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Holiday Containers – Living Christmas Trees

By Kathi Thistlethwaite, Colorado Master Gardener

This is the third of a six-part series focusing on container gardening in Colorado.

Now that fall is past and beautiful harvest colors are transitioning to winter white, it’s time to turn attention to live plants in holiday containers. What could be more appropriate for the holidays than a potted Christmas tree to be planted in the landscape and enjoyed for years to come?

There are many varieties of evergreen trees available as “living” Christmas trees. Choosing a type of tree depends largely on where it will be planted after the holidays. Consider space and the size of the mature tree. Some of the species available as living Christmas trees at local nurseries are ponderosa, pinyon, Austrian, bristlecone, Scotch pine, blue spruce, white fir, Douglas fir and dwarf Alberta Spruce.

Photo: White Flower Farm

These potted trees are usually sold when they are two to six feet tall and grow quickly. Trees should not be kept inside for long (think 7 to 10 days) until they begin to adjust to interior temperatures and lose the hardiness needed to brave the elements once replanted. Many people bring the tree indoors on Christmas Eve to decorate and plant it outdoors on New Year’s Day. Pre-digging the hole before the ground freezes in late December will make transplanting easier. Backfill soil can be kept in buckets in the garage until ready for use.

Check the tree frequently to assure the root ball is moist. Too little water will turn the needles brown and too much water can cause the roots to rot. Avoid placing the tree near heat registers, TVs and fireplaces to help keep the root ball adequately moist. Finally, use small, cool lights to protect needles.


Planning ahead to purchase a living Christmas tree celebrates its beauty while being eco-friendly. For more information on living Christmas trees, go to PlantTalk,and for general information on evergreen trees, see CSU Fact Sheet 7.403.

Bon jardinage and the happiest of holidays!

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