clock menu more-arrow no yes

How to Plant a Live Christmas Tree

Here’s how to prepare, select, and plan to plant a Christmas tree in your backyard to keep it alive after the holiday season.

Live Christmas Tree Robin Stubbert/GAP Interiors

A faux Christmas tree that you can pack away after each holiday season is a huge convenience. But, there are a handful of benefits that come with choosing a live Christmas tree. Then, after the holiday season ends, you can plant your Christmas tree in your backyard.

Can You Plant a Christmas Tree After Using It?

Yes, you can plant your Christmas tree in your backyard if the root ball is intact. To keep your live Christmas tree after the holiday season ends, it’s best to start preparing to plant it around Thanksgiving so that you can dig a hole for it before it gets colder. However, as long as the ground is not frozen, you should be able to dig the hole after the holiday season.

How to Plant a Christmas Tree

1. Prep the Ground

  • Dig a hole roughly 2 feet in diameter and 18 inches deep, in preparation for the tree that will eventually be planted there.
  • Place the removed soil in plastic buckets and haul it into the garage, where it won't freeze.
  • As a planting rule of thumb, the hole should be dug about the depth of the root ball and 1.5 to 2 times the diameter. If you know the size of your tree, don't be afraid to dig a bigger hole.

2. Insulating, Protecting the Christmas Tree Planting Hole

  • After you’ve finished digging, insulate the hole to keep its walls from freezing by stuffing it with a plastic bag full of fallen leaves.
  • The last step is a safety precaution: covering the hole with a sturdy board to prevent the possibility of someone tripping or tumbling in.

3. Tree Shopping at the Nursery

  • Just before Christmas, choose your Christmas tree. Examine the trees for freshness; they should have a healthy green appearance and the needles should be flexible and not come off in the hand as you gently stroke a branch. In addition, the root ball should be well-watered.
  • If your tree has a burlap-wrapped root ball, this indicates it was grown in the ground and dug up for transport, as opposed to being a container-grown variety. Either works fine as a Christmas tree.

4. Caring for a Living Christmas Tree

  • Setting up a living Christmas tree is as simple as carrying it indoors and keeping it watered daily. To help the tree retain moisture, before bringing it into the house, spray the needles with an organic solution of pine oil suspended in water.
  • The anti-transpirant treatment partially blocks the microscopic pores, called stomata, through which the tree "exhales."
  • Both container-grown and balled-and-burlapped varieties need to be placed in watertight vessels or on large saucers in a cool location away from heat sources such as wood stoves, fireplaces, and heating vents. A decorative basket or fabric wrap completes the setup.

5. Transitioning the Tree to Cold Weather

  • A week after Christmas, move the tree to the garage before transferring it to the planting hole. Keeping it here for a day or two helps the fir acclimate to the cold.
  • Cut away the wire basket around the root ball, loosen the burlap, and position the tree in the hole.
  • You want the point where the root ball meets the trunk to be slightly higher than the natural grade because there will be some settling.

6. Safeguarding the Tree Against Freeze

  • Next, shovel in the saved backfill. Tamp it in well with the end of your shovel; if air gets in during winter, it will freeze-dry the roots.
  • Be sure to water well—really soak it down—and then mulch with the ground bark. The mulch helps avoid wide fluctuations in soil temperature and conserves moisture.
  • As with a shrub or tree planted in the spring, it should be watered regularly thereafter.