Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Potted Christmas trees keep giving for generations

Families have fun choosing and decorating their Christmas trees. The twinkling lights, the bright colored ornaments, the handcrafted decorations the kids make and the yummy candy canes along with that fresh pine smell add a special glow to the holidays. But after the holidays, cleaning up those messy shed needles or dragging that tree out of the house isn’t as glorious.
There’s the age-old question: What do I do with the tree now?

Many retailers that sell fresh-cut Christmas trees also offer shredding service after the holidays. While shredded trees make excellent mulch for the landscape, one University of Georgia expert suggests consumers think about what to do after the holidays before they buy the tree.

“If you don’t need a huge tree, and a 6- to 7-foot tree will work, you can go to any garden center and look at the live conifers available,” said Matthew Chappell, a UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist. “There are so many choices. Cupressus, Chamaecyparis, Thuja, Leyland Cypress, Cedrus and Juniperus all will work as Christmas trees.”

Using a live potted tree doesn’t require more work than a cut tree, just a little different care. There are two big points to remember, he said.

“The tree should only be inside for a week to 10 days,” he said. “Placing the tree inside will shock the tree because when you move a tree inside, you are significantly altering the growing environment to lower light, drier and warmer conditions, especially if you put the tree near a woodstove or fireplace. This means the tree should be removed the day after Christmas.”

Also, remember to water. “The tree will need to be watered every 1-2 days until water drains through the bottom of the pot,” he said.

Live trees can be economical, too. In the Atlanta area, a 6- to 7-foot live tree in a 15-gallon container at a local retail outlet sells for between $100 and $140. A 15-gallon 6-foot Leyland Cypress goes for between $90 and $100 at local nurseries and tree growers. Both are comparably priced to fresh-cut trees. Call around to check prices in your area.

Considering the benefits of trees in the landscape to provide shade, screening or improved air quality, a live tree is one holiday decoration that can last a lifetime. “This could be a great new ‘plant a tree for the environment this Christmas’ movement,” Chappell said.

For information on planting, pruning and caring for a landscape tree, read the UGA Extension publication “Trees for the Landscape: Selection and Culture” online at or call the UGA Extension office in your county at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

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