarp to keep the soil from being too wet when planting the tree after Christmas.

“After Christmas, plant the tree immediately if the weather permits. If not, be certain to place the tree in an unheated garage and do not allow the tree root ball to dry out,” said Byers.

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