Nothing says Christmas more than a decorated Christmas tree. Often, many people celebrate with a fresh-cut tree because they love the fresh, fragrant smell of the boughs that bring back Christmas memories.
It takes 7 to 10 years for a Christmas tree to grow, and while the majority of Christmas trees these days are farmed, once the holiday has come and gone, the trees are put out with the trash. Sure, your town is (hopefully) turning the tree into mulch but perhaps this is the year you make a change with a tree you can plant.
“A living Christmas tree is great for the environment because it contributes to the long-term health of local ecosystems,” says Matt Arnett, tree and shrub buyer for Pike Nurseries in Atlanta. “Living trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen helping us all breathe easier, but they also help reduce water runoff, prevent soil erosion and provide shelter for wildlife. Planting a living Christmas tree in the yard post-holiday can also provide shade and block winds, helping to reduce power bills and increase curb appeal.”
Sounds like a win-win! Here’s what you need to know about plantable Christmas trees.
FINDING YOUR TREE
When shopping for a plantable Christmas tree, look beyond the most common trees like Fraser or Noble firs. Arnett recommends spruce, juniper, pine, cedar, cypress and arborvitae. Even a spiral or cone-shaped topiary makes a unique choice for a potted Christmas tree, he says. Look for living Christmas trees that still have their root ball, planted either in a pot or wrapped in burlap.
When choosing a tree, think ahead to where you will plant it after Christmas. Consider the tree’s mature size and height as well as how much light it needs to make sure it will work well where you want to plant it.
CARING FOR YOUR TREE
Once you purchase your tree, don’t rush home to set it up inside. Instead, Arnett recommends decorating it and displaying it on your porch, patio or other outdoor space until closer to Christmas. “Keep living Christmas trees outside for as long as possible,” he says. “Wait until two weeks before Christmas before bringing it inside to minimize possible damage.”
When you do bring it inside, set your Christmas tree in the brightest location for natural light. “The area needs to be bright enough to read during the daytime without turning on extra lights,” Arnett says. “Living trees will struggle to thrive and will drop needles if placed in a room without enough natural light. You don’t want to plant a struggling tree in the landscape or else it might suffer from transplant shock.”
Also, try to keep the tree as cool as possible. “Living Christmas trees can be tricked into thinking its spring with indoor elements, which is bad,” Arnett says. “We recommend choosing a cool location and using LED string lights that are cool to the touch unlike older lights that tend to heat up. Keep trees far from direct heat sources like fireplaces and vents that can dry it out too quickly.”
Obviously, you will need to water your living Christmas trees to keep it hydrated. Arnett recommends using ice cubes to deliver water slowly and keep the root ball cool. Place a saucer under the tree to collect any excess water so it won’t damage the floor.
A plantable Christmas tree is just the start of celebrating an earth-friendly holiday. You can decorate your home with a number of houseplants that are the perfect complement for Christmas décor. “There is the popular poinsettia but also Christmas cactus, as well as orchids and amaryllis flowers,” Arnett says. “Consider a tiny tree option—rosemary cone topiary or a small lemon cypress—for home offices. These can be wrapped with a small strand of battery-operated string lights for a quick and easy desktop Christmas tree.”
When decorating the Christmas tree, fireplace mantle or stair railing, create a garland with pinecones, popcorn, cranberries, dried orange or apple slices, and cinnamon sticks. Not only are these good for the environment, but they also bring back old-fashioned Christmases of days gone by.
Wreaths are another décor feature that is tailor-made for an earth-friendly approach. “Create wreaths from clippings from the garden or collected from a nature walk,” Arnett said. “Stems or small branches can be collected from conifers, or add other greenery like hollies, yew, magnolia, nandina and boxwood. You can add berries from hollies or viburnum, pinecones, fresh fruit like apples or lemons, nuts in the shell, and more.”
Incorporating these natural Christmas touches into your seasonal décor does much more than just enhance your holiday atmosphere. “All these natural decorations have a low environmental impact,” Arnett said. “They’re budget-friendly and get the whole family involved. Plus, plant clippings and food items can be composted after use.”
Buying a plantable Christmas tree and dressing your home with earth- friendly décor is a wonderful way to incorporate new traditions as well as create heartwarming Christmas memories.
WHERE TO BUY PLANTABLE CHRISTMAS TREES
Includes locations in Cumming, Suwanee,Milton, Alpharetta and Woodstock.pikenursery.com/locations
KINSEY FAMILY FARM
7170 Jot-em Down Road, Gainesville, 770-887-6028, kinseyfamilyfarm.com/christmas
FIDDLEHEADS GARDEN CENTER
1237 W. Walnut Ave., Dalton, 706-529-6584 fiddleheadsdalton.com
15639 Birmingham Hwy., Milton, 770-777-5875 scottsdalefarms.com
Also check with your local garden center or nursery.