Seven Live Christmas Tree Tips
The holiday season is here and we love it for so many reasons, but as a garden center, our favorite part is when the Christmas Trees arrive and we get to help everyone who visits Glover Nursery find the right tree for their home. Here at Glover Nursery we love gardening and that extends to taking care of your live Christmas tree with these tips too!
We’ve talked about the environmental benefits of choosing a “real” Christmas tree as opposed to a manufactured one, but when it comes to real trees, there are more choices to be made.
A Live Christmas Tree is one that you purchase with the root ball intact. Families who choose a live Christmas tree are often purchasing one because they intend to plant it in their yard after the holiday is over. We think this is a wonderful way to make a lasting memory while adding sentimental value and curb appeal to your landscape.
Live Christmas Tree vs Fresh Cut Christmas Tree
Both of these real Christmas Tree options will make for beautiful holiday decor and provide that fresh evergreen aroma that we love to enjoy throughout the holidays. They each need different types of care and preparation. To help you choose if a Live Christmas tree is right for you this holiday season let’s first define the difference between a Fresh Cut and Live Christmas tree.
Fresh Cut Christmas Trees
- Similar to flowers in a bouquet, fresh-cut trees are cut off from the root ball.
- As long as they are provided with a water source you can keep them in your home for 4-6 weeks.
- They cannot be replanted.
Live Christmas Trees
- They have the root ball intact
- They can be replanted after Christmas.
- They should only be kept inside for up to five days.
If your heart is set on a live Christmas tree this year you are lucky that you live in Utah! We have a beautiful selection of evergreen trees that are perfect for our climate.
Live Christmas Tree Varieties
We have a variety of live Christmas trees in stock perfect to bring home for Christmas. We’re listing just a few of the favorites below but you can always call or visit to see our full selection. Be sure to check out our Live Christmas Tree page to see what other options are available.
Some of the favorite options for live Christmas trees are…
Jean's Dilly Alberta Spruce #1gal for $19.99
#7gal for $129.99, 3-4' for $139.99 or 4-5' for $239.99
Blue Diamond #7gal for $159.99
Bonny Blue: 3-4' for $259.99 or 5-6' for $279.99
Fat Albert: #7gal for $169.99 or 4-5' for $259.99
Yukon Blue #10gal for $239.99
Standard: #10gal for $179.99
Satellite: 4-5' for $219.99
Mint Truffle: 3-4' for $219.99 or 4-5' for $299.99
Live Christmas Tree Lots in Utah
When shopping for a live Christmas tree you want to actually search for a nursery in your area, not just a tree lot. Tree lots will have an excellent selection of fresh cut Christmas trees but they don’t carry trees with the root ball attached. This is where we come in - one of the top plant nurseries in Utah who have also been providing excellent, real, fresh-cut Christmas Trees for over 5 decades! The best of both worlds.
Here at Glover Nursery you can rest assured that any evergreen tree you decide on is one that is suited to grow in the Salt Lake Valley. We only keep trees, plants and shrubs in stock that are a fit for our unique climate. Though, we always recommend checking the variety will match your growing area - soil type and water type do make a difference.
As Ryan Glover says, you don’t have to worry about whether it's going to grow in Utah or not because everything we sell will grow here.
If you don’t live near Glover Nursery in West Jordan, here are a few questions to ask your local nursery before purchasing a live Christmas tree.
- What is your current evergreen selection?
- Are these trees intended for our USDA hardiness zone?
- What type of soil will this tree need?
- Can this tree handle secondary water (if applicable)?
It’s best to steer clear of those big box stores for this type of purchase. They might have evergreens available but most larger retail stores may not carry location specific plants so you may end up purchasing a live Christmas tree that won’t do well in your yard.
What to Look for in a Live Christmas Tree
When buying a Christmas tree whether fresh cut or fake you’re going to be making an investment. That’s one reason that live Christmas trees are so great!
Here at Glover Nursery our fresh cut trees range from $59 - $299 depending on the tree's height and variety. When purchasing a fresh cut tree you’re basically looking at a similar range but most live Christmas trees will be in the $100 - $300 range, though they will be smaller in size and cannot be in the home for more than 5 days.
When to Buy a Live Christmas Tree
A live Christmas tree is a living thing, it’s easy to forget that since we’re so used to having fresh cut trees or even the dreaded fake Christmas tree. But when you choose a live Christmas tree you need to be aware of your timing. A live Christmas tree can only be in your house for a short period of time. At Glover Nursery we recommend keeping it indoors for a maximum of 5 days. This is because the tree will start to break dormancy if it is in a warm environment for too long, and it will not have an easy time going back into dormancy when it is moved back outside. However, you can keep the living trees outside as long as you wish, as long as they have access to water through the winter.
7 Live Christmas Tree Care Tips
Now that you’ve purchased your tree it’s time to bring it home and enjoy it!
Here in the Salt Lake Valley our average first frost date falls in early November, though that doesn't mean the ground will be frozen. Still, if you want to bring a live Christmas tree home you should plan on digging a hole for it sooner than later. While you can dig frozen ground it is much more challenging.
How do you know if your ground is frozen? You’ll be able to tell if your ground is frozen by trying to insert a shovel. If you are able to insert the shovel, you can still dig and therefore, you will be able to plant your tree.
A tree planting rule of thumb is to dig a hole the same depth of the root ball and two times the diameter. If you don’t already know the size of your tree’s root ball, a safe place to start is about 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep, a few extra shovel fulls may need to be removed, but at least the majority of the work will be done.
Another good idea is to measure the container size of the tree and use that as an easy guide for digging. Store the dug-up dirt in a bucket or wheelbarrow for easy storage until the time for planting arrives.
Pro Tip: Contact your local utility company before digging to make sure you won’t hit any lines. For residents in Salt Lake, that would be Blue Stakes https://www.bluestakes.org/
2. Lighting Your Live Christmas Tree
Remember that your live Christmas tree will only last 5 days indoors but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it for more than that! We recommend purchasing your tree and lighting it with indoor/outdoor lighting so that you can enjoy viewing it in your front or back yard before bringing it into the house for the main event.
It is best to use LED lights so they do not add unnecessary heat to the dormant tree.
3. Get the Tree Acclimated
Bringing a live tree indoors from the cold and then back outside again in a few days’ time can send it into shock. Before bringing the tree inside (and then again when you take it back outside) store it in a garage, shed, or sheltered area for a couple of days to allow the tree to get acclimated. When you are displaying the tree in your home, make sure to keep it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, kitchens and heating vents.
4. Keep the Rootball Moist
In order to keep your Live Christmas Tree alive while it is indoors, the root ball must always be kept moist. A tip to keep the root ball moist but not overwatered is to display it in a watertight container and water it when the soil feels dry.
5. Using a Live Christmas Tree Indoors
One of the best parts of a live Christmas tree is that you don’t need a special stand for it! If you’ve ever purchased a plant or tree before from a nursery you’ll know that it comes in a container. These containers are normally pretty utilitarian looking so we recommend decorating them by wrapping it in fabric or even Christmas wrapping paper. Or, you can even use a Christmas Tree Skirt and let it drape over the pot. We’ve even seen people use old Christmas tablecloths to wrap around the container.
Another plus for the containerized trees, there will be LOTS of room for gifts under the tree!
Make sure you place a drip pan under the container when you bring it indoors before decorating it so if there is any excess water, it won’t damage your floor.
6. Watering a Live Christmas Tree
With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays it’s very important do not forget to water your live Christmas tree. The best method for indoor watering is to check the soil, and if it feels dry, water it as you would a houseplant. When it is moved outdoors and planted, follow our recommended winter watering protocols for newly planted trees.
7. How to Prune a Live Christmas Tree
Generally your live Christmas tree should not be pruned. If you want to shape it a tiny bit, you can trim some edge, but no heavy pruning should be done on the tree until the end of February or early March. We recommend using sharp cutting shears and disinfecting your tools before doing any cutting. Regular rubbing alcohol works great to disinfect. Simply wet a clean rag or paper towel with rubbing alcohol and then rub along your blades.
Planting a Live Christmas Tree Outside in Utah
Since you’ve pre-dug your hole for your live Christmas tree you’ll be set even if we end up with a white Christmas here in Utah. Yes, you can still plant your live Christmas tree even if there is snow on the ground.
Make sure that you take the extra few days to acclimate your tree to being outside again by transitioning it from your house to an outdoor shelter like your garage, a tool shed or even a covered porch. This will prevent your tree from going into shock when it leaves your cozy home and enters your yard.
Remove the tree from the container and gently set the tree in your hole, then backfill the area around the roots with the pre-dug dirt you saved. Here in the Sale Lake Valley our customers have a wide variety of soil types - sandy, rocky, clay soil or a mixture of all three! Depending on what type of soil you have we recommend different amendments to add when planting your tree. View our planting instructions online to find the perfect amendments to add. You can also add some fertilizer to the soil to help your tree get off to a good start once spring arrives.
Live Christmas Tree Maintenance Outdoors
Once your tree is planted you’ll want to make sure it gets enough water through the winter. If we have significant snowfall as we did in 2022/2023 winter season, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if we have a dry winter, as is more common, be sure to follow our winter watering guide.
Common Live Christmas Tree FAQs
Can you use a live Christmas tree year after year?
We don’t recommend using the same tree year after year - unless you plan on decorating your tree when it is outside. Once you plant your live Christmas tree in your yard it will start establishing itself and the root system cannot be dug up again without causing significant harm, more likely death, to the tree.
Are live Christmas trees worth it?
A live Christmas tree is an investment in both time and money but the impact it will have on your landscape and in your memory is priceless. Investing in a live Christmas tree for special occasions is worth it. Some memory making times could be…
- Your first year in your new home
- Upon the birth of your children
- To commemorate a loved one
- When the Utes have a winning season
- Because you need a new tree for shade in the summer
How long can live Christmas trees stay indoors?
You can only have a live Christmas tree in the house for a short period of time. Here at Glover Nursery we recommend no more than five days.
Will my live Christmas tree survive if it’s planted in winter?
At Glover Nursery we have a saying, if you can dig, you can plant. Since you’ll have already dug a hole for your live Christmas tree you will be all set to plant it in the ground after Christmas. As long as you acclimate your tree to outside again there is no condition that will prevent it from surviving through the winter… if you make sure and water it.
Watering your newly planted tree frequently throughout the winter is very important because it won’t have the root growth yet to seek out water on its own. You can check out our guide to winter watering here to see a couple of expert garden tips to help your tree thrive this winter.
Enjoy your live Christmas tree for many years to come!