According to the National Christmas Tree Association, between 25 and 35 million real Christmas trees are cut down and sold annually. At any given time, around 350 million Christmas trees are waiting to be cut down.
But for many people, a living Christmas tree, with roots intact, is the only kind to have. But what should we do with it after Christmas? Can you replant it?
Can You Replant a Christmas Tree?
Yes, if you bought a living Christmas tree growing in a container with roots intact or with its root ball wrapped in burlap (called balled and burlapped, or B&B).
But if your Christmas tree was cut down and lacks roots, you can’t replant it.
What Kind of Living Christmas Tree is Good to Replant?
According to Eva Monheim, a horticulturist, certified arborist and co-host of The Plant a Trillion Trees podcast, resilient evergreens that don’t drop their needles make good choices for living Christmas trees.
She recommends fir trees, such as Abies concolor and the popular Fraser fir, Abies fraseri. For something tall, narrow and different, she suggests the Topal holly, Ilex x attenuata.
What To Do With a Real Christmas Tree After Christmas
Don’t throw your real Christmas tree in the trash. There are several environmentally friendly ways to use it after the holidays.
Many cities offer to grind up real Christmas trees for mulch. Check to see if your municipality picks up trees from the curb, or if you need to take them to a central location.
In my city, we can drop off real Christmas trees at several local parks. Workers grind them into mulch, which they use in the parks. Be sure to remove all the tinsel, ornaments and lights before recycling your tree.
Make a wildlife refuge
You can put a real Christmas trees in your garden after the holidays, where it can provide shelter for birds and smaller animals in the winter. Eventually, though, the tree will dry out. Then you can chop up the branches, put them in a compost pile or use them for mulch.
If you enjoy real wood fires, chop the trunk into sections, let it dry and burn it with other firewood.
Or, if you have a small pond, you can put the tree in it, where it becomes a habitat for fish as it slowly degrades. If there’s a retention pond near you, ask permission before dropping your tree into it.
Mulch it yourself
If you have a chipper, mulch your real Christmas tree yourself and use it throughout your garden.
How To Replant a Living Christmas Tree
According to Christopher Evans, an extension forester with the University of Illinois, the less time the tree spends indoors where it’s warm, the better. Warm indoor temperatures can cause the tree to break dormancy, making it less likely it will survive outdoors in the winter.
Evans says you shouldn’t try to plant the tree in frozen ground, even if you dug the hole earlier. If your ground isn’t frozen, plant as soon as you’ve finished enjoying the tree indoors. Here’s how:
Keep the tree in a cool location, like a shed or unheated garage, so it adjusts to cooler temperatures again. Water it thoroughly before planting.Dig a hole as deep as the root ball or container the tree came in, and twice as wide. Set the soil aside to fill in later.Remove the tree from its container or take off the burlap and place it in the center of the hole. Double check that you’re planting it at the same depth it grew in the container.Backfill with the soil you dug out of the hole and water the tree again.Cover the ground around the tree with mulch. Leave a few inches bare around the trunk.
“Water the tree after planting it and keep it watered that first year as it establishes,” Evans says. “It needs to build roots that first year and not necessarily foliage growth, so don’t fertilize it the first year.”
If all that seems like too much work around the holidays, you can always buy and plant an outdoor Christmas tree in the spring and decorate it every year.