Caring For Your Balled & Burlapped Christmas Tree

Choosing a live balled & burlapped Christmas tree, from Gasper Home & Garden Showplace is a great way to celebrate the Christmas Season AND add landscaping to your property, but it does take a little bit more effort and planning than a fresh cut or artificial tree. 

Care of the Tree in Your Home

Limit Time Inside To a Maximum of 10 Days

One of the most important tips to keeping a live Christmas tree healthy during its stay in your home is to make sure that the tree is not kept inside the house for more than 10 days.  The reasoning behind this is that too long of a stay in the warm interior temperatures of your home may trick the tree out of its natural winter dormancy.

For this reason it is a good idea to transition your live tree into an unheated space that is sheltered from harsh sun and wind such as a garage or porch for two to three days before AND after its time in your home for the holidays.  This helps the tree avoid the shock of going instantly from a relatively balmy 70 degrees indoors to the frigid December/January temperatures outdoors.

Keep Your Tree Moist

It is important that your live Christmas tree does not dry out when it is inside the house, so we recommend that trees be watered daily.  Make sure the tree is always moist, but avoid excessively soaking the tree. 

Live trees in containers such as our smaller potted evergreens can remain in pots with a saucer to protect your floors or carpeting.  For larger B&B trees, we suggest you use a galvanized tub or large bucket, which can be wrapped with a tree skirt or other decorative material.  Placing the tub on a base with casters will help you move the heavy root ball through the house. 

Keep Trees Away From Heat Sources

Keeping trees away from heat sources such as fireplaces, heaters, and stoves will both prevent trees from drying out and will also protect the trees from breaking dormancy or becoming a fire hazard.  Ideally trees should be placed in the coolest part of your house by a window. 

Planting Your Tree After The Holiday Season

Dig the Hole For The Tree BEFORE Christmas

It is very important to think about where your live Christmas tree’s planting location will be BEFORE Christmas to avoid risk of the ground freezing.  If possible we would even suggest digging before Thanksgiving. 

The Planting Hole Should Be Twice As Wide and As Deep As the Root Ball of the Tree

The planting hole should be approximately 4ft in diameter and 18” deep.  We recommend placing the removed soil into buckets that you will store in a semi-heated space such as your garage or basement so that the soil will not be frozen when you go to plant the tree after the holidays.

The hole itself can be insulated with a bag filled with fallen leaves and covered with a piece of plywood so that no one accidentally steps or falls into the hole. 

Think About Mature Size of Your Christmas Tree

Fraser Firs & Colorado Spruce, the two species of live Christmas trees we offer at Gasper, can grow 50+ ft. tall with a spread of 20 ft., so make sure you are planting them in a location with sufficient space to grow to their mature size.  Both species also prefer to be planted in full sun. 

Do Not Plant In Naturally Wet Areas

Evergreen trees prefer a well-drained site.  Too much water can kill your tree over time or cause its failure to thrive.  Yellowing needles is a sign of too much water.

Leave Burlap Intact Until Final Planting

Leave the burlap intact until the tree is placed in the hole and ready to be planted.  The tree should then be untied, and all the burlap cut off of the root ball.  Lightly score the sides of the root ball to insure roots grow out into the surrounding soils. 

The Root Ball Should Be Level with Surrounding Grade

Make sure that the root ball is level or slightly above the surrounding grade.  When planted, you should see the slight flare at the base of the trunk above the soil.  Trees planted too deep can die or fail to thrive. Tamp reserved soil around the tree with the end of your shovel. 

Mulch the Tree

We recommend that you lightly mulch over the root ball to help prevent moisture loss during the winter.  Keep the mulch away from the trunk.  Because mulch may be hard to come by in the middle of the winter, we suggest you buy a bag of premium triple shredded bark mulch in the late fall and keep it in your garage until the time of planting. 

Water Well

Although this can propose an issue with freezing temperatures, it is important to provide some water to your newly planted tree.  Monitor moisture throughout the winter, and provide moisture as daytime temperatures allow.  Your tree will need to be watered through the upcoming spring and summer.  Most plants become fully established within 3 years of planting and do not need any supplemental watering except under extreme drought conditions.

 Understand Transplanting Dangers

The reality is that it is unnatural for a live tree to be growing inside during the winter, so unfortunately sometimes, despite your best efforts, your live Christmas trees may not survive.  Most of the time this is due to things such as extreme weather conditions at the time of planting, or a very dry winter that is ultimately out of any one’s control.  For this reason live Christmas trees cannot be guaranteed.

Spraying evergreens with anti-desiccants such as Wilt-Pruf before and after being in your home, can improve your trees chances of survival. Wilt-Pruf helps by sealing in and preventing moisture loss while the plant is indoors, and in the cold winter winds after planting. Feel free to discuss transplanting and proper planting techniques with our expert Gasper staff any time at our Bucks County nursery and garden center.