There’s a lot to love about Christmas trees. The intoxicating pine smell. The feel of the waxy needles. And the lovely gifts hidden underneath the branches!
These are all essential components of a Christmas holiday season, and we owe them to our favorite holiday crop – the Christmas tree. We love Christmas trees!
And, since Christmas is a celebration of new life, it is beautiful to end the holiday cycle by replanting a new tree. But is that possible? Can you replant a Christmas tree? Technically yes – if you buy a whole, living Christmas tree with its rootball, you can replant it – and we can show you how.
We’ll also give you tips on how to let your Christmas tree survive and thrive – long after the holidays.
Then let’s give your Christmas tree the gift of life!
- So, Can You Replant a Christmas Tree? Or Not?
- How to Replant a Christmas Tree to Keep It Alive In Four Steps
- What If My Christmas Tree Dies?
- Can You Replant a Cut Chrismas Tree?
- Are Fake Christmas Trees Good for the Environment?
So, Can You Replant a Christmas Tree? Or Not?
Yes! If you didn’t chop the Christmas tree down, and if it still has a root ball, yes, you can replant it, likely with success. The key to a good outcome is to take care of it properly while it’s indoors and not leave it in there for too long.
(Christmas trees are famous for drying out and dying indoors – especially if you tuck them next to your fireplace.)
Also, as with any tree, you’ll need to ensure your new transplant has a habitable growing zone and a fresh drink of water upon replanting outdoors.
We’ll talk more about these ideas in a minute.
But first, we should discuss how to keep your tree alive during the holidays.
How to Take Care of the Christmas Tree Indoors
It cannot get overstated that indoor Christmas tree care is the main precondition for your green friend’s future survival.
(If it gets too dry indoors, your Christmas tree will die.)
While the Christmas tree stays inside your home for the Christmas holiday, ensure its rootball stays moist. But not soaking wet or waterlogged! Keeping a moistened Christmas tree rootball is easier if the tree is potted. However, you can also wrap the bare rootball in sphagnum moss and burlap.
Also, take care that the tree gets positioned away from your indoor heat source, as this will increase water loss and other undesirable heat effects.
And don’t keep the tree indoors for more than seven to ten days. As a general rule, the sooner you get it back outside, the better its chances of surviving and growing properly once planted.
Don’t Keep Your Christmas Tree Indoors for Too Long! Here’s Why
So, why are the young conifers so sensitive to being indoors?
There are a few reasons. First – you’re disturbing the tree’s dormancy period. (Conifer trees get increasingly cold-hardy starting in the fall and into the cold winter months. Doing so helps them survive the wintry currents and freezing outdoor temperatures.)
In other words – your Christmas tree was sleeping until you brought it inside. Conifers enter dormancy during the winter and awaken to start growing as soon as the weather gets warm. By bringing the Christmas tree indoors, you’re essentially simulating the coming of spring.
The more this artificially simulated growing season lasts, the harder it will be for the plant to take root successfully – especially in the cold, frozen ground.
And don’t judge by looks, as looks can be deceiving. Your Christmas tree may seem to be doing just fine indoors. And it may look perfectly healthy from the outside. But the prolonged warm conditions are decreasing its cold-hardy fitness and minimizing any chance of proper establishment outdoors.
Even if the stressed tree seems to be establishing just fine, the consequences of the indoor stress can show themselves weeks or months later – the tree will be less resilient to environmental stressors and may have a shorter lifespan.
(You could also consider moving the Christmas tree with its decorations to the front porch, patio, or balcony if you want to keep the Christmas spirit alive for a bit longer.)
How to Replant a Christmas Tree to Keep It Alive In Four Steps
Now, the vital part. Here is a short guide on replanting a Christmas tree in four steps.
- Dig a hole outside for your Christmas tree. (Do this a few weeks or months before buying the tree.)
- Buy a living Christmas tree from a reputable source. Bring the Christmas tree indoors for around one week. Have fun celebrating Christmas with your tree during this time!
- After celebrating Christmas with your indoor tree, bring the Christmas tree outdoors for a few days to one week before planting. (If possible, choose the warmest day for transplanting.)
- After waiting for around one week, transplant the tree to its final growing place – the hole you dug earlier. Give the tree a drink.
We know these steps are a tad confusing. So let’s look at them in closer detail!
1. Dig a Hole Before Buying Your Tree
Don’t skip this step! Replanting a Christmas tree outdoors requires thinking a bit in advance.
Your Christmas tree will need to be planted soon after the holidays. However, the ground may be too frozen by then to dig a decent hole. That is why it would be best to dig in before the first frost.
Planting a tree in a wintry landscape requires some foresight and planning anyway. So doing that several weeks (or even months) before the holiday season won’t hurt.
The best positions for planting a Christmas tree are northern, western, and eastern directions. Never plant your Christmas tree on a southern slope or next to a heat source such as a heated home, a driveway, a parking lot, or a concrete surface.
The size of the planting hole, of course, depends on the size of the tree and its rootball.
The depth should be two or three inches less than the rootball’s height and two to three times wider. If you don’t know how large the rootball should be, a hole two feet in diameter and about 18 inches deep is a safe bet for most holiday saplings.
Lastly, shovel the dug-out soil into a garden cart. We will save it for later! For now, cover the dirt, and store it in the shed, a garage, or another location where it won’t freeze. You’ll need it later.
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2. Bring Your Christmas Tree Indoors and Celebrate Christmas
After you purchase your living Christmas tree and dig a hole outdoors, you can bring the Christmas tree indoors for around one week. Have fun decorating the tree. And celebrate Christmas!
Remember not to position your tree next to a fireplace, furnace, or hot area. And keep the rootball moist. Don’t let it dry!
After around one week, it’s time to bring your tree back outside. We can’t let it stay inside for too long!
3. Bring the Tree Back Outside and Help Acclimate to the Wintry Weather
Don’t plant the tree as soon as you get it outside. Instead, let the tree rest on your front porch or garage for a few days to a week before replanting. (During this time, your Christmas tree should stay tucked within the burlap sack or pot. Don’t transplant it yet!)
The tree must chill out for a few days to re-enter a dormant state and acclimate to the cold weather. An actively growing tree will not do a great job growing roots and adapting to the new environment.
4. Replanting the Tree Outdoors
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for – replanting your Christmas tree.
Before proceeding, a few words about soil quality.
All conifers prefer loamy, well-drained, acidic substrate. Thus, the best course of action is to mix the soil you’ve saved when digging with some ericaceous (acidic) compost or hummus and some gravel, clay pebbles, agroperlite, or another soil addition that promotes drainage.
For planting (finally, I hear you shout), pick a day with mild weather with no frost, if possible.
Unwrap the tree from its burlap, or carefully take it out of the pot by flipping it sideways and gently pulling it out.
Once again, measure the hole depth and the rootball height – you want the base of the trunk to be slightly above the hole line because the soil will settle after the planting and sink in a bit. If the hole looks steeper than it should, add a few shovels of the soil mix before putting the rootball inside.
And now, the grand finale. Grab the tree by the base of the trunk, and put it in the ground. Make sure that it is not slanted and is standing straight. An extra pair of hands are surprisingly helpful at this point, even if they’re small!
Add the soil mix, and step on it gently to help it settle. We advise giving the tree a drink after transplanting. (Many Christmas tree deaths we see are due to dehydration. Don’t let yours die of thirst!)
Finally, mulch the newly-planted tree generously to keep it safe from temperature fluctuations and frosts and help the soil retain moisture.
What If My Christmas Tree Dies?
The downside to Christmas tree planting is the high mortality rate, especially if you live in a cold climate.
Some of the reasons for tree death may be the following.
- Bad stock quality.
- Letting the tree get too dry while indoors.
- The root ball got damaged while being dug out or in transport.
- The climatic conditions on the Christmas tree plantation differ from the planting site. So the tree couldn’t adapt.
- Cultivating the tree indoors for too long.
- Changing the tree’s setting and planting it in a dry environment decreases young tree survival.
As you can see, most of these points are things beyond your control. So while it may be disheartening to watch your unlucky fir, spruce, or pine struggle (sometimes for years) before finally succumbing, you shouldn’t feel bad or guilty if it happens.
However, a dead tree can serve a purpose. You can leave it be to provide cover for small birds (though I don’t recommend this if you live in a fire-prone area). Alternatively, you can compost it or make crafty things out of its trunk or branches.
Besides following the guidelines for planting, you increase the chances of the tree’s survival by finding a reputable Christmas tree dealer or farmer or by growing your own Christmas tree.
Can You Replant a Cut Chrismas Tree?
Unfortunately, the short answer is no. The cut Christmas tree can’t survive without its rootball.
Any growth you may see on the tree indoors comes from its remaining energy. However, without the root, the tree cannot feed itself – and there is no way to get it to root again.
Alternatively, you can try to propagate a Christmas tree from its branches. Propagating conifers from cuttings is a lengthy and uncertain process. But it may be fun to try.
Are Fake Christmas Trees Good for the Environment?
We prefer real Christmas trees. Bonus points if you grow your own! But what about fake Christmas trees? Our artificial Christmas tree habit, no matter how captivating, is not the best for the environment.
Most of my homesteading and gardening friends (and most experts) agree that real Christmas trees are far more climate-friendly.
Christmas tree alternatives (from natural materials – not fake plastic ones) have a smaller environmental footprint and are fun to make.
Planting a Christmas tree outside after your holiday celebrations is the perfect way to finish the year. Or begin anew!
And while planting endless amounts of holiday conifers everywhere is not universally sustainable for a polyculture food forest, we can meet in the middle. There’s plenty of room! Think of all the upsides.
Buying and planting a living Christmas tree can be an entertaining, educational, and all-around lovely experience for those celebrating Christmas. Christmas trees enhance the Christmas magic and teach our kids to be kind to nature and all its living creatures – including the individual trees.
What about you and your family?
Have you ever successfully transplanted a Christmas tree outdoors?
Do you have any living tree transplanting tips or outdoor Christmas tree insights?
We’d love to hear them!
We thank you so much for reading.
And have a great day!