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Caring for a Live Christmas Tree

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Living Christmas Tree

Enjoying the fragrance and presence of a living holiday tree requires daily attention. This guide is about caring for a live Christmas tree.


Solutions: Caring for a Live Christmas Tree

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Article: Keeping Your Christmas Tree Bug-Free

Live Christmas trees provide insects with a wonderful place to wait out the snow and cold of winter. Unfortunately, this means that occasionally hibernating insects get indoors by hitching a ride on your Christmas tree. Once inside, warm temperatures fool them into thinking it is time to get up and get active, and (eek!) maybe even reproduce. Here are some tips for keeping your Christmas tree bug-free.

Bugs to Watch Out For

Several types of insects are fond of over-wintering in conifers, including certain types of aphids, spider mites, sow bugs, beetles, earwigs, praying mantids, spiders, and even earthworms. They don't normally cause any damage (e.g. spread to your houseplants), because let's face it, the interior of your house isn't exactly the coniferous forest habitat they need to survive. Most will die after thawing out and waking up, and the remaining bugs are usually nothing more than a nuisance.

Buggy Trees Are Rare

According to the North Carolina State University Christmas Tree website, the chances of you buying a buggy trees is actually rare. In fact, only about one tree in 100,000 will have any of the above bugs in it when you buy it. The odds are best when temperatures are mild around the time the trees are harvested. Despite the fact that buggy trees are a relatively rare occurrence, it does happen. Therefore, unless you are willing to risk having bugs crawling over your presents or potentially starting the New Year with hundreds of mantid eggs hatching in your living room, you'll want to inspect your tree carefully to minimize the chances of bringing bugs indoors.

Tips for De-Bugging Your Tree

  • Inspect your tree carefully at the time of purchase. Look for webs, white dust-like residue on the needles, bore holes in the trunk, and small bird nests hidden among the branches (they may contain mites). If you see any of these signs, move on and look for a different tree.

  • Before you bring your tree indoors, shake it vigorously. This will dislodge debris like pollen, dust and dead needles.

  • As an extra step (for those in warmer climates), you may also want to spray the tree down with a garden hose and allow it to dry before bringing it inside.

  • If you see insects, don't squish them. Many insects (especially aphids) will leave dark colored stains on your carpet and furniture if you squash them. A better alternative is to suck them up using a vacuum with a hose attachment.

  • DON'T apply insecticides of any kind to your tree. They are toxic and can cause harm to your family members-even when initially applied outdoors. Applying chemicals to your tree will also make it more flammable. If you discover a pest problem large enough that you feel you need to use spray, you're better off returning the tree to the seller and exchanging it for another one.

By Ellen Brown

Article: Living Christmas Tree

Santa with a living Christmas tree.A living Christmas tree is ecological, practical and saves you money year after year. You can enjoy it year round on your balcony or in your garden.

Make sure the tree is small enough to fit in your house and either buy it potted or find a planter to fit it. If you pot it yourself, use a fast draining potting soil or mix your own with river sand, garden soil, and compost in equal parts. Leave about 6 inches of space above the soil. If you can find a tray with casters all the better for moving it around for years to come.

You can keep your tree outside until a few weeks before Christmas, then bring it in a slightly warmer area (porch or garage) so it has some time to acclimate to the warmer temperature of the house. In a few days, bring it into the house.

When you decorate the tree, make sure you use LED lights so there won't be too much heat on the tree. You can keep your tree inside for up to 2 weeks.

If you live in a cold climate, make sure you give it a little time in the garage or in a slightly warmer location so that the soil will thaw before you move it in. Also when taking it back outside, give it some time in the same place to adjust to the cold, then in a sheltered location before moving it back to it's normal location.

Plastic sheeting will prevent carpet and floor damage. Keep it watered with ice cubes (about 2 trays daily) on the surface of the soil.

In the spring, you can prune half the new growth to maintain its shape and increase its bushiness. Every few years, repot the tree with new soil in the spring before new growth begins. Slide it out of the container and shave off 1 inch of the root ball, using an old kitchen knife. Repot and add fresh soil and water well.

By Susan Sanders-Kinzel

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Here are questions related to Caring for a Live Christmas Tree.

Question: Potted Christmas Tree Going Brown

Hello, gardening gurus, I have a 1.5 m potted Christmas tree which I keep under my front veranda. It does not get direct rain, so I water it weekly and it does not get direct sunlight, but gets strong filtered light and usually gets daytime temperature in Brisbane between 20-35c. Although the plant has been doing well in the past 18 months, it has recently started going brown along the central trunk and partway at the branches, all of the tips and new growth is healthy. Can you suggest what is causing the brown/discoloration?

By Therese

Question: Caring for a Mini Christmas Tree


My brother gave me a mini Christmas tree (I have never successfully raised a plant) and I wondered if anyone could give me tips about it, such as watering and repotting since it's in a milk jug bottom right now.

Hardiness Zone: 6a

Christi from Paducah, KY



The care of your mini Christmas tree depends on what type of tree it is. Most traditional evergreens grown and sold as potted Christmas trees have about a 50/50 chance of surviving, and that is if they are transplanted outdoors after only 7-10 days spent indoors. The exception to this is the Norfolk Pine, which is often kept indoors as a houseplant after the holidays. For more information on caring for a Norfolk, take a look at this post

If your mini Christmas tree is a traditional evergreen, plan on planting it outside as soon as temperatures warm up. In the meantime, try to keep the roots moist (not wet) to prevent them from drying out. Keep your tree in a bright, cool room out of the way of drafts. Before moving outside permanently, let it adjust to conditions outdoors by setting it outside for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the amount of time it spends outside. Make sure you plant it in well-drained soil. Evergreens don't generally like wet feet.

By Ellen Brown


Most Recent Answer

By Jennifer Weller03/27/2006

You might want to find out what kind of a conifer it is. My husband and I got a mini Christmas tree ten years ago and it is now 9 feet tall and 15 feet wide ... a very strange looking, spreading pine tree, to say the least. It looks like a very large pine bush.